PAUSE AND REFLECTS ON THE QUALITIES OF CRAFTSMANSHIP AND KNOW-HOW, WHILE FORGETTING PASSING FASHIONS: THIS IS THE CONCEPT OF TIMELESS.THONET.
“Collaboration with Thonet is woven into Studio Irvine’s history, in a continuity of our mutual visions: to design timeless objects.
Thonet is a part of us. I grew up in Naples, surrounded by the no. 14 chair. And I remember that, in London, a few years before me, it had the same powerful impact on James, my husband and founder of our studio. Those were two different worlds, but united by a sovereign chair. (As children we were adept in the art of not putting our knees on the cane. Every now and then, however, the chair had to be taken to the slopes of Vesuvius to be repaired by our trusty mender). I like to remember that Thonet chairs have always been a catalyst to professional craftspeople, who to this day look to the excellence of this timeless piece. These are people who can constantly renew a chair and make it last virtually forever.
I believe the designer’s endeavours are not confined to designing a product, but continue in the process of a communication attuned to contemporary needs. Which is why we liaised with Thonet to update our product-related communication and production, in a partnership between Thonet and Muji to reinterpret the famous no. 14 chair. At present we are experimenting with ways to make archetypal products of the past contemporary, for example by widening the possible uses of the S5000 sofa part of Thonet catalogue from more then ten years. The aim being to always focus on the essence of a product until it blends into its surroundings.
And today more then yesterday, the Timeless.Thonet concept reflects the significance of words like durability, originality and expertise. In terms of sheer ethical economy”.
art direction Marialaura Rossiello, Studio Irvine
Togetherness – the new upholstered chair 520 by Marco Dessí stands for contemporary elegance and communicative gatherings
Getting together, sitting together, celebrating life and its pleasures: that’s what Thonet and its timelessly beautiful seating furniture have embodied for 200 years. Now, inspired by the Café Thonet concept, Vienna-based designer Marco Dessí has created a contemporary interpretation of that heritage in the form of the modern upholstered chair no. 520. Thanks to the different versions available, it’s the perfect chair for multiple use, not only at the dining table: besides combining excellent seating comfort with a pleasantly light look and surprisingly light weight, it radiates a poised elegance that echoes the culture and history of the classic Thonet bentwood chair. In Dessí’s model, the voids between the bentwood elements have been replaced with comfortable upholstery. Its simple, intelligent design permits different versions with and without armrests. In combination with the extensive choice of materials available, this all adds up to a chair collection that’s suitable for a wide range of applications – from sophisticated dining to executive meetings.
The new no. 520 range of upholstered chairs references Dessí’s personal favourite from the Thonet product portfolio: the bentwood chair 209, a model that many an architect has fallen in love with over the years. “When I was working on the 520, I studied the Thonet classics. The arc that forms a unit with the back legs is so iconic and characteristic for Thonet. Essentially, our approach is based on that one specific detail.” In his design, Dessí incorporated this distinctive beech bentwood component as a structural element. He cleverly reduced the space between the lower arc and the seat so it doubles as a kind of carry handle, particularly convenient when the chairs need to be moved. Dessí designed two options for backs of the 520 – one with armrests (520 PF) and one without (520 P): “It’s a modern, economical idea based on the same modular principle that Thonet developed more than 150 years ago.” The possibility of choosing and combining different wood finishes and upholstery coverings makes the 520 extremely versatile as it can be customised to suit a variety of different settings. As a result, the design looks just as much at home in an upscale eatery or family dining room as it does around a conference table.
The innovative process for bending solid wood developed by Michael Thonet in the mid-19th century gave rise to the typical Thonet design language and had a considerable influence on Dessí during the design process: “The fact that the very first Thonet chairs are still in use today demonstrates just how robust, sustainable and utterly contemporary the process is,” he says. For him, the heritage of the tradition-steeped furniture maker is proof that “quality stands the test of time – and striving for quality can guarantee a firm’s existence for 200 years.” The chair 520 enhances the Thonet portfolio with a model that promotes the idea of community behind Café Thonet and therefore unmistakably embodies the DNA of the heritage-rich company.
The unique success story of Thonet began with the work of master carpenter Michael Thonet (1796-1871), which established the transition from manual furniture production to industrial production. Michael Thonet succeeded in making the breakthrough to industrial production in 1859 in Vienna with chair No.14, later called the „Vienna coffee house chair“, for which the innovative technique of bending solid beech wood was used. The individual production steps were standardized and the division of labor concept was implemented for the ﬁrst time in furniture production. In addition, the chair was easy to disassemble and could be shipped in a space-saving way. Chair No.14 cleared the way for Thonet to become a global enterprise, and numerous successful bentwood designs followed. Thonet’s production peaked in 1912: that year, two million units were produced and sold worldwide.
Tubular steel furniture is the second constant in Thonet’s product line. In the 1930s, the company was the world’s largest producer of this innovative furniture, which was designed by a number of famous architects including Mart Stam, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. Today, the early tubular steel furniture designs are considered milestones in design history. Their clear, open and simple forms were an expression of a new attitude in every-day culture and architecture, which became famous under the catchphrase “New Objectivity”. Currently, numerous successful classic models are still in the product line, among them the ﬁrst cantilever chair S 33 for which Mart Stam was awarded the artistic copyright for its form and basic principle, as well as models S 32 and S 64 by Marcel Breuer.
The family company has had its head ofﬁces in Frankenberg in the north of Hesse. Today, all bentwood and tubular steel classics as well as the contemporary collections are produced here in a facility with cuttingedge production equipment and a staff of workers with vast experience to draw upon. Thonet still develops innovative products that stand out due to their quality materials and timeless formal language and always take sustainability and durability under consideration.