Thonet All Seasons: The Making of Story
With the goal being to expand the Thonet portfolio for outdoor use and strengthen the brand in this segment, designer Miriam Püttner set out to conduct comprehensive research on the subject and analysed which pieces of our furniture would be suitable for outdoor use.
The decision was made on the tubular steel classics as a starting point for the portfolio expansion. Thonet thus continues one of its key themes: strong designs from the past are put in a new contemporary context, and in this case their area of use is even expanded. The framework parameters were not only a general understanding of the market but also the concise aspects of functionality, individualisation and combinability, colour and textiles as well as the formal and aesthetic design of a holistic product family for the outdoor and indoor segments played an important role.
The first step took Miriam Püttner into the depths of the Thonet Archives, which houses unimaginable treasures. Whichever originals were not preserved could be found on meticulously sorted cards and in catalogues that not only tell quite a bit about the company’s past but also brought amazing facts in the field of garden furniture into the light of day. In addition, visits to the Museum Thonet served as a source of inspiration for the development of the “Thonet All Seasons” collection.
In the next step, Miriam Püttner analysed the tubular steel classics with regard to their components, aiming to make a selection of models that were suitable for the planned adaptation. Her choices were the cantilever chairs S 33/S 34 by Mart Stam, the lounge chair S 35 by Marcel Breuer and the S 533 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe along with the side tables B 9 and B 97 as well as table S 1040. Constructive changes were not planned, and the compilation of the classics was, first and foremost, intended to create a constructive and formal interrelation and, at the same time, offer exciting approaches for a contemporary interpretation. The research of materials and experiments with a large selection served as an aid in the decision making and an inspiration for the final material selection: a mesh made of Batyline® became the supporting element.
Batyline® has excellent properties such as surface stability, durability and water permeability. The large, fresh colour palette and modern yet classic appearance, which is in line with Thonet’s design language, contributed to the decision-making process. The fact that the furniture already existed in its original form was helpful, and the development work could be done with real models: cuts were optimised, lengths, lash widths and seams were defined, and proportions examined. Miriam Püttner maintained a lively dialog with the colleagues in the production unit, who accelerated the development process with their vast knowledge and expertise.
At the same time, the revision of the tubular steel to become a weather-resistant material played an important role. After a salt spray test, salt water baths for the screws and a severe test for some frames in real weather conditions, the special UV powder coating method as protection from wind and weather prevailed: the ThonetProtect® surface.
While the development of the chairs progressed, Miriam Püttner dedicated her attention to the additional comfort requirement, which was to be solved with extra cushions. Here, more materials research with regard to textile upholsteries was essential. The design of the cushions was to follow the use of the furniture: for the dining segment, very flat, classic but supportive cushions were developed to make longer periods of sitting even more comfortable. The cosiness of lounge chair S 35 was to be emphasised and therefore a more voluminous and cotton-soft cushion was designed. The complementary cushions were to tightly cling to the form of the chairs and establish a formal unity with the frames and covers. A minimalist elastic band with a specially designed button is an innovative and functional solution that facilitates the mounting and removal of the cushions.
Based on the existing “Classics in Colour” concept for tubular steel furniture, a colour palette was created for the tubular steel that establishes wonderful contrasts within itself. Together with the twelve mesh colours that were selected to match the frame colours, users have a multitude of options for different combinations – from “loud, fresh, young” to “calm, discreet, muted”. The results are the most diversified colour versions that will find their place indoors as well as outdoors. For the presentation of the possible colour combinations, Emilia Becker, also a member of the Thonet Design Team, developed a material box that serves as an important tool for dealers and customers when they want to compose their individualized favourite piece of furniture.
Miriam Püttner, born 1988 in Münchberg, trained as a graphic design assistant and studied integrated product design at Coburg University from 2008 until 2013. After completing her studies she worked at the “Nju studio” design collective and was a member of the “WirGestalten” student association, a platform for creative exchange and project implementations. Until April 2017, she had been working in the Thonet product development unit as a designer and project manager.