We’re all islands

Interview with Coen Verhoef by Viveka van de Vliet

A Design strip, with a nod to The Vegas Strip, the neon-lit strip of chic hotel-casinos and shops in Las Vegas, that’s what they had in mind. ‘The script was ready,’ says Coen Verhoef, responsible for Thonet in the Netherlands and Belgium, sitting in the café area of the Concept Gallery. Together with the adjacent Kasstoor shop and the Architects Showroom, Concept Gallery saw the importance of organising a design event on the ‘Amsterdam design strip’ along the Pedro de Medinalaan on Steigereiland Zuid. Because of corona, they postponed an event, and important fairs like the Salone del Mobile and Orgatec were also cancelled, so they were unable to show any novelties.

But then there was GLUE. As a founding partner, the Concept Gallery saw this as an opportunity to present itself as an inspiration hub to a large audience.

Coen Verhoef

‘We were a little hidden in Beesd,’ says Verhoef about German family business Thonet, founded in 1819 and active in the Netherlands for over fifty years. Amsterdam beckoned. ‘We are an international company; the central location of the capital attracts an international clientele,’ says the country manager. And even though he lives quietly out in the country in Brabant, he is frequently in the capital to visit architects or project developers.

Now located in the Concept Gallery in Amsterdam, Thonet strives to offer more inspiration and experience instead of just being a showroom. This allows them to better respond to the changing market in which offices with large boardroom tables and armchairs give way to flexible domestic spaces that function as meeting places, and living rooms that in turn transform into offices in which you work on your laptop in your recliner.

‘Senso cast floorings were already in this building and have the same ambitions as we do: to create an inspiration hub for architects and design enthusiasts together with other design companies. That’s why we started looking for more complementary partners,’ he says. They were successful in this, with Agape bathrooms; Intra Lighting; Julia Interiors; the Aroma Club, which supplies coffee machines to restaurants, hotels, and offices; and occasionally there is room for a guest partner such as Carpet Sign. The Concept Gallery added an area in the back with a bar and several coffee machines with wide views of waving reeds and water. There is also the nearly hidden, fully furnished, and attractive hotel room, which not only serves as a source of inspiration, but is also a real overnight stay option for clients.

‘Not all individual manufacturers can afford such a large space as this. Moreover, the strength of the Concept Gallery is that we strengthen each other and share our networks,’ says Verhoef. ‘More and more customers come here for an overall plan for the furnishing of a house or office, and the people who only come here for a piece of Thonet furniture often also spot, for example, a cast floor or atmospheric lighting.’

In addition, the boardroom is rented out for meetings, presentations, or as a flexible workplace, and Concept Gallery organises events such as the annual Summer Event in September (which, this year, can be easily combined with GLUE) where guest speakers come to talk about themes such as circularity or trends.

During GLUE, visitors will be treated to workshops and the complete collections of all partners of the Concept Gallery. Thonet will not only show current furniture, such as lounge armchair 809, but will also install a mobile steamer outside, demonstrating how the wood of Thonet chairs is made pliable in the same way that was used in the early 19th century, with steam, muscle power, and feeling.

‘We’re all islands,’ says Verhoef. ‘Kasstoor is next to us, and there are all kinds of architectural firms and other creative businesses nearby. On Cruquiuseiland, you have Moroso, Studio Linse, and Design Post located together. But GLUE ensures that we’re all connected in one route, and it’s even more fun that the Stedelijk Museum will be opening the exhibition ‘From Thonet to Dutch design’ in September, which is another great link to our Thonet brand.

What’s more, when we organise an event, the same contacts always know how to find their way to us. The renowned architects know us well by now, but we hope to appeal to a new young audience during GLUE, or to that recent graduate creative who is working invisibly in a secluded room and is missing inspiration and colleagues.’

Find the exhibition in Amsterdam