Interior Design

A Brief History of the Dining Chair You’re Seeing Everywhere

Plus, where to snag one on any budget.

June 22, 2022
Photo by Knoll

When my partner and I redesigned our kitchen a few years ago, we spent countless hours picking out a backsplash, choosing a new faucet, conceptualizing lighting designs, and combing through every single slab of marble out there to find one with the best veining.

One decision, however, was quick and painless: picking seating. It seemed like every stylish kitchen we admired (read: dominated our Instagram feeds) had featured these particular cantilever chairs, and just like the rest of the world, we were hooked. Admittedly, we didn’t know much about the design’s history, so I dug deeper into the backstory of what’s become one of the most popular dining chairs of the 2020s.

The story of the chair starts in Germany, at the famous Bauhaus design school. Miraculously, in just 14 years of operation, the Bauhaus produced a handful of interior design’s most enduring thought leaders. One such student was Marcel Breuer. The goal of his work, which aligned with the central teachings of his alma mater, was to marry form and function through common, accessible materials, and a dash of ingenuity. Arguably, his most famous creation is the balancing act of tubular steel and cane that sits in our kitchen and many others today: the B32 chair.

Photo by Knoll

While its debut in 1928 caused a splash, not everyone welcomed the designer’s thoughtful creation. Four years prior, a prominent Bauhausian, Mart Stam had designed a tubular cantilever chair using gas pipes, though his lacked the caning that Breuer had employed. Angered, Stam and Breuer’s respective manufacturers fought for three years in German courts in hopes of snatching the European patent out of the other’s hands. In the end, Stam won.

Since its inception more than 90 years ago, the rights to producing Breuer’s version of the chair have changed hands from Thonet to Dino Gavina (who stripped it of its numerical moniker and re-dubbed it the Cesca chair after Breuer’s daughter Francesca) to Knoll, who revitalized the chair in honor of the Bauhaus’ 100th anniversary. The latest iterations include multiple heights, upholstery options, and colors.

With a surge in popularity comes a heightened chance of fizzling out, of eventually teetering more towards trendy than classical. The Cesca chair’s current popularity, however, shows no signs of slowing down. Its ability to be reinvented, its place in design history, and the ease at which it fits with any home’s style are sure to keep it a go-to for many years to come.

Get the style

Photo by Chairish

1. Marcel Breuer for Knoll "Cesca" 1960's Chairs (Set of 7), $5,895 $5,295

For the real deal, this set of Marcel Breuer-designed chairs from the '670s is in excellent shape. Chairish has all the details on the chairs they're in since there's no way to physically see them before adding to cart, and there won't be any surprises when they arrive at your door.

Photo by Knoll

2. Cesca Chair Collection, $665+

As close to the OG without going vintage shopping, Knoll lets you customize the original Breuer chair design from upholstery to the color of the frame, and there are even bar and counter height options.

Photo by Wayfair

3. Bayou Breeze Crumley Velvet Upholstered Side Chair (Set of 2), $349.99

A bit more budget-friendly, this pair of cantilever chairs is perfect for those who don't need a large set. You can also customize the frame and legs for a bit more personality.

This post was updated in June 2022 with more Cesca and cantilever chairs we love.

Have you seen this dining chair style around? Tell us in the comments below.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Garrett Fleming

Written by: Garrett Fleming

Interiors Editor & Art Director


Donna M. July 6, 2022
Ohhhh...I had these chairs in the 80's in my first apartment. Loved them.....the style the sleekness, the chrome. Had issues with the seats needing to be re-caned but happy happy memories. Maybe time to get another set??!!!
patricia G. July 5, 2022
Cane has held up but chrome suffering on mine, possibly because of salty sea air. Any ideas on how to restore the chrome finish?
Amk103 July 5, 2022
Can’t believe these chairs are back in popularity again! Or perhaps it’s that I can believe it. We had them around our table in the early 1980’s. Needed recanning and eventually changed out seat for a solid type cushion that we faithfully recovered as spills happened with the addition of kids to our lives. They have been a thing for a long time. They have great simplistic lines that kept them from ever overwhelming their space. Wish I could remember who we passed these workhorses on to. Great chairs!
Cece B. July 17, 2020
I’ve had these chairs in my kitchen since 1980 and have had them recaned 3 times. I love these chairs and need to replace a few. Thanks for the article.
Elisabeth H. July 17, 2020
Wow. I have always loved this look. I can't believe it's a thing now. It's always been my dream to have those chairs in a dining room filled with bookshelves for my gazillion cookbooks!
Joe B. March 12, 2020
These are all great options, plus there is a beautiful walnut and leather version sold at Arhaus at a moderate price point.
GritHippie February 23, 2020
I grew up with Breuer cane chairs - and was constantly yelled at for standing on the cane. Now the originals are in my house and I’m constantly fussing at my kids for standing on the cane! These chairs are so much a part of my life, and I’ve loved seeing them come back into fashion the last couple years. I’ll never give mine up! Look great, functional and comfortable.
Garrett F. February 26, 2020
Hi GritHippie,

I love that you’ve held onto them! What a great memento! All these years, have you ever had a seat or back rip? It so, how’d ya fix it?

Aja A. February 18, 2020
Found a great version of this chair from seats & stools.
Ended up ordering a bunch of these for a design project at Chicago brewpub, Bungalow and they have held up great!!
Garrett F. February 18, 2020
Hi Aja,

That's a great option!

Kim February 17, 2020
Oh, I thought we threw all those chairs out years ago! As someone who experienced the early 80's as a teenager, I'm not excited to see, and hear, it all coming tables and all!
Arati M. February 18, 2020
I hear you, Kim, not all trends find favor when they come back around. This chair however is interesting because it has kind of never really gone out of favor, I don't think.... Glass tables are definitely a particular choice. I saw a beautiful cherry and glass dining table the other day, but have none in my home :)
Bevi February 17, 2020
We have owned these chairs for 40 years. Seats and backs have been replaced, but they have lived through toddlers and abuses.
Garrett F. February 18, 2020
Hi Bevi,

WOW! I bet they have the perfect patina. Nothing is better than having pieces in our homes that remind us of nice times with family and friends.