There is a certain responsibility – to make something that contributes to the culture of making remarkable, sensible, and beautiful things. We relied on Thonet’s bentwood knowledge and wanted to also reinvigorate their past expertise in plywood to make a new, modern interpretation of what a Thonet chair could be. Certainly, our S 220 chair is inspired by the established shapes of both the iconic 214 and 209 bentwood chairs – but this inspiration is reimagined by using the latest material and production technology.
A chair’s silhouette has two situations – one when a body is sitting, and one when the chair is empty of a body, but still in a room, with a presence. For the body, the silhouette must be inviting, available, encouraging even. In some ways it needs to say ‘Sit here,’ with the confidence that your weight can be supported. For the room, the silhouette should appear, disappear, be a ghost and escape notice, give back when looked at, and be right for the context of where it will spend its time. A chair has many functions. One is to support the body. The other is to participate in the space of the room. A good chair should do both.
The S 220 chair can be used anywhere – from private homes to public space. Its ergonomic seat shell is very supportive, giving a comfortable position for the body, softly embracing it. Its slightly upright posture is particularly good for dining, promoting alignment and thereby good digestion. Its soft curves and softened edges make it inclusive – different body types find it friendly, with ‘waterfall edges’ falling away from any of the usual pressure points. The chair’s elegant hourglass shape means that the seat shell has just the right amount of give while wrapping over the radii of the tubular steel frame.
The practicality of a chair has never been only about sitting, and that is what is so interesting to us. We can’t think of a situation where a chair is not stood on occasionally – to change a lightbulb or to reach high shelves – it’s what we all do. In workplaces too, a chair that does not stack is suddenly an annoying burden. Space and flexibility are important. We need the ability to mix chairs with and without armrests, and to maintain aesthetic congruity. And the feel of wood on the hands and body – its temperature – feels good in winter and summer. These things make a chair for modern life, and the S 220 has these.
Our design creates an aesthetic conversation between the plywood seat shell and the tubular steel chair legs. Plywood lends the seat shell a continuous softness. In terms of the material, the S 220 represents a gentle transition from bentwood to moulded plywood and tubular steel, creating a new form that looks familiar yet modern. In some ways, all three processes are individual manufacturing methods, but when the S 220 brings them all together, a new beauty starts to appear.