For Knoll Virtual Design Days 2020, we presented a Muuto Talk on Scandinavian Design & Craftsmanship with designer Thomas Bentzen at his Copenhagen studio exploring his perspective on form, function and materials, moderated by Spencer Bailey, co-host of the Time Sensitive and At a Distance podcast.
Thomas Bentzen founded his own studio in 2010 with his design receiving international recognition at fairs and exhibitions across the world. Bentzen is firmly rooted in the Danish design tradition, emphasizing material knowledge, craftsmanship and rational industrial manufacturing processes.
On the characteristics and detailing of his designs, Bentzen notes: “Often, the characteristics and details happen by accident with trial and error. You meet a problem you can’t solve, let it be and then it happens to be the right characteristic for the design. In relation to the hole on the Around Coffee Table, I couldn’t find a nice way to place it while making the models. If I had such a hard time finding the right position for it, the craftsmen would have an even harder time creating it. The hole ended up giving the Around Coffee Table a direction and character. Trial and error is part of the process."
Speaking on how the Cover Chair Series came to be, Bentzen says: “The Cover Chair is born out of the thin veneer edge of the Around Coffee Table. By using the thin veneer for the design, the Cover Chair Series ended up with a strong base in solid wood while its soft shape comfortably surrounds the body”, and continues: “For the first models, we had no cover for the arms to rest on, which ended up with the soft cover, being the characteristic of the chair.”
“Recently, we launched the Cover Side Chair—the first wooden stacked chair in Muuto’s collection. Creating a wooden stacked chair is difficult without losing the identity of the Cover Chair Series’ characteristic soft cover. Without looking for the identity but looking for a way to create a new identity, we ended up with turning the cover the other side around, being the characteristic for the Cover Side Chair.”
A Muuto Talk on Scandinavian Design & Craftsmanship with designer Thomas Bentzen and Editor Spencer Bailey.
Speaking on how Bentzen sees craft in the context of design and his work as a designer, he notes: “Scandinavian design has always been about craftsmanship and it has always been a natural thing for me. It’s present in my hands and in my work on a daily basis. To me, Scandinavian design is characterized by classic values as simplicity, honesty, and most of all function. The way I work with materials to get the best out of it—not to overspend on materials, not making a joint bigger than it needs to be—constantly enhancing while I design and work.”
Talking on the Loft Chair, Bentzen explains: “The task for the chair from Muuto was in the lines of small, compact, strong and comfortable. Instantly, I knew that we needed to have a base created in steel for the chair to be as strong as possible. For the comfortability of the chair, I used the same thin, crisp plywood as for the Cover Chair and the Around Coffee Table. The Loft Chair is created with no bends—only cuts. It has been angled towards its middle to express its grounded strength, making it functional yet sophisticated."
“The Linear Series came from an idea to create a simple, no-nonsense table- and bench series with its thin tabletop while having the apron running on the outside of the table and bench. In relation to the Linear Series’ characteristics, I wanted the only detailing to be on the corner of the table and bench by expressing what’s holding the table and bench is its legs."
On his approach to the choice of materiality: “Materials are everything in a designer’s work. The knowledge of the process and the types of materials are vital—I keep on learning all the time by visiting suppliers and factories to see and learn. It’s a constant learning process—you can’t learn everything about a material but over time you will expand your knowledge for your next project,” Bentzen ends.