Norbert Ruf, Creative Director, Thonet

By Matt Balmer
May 20, 2019

May 2019

Thonet is celebrating its 200th birthday and you can see the anniversary edition of the 214 chair on the brand’s stand at Design Fields. Here, Creative Director Norbert Ruf discusses what’s new for Thonet in 2019 and the joy of simplicity


When was the business founded and why?

Cabinetmaker and joiner Michael Thonet opened his first workshop in 1819 in Boppard, in the Rhine Gorge in Germany. Thonet’s history is filled with milestones and pioneering innovations in materials, design and production technology. Michael Thonet first succeeded in bending solid wood in the 19th century: The legendary Vienna Coffee House Chair marked the transition from manual craftsmanship to serial production and Thonet wrote industrial history with it.

How many staff?

Today, Thonet employs more than 170 people.

Where is it based?

The company is based in Frankenberg in Germany.

What is your latest significant project of note?

This year Thonet celebrates its 200th anniversary and looks back on two centuries of iconic furniture design and innovative creations. At the occasion of this anniversary, Eva Marguerre and Marcel Besau at Hamburg-based Studio Besau Marguerre, created a special version of the famous Thonet Coffee House Chair 214. In 2019 this icon is exclusively available in four contemporary two-tone colour versions.

Also, at the occasion of this year’s 100th  anniversary of the Bauhaus, Thonet has released a limited edition of the S 533 F lounge chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that has been designed by Studio Besau Marguerre. Additionally, we have reissued the round side table MR 515 by van der Rohe and have extended the side-table range with two new variations.

Besides these anniversary editions, we are also excited to present a new high-gloss version of the 118 wooden chair, designed by Sebastian Herkner, which will take centre stage at Clerkenwell Design Week.

What is your best-selling product?

The cantilever chair S 64, designed by Marcel Breuer. At Clerkenwell Design Week, visitors can see both the original version and the new Atelier’version with pedestal base on castors.

I’ve just discovered…

To be honest not so much discovered but more accurately rediscovered the Bauhaus as a topic of interest for myself during the deep dive into its history in the context of preparing for the 100 years of Bauhaus celebration.

Who inspires me…

People and how they behave and interact with one another.

I’ve always been a fan of…

Simplicity – which is unfortunately quite difficult to attain.

My highlight of the last 12 months…

The past year had about 365 highlights – each day offered something unique.

My next design trip is to…

London for the Clerkenwell Design Week. I am looking forward to meeting the UK design world there!