Marialaura Rosiello-Irvine

S 5000 Retreat

Interview with Marialaura Rossiello Irvine – Studio Irvine

What comes to mind when you think of Thonet? And what does the brand mean to you personally?

I practically grew up on the No. 14 chair, and I was always very careful not to kneel on the Viennese canework. But of course it did need to be repaired every now and again – then we would bring the chair to a craftsman we knew and trusted on the slopes of Vesuvius. 
I like the idea that there have always been professional craftspeople who valued, and still value, the quality of Thonet’s timeless products. It’s wonderful that the furniture can be repaired and restored over and over again, so that it can be used for generations.

Your husband, James Irvine, worked for Thonet. One of his most successful products was the S 5000 sofa range from 2007. Now you have redesigned and added to the collection and created an independent product category with separate room dividers. How did this come about? 

Sometimes it’s just not necessary to design an entirely new product. Sometimes it makes more sense to redesign existing pieces. This attitude has always been a part of Thonet’s history. James once said about Thonet: “I now understand that it’s possible to reinvent existing products, which then fit our time perhaps better than they did at the time of their initial creation. Updating products is a conscious attitude regarding their ever-changing use. I like to call it ʽethical design’ when companies and designers intentionally examine where they are investing and how products are created. Moreover, the S 5000 system was conceptualised right from the beginning with modularity in mind, and I was able to use this concept for my design. 

The S 5000 range by James Irvine was already a new interpretation of a type of sofa available in the Thonet catalogue in the 1930s: the archetypal minimalist sofa with a base of bent tubular steel. Why didn’t you decide to design an entirely new collection?

Designing archetypes, in other words timeless pieces that can be perfectly integrated into their surroundings, is part of the Thonet DNA. It wasn’t, for now at least, necessary to create a whole new collection. The foundation of the S 5000 is a base of bent tubular steel, onto which additional tubes can be screwed. Depending on the desired configuration, these then act as supports for upholstered elements. The system is based around the concept of flexibility, which creates a wonderful foundation to build upon.

Working environments are changing all over the world. Co-working spaces and open-office concepts are becoming increasingly common, and now the Covid-19 pandemic has brought even more changes to the way we work. What are the advantages of the new S 5000 range in this regard? What makes your product so contemporary?

Our range has a variety of accessories, such as dividing panels, tabletops, smaller tables and sockets. This creates numerous configuration options depending on what the user needs. All the additional elements are attached to the tubular-steel base, just like in the original design. 
The S 5000 Retreat also offers solutions for the current social distancing requirements. At the same time, as soon as these distancing requirements are hopefully no longer necessary, it can be converted by removing a dividing panel or adding more cushions. We have also integrated free-standing panels into the range, which can be connected to each other in order to create islands within rooms. Our goal was to keep the configuration options open, whether it was to be used to create modular privacy or for teamwork situations.

S 5000 RetreatPhoto: Giacomo Giannini
S 5000 RetreatPhoto: Giacomo Giannini
S 5000 RetreatPhoto: Lorenzo Bacci

Where else do you see the S 5000 being used?

I can see the S 5000 being used in office and public settings as well as at home. I could imagine, for example, using a small table and panels to create a smart working space, a quiet space that allows you to concentrate when working from home. In an office context or even in an airport, I could picture multiple separate modules that either stand alone or are connected to one another. The austere minimalist design can be enhanced by the numerous colours and textures available, and the cushions can always be combined in different shades.

The S 5000 Retreat is a completely new product type for Thonet. What is it that actually makes it a typical Thonet product?

Companies today have to examine the variety of different needs for the working day, which have changed radically and will continue to do so. Thonet reflects the values of a company with tradition and stands for reliability, originality, technical expertise and innovation in its straightforward, ethical approach. The S 5000 Retreat can be integrated into a variety of settings and, just like the other products from Thonet, will discreetly take its place, without ever going out of style. 

S 5000 Retreat

S 5000 Retreat
Photo: Giacomo Giannini

From our Thonet magazine

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Downloads

CAD data for individual products and factsheets can be found on the product pages in the product catalogue.
 
CAD data for collective download as well as reference pictures and company-related information can be found in the media database.