The Thonet Modular Sofa, a Constantly Evolving System

Marialaura Rossiello Irvine reinterprets the S 5000 Retreat collection designed by James Irvine in 2006. Seats, partitions and accessories for home offices and contract spaces. Here is the Archiproducts video interview

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23/06/2022 - Marialaura Rossiello Irvine reinterprets an iconic Thonet modular sofa, the S 5000 Retreat system designed by James Irvine in 2006. The result is a collection of sofas and seats separated by dividers, adding coffee tables, cushions and sockets.

The S 5000 Retreat seatings collection is "a continuously evolving system, an open project that continues to investigate new functions and integration with other materials". Marialaura Rossiello Irvine tells Archiproducts how the collection was conceived and expanded in an interview during Fuorisalone 2022.

Inspired by the daybed with tubular-steel frame produced by Thonet since the 1930s, James Irvine created in 2006 a modular and flexible system, ideal for both domestic spaces and "new work" contexts. "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".

"The real challenge was to renew a design that had been in the Thonet catalogue since 2006. Studying the function and modularity of the individual elements to give more choice and configuration according to the needs of the contract and consumer market. We started working on it in 2018. During its development, we saw a momentous change with the pandemic that transformed our daily lives and habits. The S5000 seating/sofa system naturally adapted to this change to become a contemporary system.
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This is precisely the idea behind the S 5000 Retreat: it creates room-in-room solutions and offers the opportunity to work in private spaces, even in open-plan offices. The layout of each individual room can be freely configured and adapted to new situations as needed.

The base module is available as either an upholstered one, two or three-seater unit on a tubular-steel base without backrest and side panels. Matching arm and backrests or dividing panels – a brand new addition to the range – can be integrated into the seat frame as needed to provide privacy and block out noise. 

Thus, every module can be expanded in a variety of different ways. The panels form a frame within which varying sizes of cushions can be freely arranged to create the desired set-up. The furniture range also includes small tables that are screwed to the tubular steel frame. This creates entire sofa landscapes that be extended or modified using the modular system. As a classic sofa, the S 5000 Retreat is perfect for modern living spaces. The smaller model with panels provides a smart working station for working from home, while its larger counterpart can be used in the central zones and the lounges of office buildings, in co-working spaces or in waiting rooms.
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With S 5000 Retreat, the formal, minimalist language of Thonet products is softened by Studio Irvine's research into materials and colour.
"Today, Studio Irvine is the result of the meeting of two cultures: the British approach of industrial designer James and the culture of tradition and material with my training as an Italian architect. Two personalities coming together. Like our meeting with Thonet, with whom we did several projects and for whom James was also the art director for several years. This deep-rooted relationship continued even after his untimely death in 2013, thanks to our shared values and ambition to create timeless products,' Marialaura Rossiello Irvine concludes.

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