Marco Dessí, ©Nathan Murrell

5 questions for Marco Dessí

With its various versions, the 520 by Marco Dessí is the perfect chair, and not just for dining tables: sitting comfort comes together with a visual and physical lightness. It has a confident elegance that carries the culture and history of the classic Thonet bentwood chair within.

What were your initial ideas and goals when you started the collaboration with Thonet? 

My goal was always for the design to fit seamlessly into the current Thonet portfolio, which has been greatly influenced by its classic pieces, but also for it to possess enough character and modernity to harmoniously complement the existing products. In the design of the 520 it was important to me to create a bridge between the past and the future.

To accomplish this, I asked myself numerous questions: How can I achieve historic continuity? What can I work with and how can I transfer it to a modern concept? How much of the chair can be made by hand? What roles do the concepts of manufacture and quality play in the design? Where will the chair be placed and who will use it? What makes a piece of furniture a Thonet?

It didn’t take too long for the idea to come to me of uniting a bentwood structure with upholstered parts. The design brings together the lightweight design of the classic chair with the comfort of upholstery. The result is classic and modern, minimalist and yet comfortable. 

Which aspects of the design brief were most important for you?

I wanted the design to be a product that was unmistakably Thonet. It was important to me that the chair embodied the lightness of the coffee house classics and retained their communicative character. I wanted the chair to work as a stand-alone piece as well as in groups, and also to evoke that special emotion that is particular to Thonet chairs. And with that I don’t mean a nostalgic emotion that reminisces about the past. We were always in agreement on that – the chair should be modern and yet also have a connection to Thonet’s history.

How would you describe the feeling of sitting on the 520 to someone who hasn’t had the chance to try it for themselves?

The 520 has generous proportions and its shape is practically an invitation to sit down This is important because it means that you immediately associate the chair with comfort, even before you sit on it. When you do sit down, the backrest nestles gently against you. Even in the versions without armrests, the shell provides side cushioning and support. This means optimal seating comfort in a variety of sitting positions, even over many hours.

Marco Dessí, ©Nathan Murrell

Rome wasn’t built in a day – did this saying also ring true for the 520 design?

The project took around two years of developmental work before it was completed and is the result of a continuous dialogue between Norbert Ruf (Thonet’s Creative Director) and me.

New collaborations are always exciting and offer everyone involved the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience and to create something new, something yet unknown, together. Finding the right design takes some time. Especially for a company with a 200-year history of furniture production like Thonet. The company has very distinct DNA, which should also be present in new products. The collaboration really showed me that Thonet is not only about maintaining the classic pieces – those with bentwood, tubular steel or Viennese canework. It’s also about modern, contemporary pieces that retain a classic design. I think that, with this DNA at its core, Thonet will be able to offer fans of the brand new and exciting furniture pieces far into the future. 

Where would you most like to see the 520 used in the future?

I have tried to design a chair that inspires people and sets their creativity free. After all, they’re the ones who will be imagining the chair in various scenarios. 

The wood and fabric/upholstery options can be combined in countless different ways, so you can really make the chair your own. It’s also extremely versatile. I see the 520 arranged in a group around a dining table, in a fine dining restaurant, but also in New Work situations or as a single, solitary chair at a desk. We’ve designed a chair that is at home in a wide variety of situations and blends in organically.



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