"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
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.