What Is Bistro Furniture?

A familiar attraction in more populous cities, bistros are said to have been born in Paris, where enterprising residents would set up makeshift stalls in front of their homes, selling their leftover produce to earn a little extra income. What started out as a neat little side hustle turned into the homely or perhaps even cozy restaurants and café spaces we know as bistros today. With minimal space inside their small-scale premises, these small-scale eateries often continue their ancestors’ traditions and pitch up tables and chairs outside.

Fighting for their lives in the hazy pandemic months, small hospitality spaces took advantage when major cities relaxed their rules surrounding outdoor dining. Anywhere and everywhere from piazza-facing pizzerias in Porto to cobbled back-alley sandwich bars in Edinburgh cordoned off what little space they had with as many tables and chairs as they could. Enabling safe fresh-air dining, the furniture also served to entice customers in – once allowed.

The characteristics of bistro furniture

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Pedrali’s Nolita collection. Image © Pedrali

The specific requirements of furniture chosen for the hybrid task of outdoor dining, however, are many. Strong and sturdy enough to survive life on the street – beaten up, pushed around, and generally disrespected not just by changeable weather conditions, but by rushed pedestrians as well – yet also light enough to be moved and repositioned with ease each morning and night. In order to retain the easy-going al fresco experience, meanwhile, bistro furniture is also required to be light in look as well. These five examples show the many material and aesthetic hoops through which a bistro furniture collection must jump.

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Fermob’s Bistro range. Image © Fermob

Light materials

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TON A.S’s 14 chair and barstool. Image © TON A.S

Whether in a 100-seated, heated, and treated hospitality space or just a romantic duet of chairs and a table at home, the heavy-duty task of moving furniture is never easy. That’s why the best bistro furniture collections lighten the load by keeping the weight off. With six bent beech wood rods – and just two bolts and ten screws – the famous No. 14 chair from manufacturers TON A.S. is notoriously low on weight but high on strength, earning the nickname, the ‘café chair’. Along with the bentwood No. 14 barstool, 152 and 252 tables, the collections’ curved look is synonymous with the bistro style.

Strength and durability

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Pedrali’s lightweight metal-framed Nolita chairs. Image © Pedrali

Despite being light enough to easily move around temporary or outdoor seating spaces, bistro furniture must also be able to stand up to this constant movement. ‘Made of steel tubing to ensure the greatest strength and durability,’ introduce manufacturers Pedrali, the Nolita series is a perfect solution that ticks both boxes. The table’s folding top, for example, allows it to comfortably be moved and stored elsewhere, while its thin wire-frame seat and back top damaging rainwater from pooling on the metal surface.

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Pedrali’s lightweight metal-framed Nolita chairs and folding tables. Image © Pedrali

Light look

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The slim profile of Fermob’s Bistro collection allows chair and table to sit like a bird on thin legs, informing a fast-paced informal atmosphere in hospitality spaces or at home. Image © Fermob

With a style that ‘can be found gracing iconic locations like Times Square, as well as open-air cafés and private gardens,’ exclaims Fermob, the brand’s flagship range, the Bistro collection, exudes Parisian charm. With the stability of steel, Bistro stands strong and true. But with its slight form, the gracefully petit bistro chair and table collections encourage passersby to rethink their schedules. With the promise of an informal but invigorating experience, the furniture seduces shoppers, day-trippers, and professionals alike to stop and sit, but only for a short while. Affecting an efficiently high table turnover in professional hospitality and a fast, carefree lifestyle in home-bistro setups.

Being comfortable outside

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The light but hardwearing Pyramid café table and Result chair from HAY, featuring the strength of a metal frame alongside the warmth of wood. Image © HAY

When selecting seating for low-key or outdoor locations – whether in hospitality settings or at home on the terrace – the sacrifice of comfort must be kept to a minimum. Or else other delightful features begin to turn, too; a gentle breeze becomes a chill, and a setting sun begins to glare, for example. So although suitable for smaller or outdoor areas, bistro furniture must be as comfortable as its plusher, deeper-seated comparisons. With the strength and stability of a metal frame, paired with the soft ergonomic shape of wood, when the Result chair and Pyramid table collections from HAY were initially launched in the ‘50s they were ‘regarded as a triumph for their innovative use of sheet steel, giving new direction for use in organically-shaped products,’ explain the manufacturers.

Modern and trendsetting colors

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Emu Group’s colourful Urban range lavishly indulges environments with colour, with the chair’s neat seat pad offering a palette-pleasing contrast. Image © Emu Group

Spending more time outdoors and in more colorful spaces are becoming two of the most dominant design trends of this decade. So spaces that blend interiors with exteriors, and those that celebrate the color of life by liberally applying it to those spaces, are wonderful ways to bring more joy and personality to curated environments. The Urban range, for example, from Emu Group, ‘interprets the contemporary style of urban outdoor settings by creating areas for lively and social events thanks to eye-catching colors,’ suggest the manufacturers. The thick-plated lines of the design ensure its vibrant color remains in full bloom, all year round.

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About this author
Cite: James Wormald. "What Is Bistro Furniture?" 05 Dec 2023. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/1007716/what-is-bistro-furniture> ISSN 0719-8884

The Urban range from Emu Group is both light and durable, suitable for indoor and outdoor settings and available in pops of joyful color. Image © Emu Group


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