Love at first sight is a powerful thing. Wiet Hekking had worked as a buyer in the Dutch textile industry for almost two decades when, in 1988, he first spotted the chair that changed his life—Grete Jalk’s iconic GJ, a 1963 marvel made out of almost impossibly bent plywood. The design potential of this industrial process was a revelation to Hekking; his infatuation with the seat provided the foundation for a personal collection of like pieces that eventually outgrew both his home and the storage space he rented to accommodate it.
In 1999, he opened a small storefront called, appropriately, WonderWood. "I put aside a few items that I wanted to save," Hekking says, "and began to sell the rest of my finds." He has since moved locations to a site in Amsterdam’s old city center (formerly occupied by the design store Droog). The canalside building’s ground floor boasts one of the city’s oldest painted ceilings—dating from 1565—and a basement ideal for storing and showcasing a trove of chairs from throughout the ages. WonderWood has expanded its repertoire to include classic and reissued furniture, books, vintage toys, and rotating art shows, all the while promoting the prowess of bent plywood—the only shop in the world to do so, he says.