Set of 5 Kopitiam (coffee shop) chairs.

In Singapore, the kopitiam or coffee shop is a place where people meet, socialise, chit-chat and gossip over a cup of freshly-brewed coffee, half-boiled eggs and kaya toast. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the kopitiam had its signature ubiquitous furniture set, comprising a wooden table with marble table top and wooden chairs with round seats. The old chairs were, and are still made in Czechoslovakia. The first kopitiam chairs arrived in Singapore in the late 1930s. Made from pliable and hardy wood, the chair is characterised by a contoured spindle back and moulded plywood seat, using the bentwood technique that was invented by Michael Thonet in the 1830s. It is believed that the seats were knocked down and flat-packed before being shipped in bulk so as to lower freight costs. They were then assembled and varnished in workshops, locally branded and sold. Some of these chairs also have decorative motifs on the seats. These durable chairs have been mostly replaced by plastic chairs and stools which are lightweight, and can therefore be moved around easily and stacked to save space in the kopitiam.

Singapore and Czech Republic
Object size: Refer to parts
Accession No.
wood (plant material)
Collection of
National Museum of Singapore