Stefan Diez

We interviewed Stefan Diez only a few hours prior to the grand opening of ‘Full House’, his first retrospective exhibition at MAK Cologne. After the photoshoot, he took us along key pieces of his career, starting in 2003.

new school

We enter a high, nearly finished and very promising looking presentation that takes up all the space the Museum für Angewandte Kunst has to offer. Finished products are presented next to models and prototypes, which Diez Office has collected from the shelves of its Munich workshop. And a lot of work it is. Looking back at 15 years of practice in a setting like thi,s carries the weight of a milestone. Aged 46, Diez boasts a large portfolio of chairs, office furniture, lighting, tableware and kitchen utensils, which he designed for a variety of brands, including e15, emu, Hay, Magis, Rosenthal, Thonet, Vibia, Wagner and Wilkhahn. He is surely one of the most productive contemporary German designers, definitely new school and very successful. Perhaps even a star designer.

TS SL Burgbad
Fantastic new RGB collection for Burgbad 2019
04. RGB furniture collection by Stefan Diez for burgbad Photo courtesy of burgbad 768x1024
TS QF2 Burgbad


Standing on the stairs near the frantic atmosphere of the exhibition setup, Stefan Diez comes across as relatively relaxed and open. The Diez Office crew, sympathetic young guys in their thirties, is helping out the museum staff. ‘Things are coming together just fine, I think,’ says Diez. ‘As you can see, my work is driven by curiosity, experiment and research. The care we put into the process relates to the amount of studies you see here. In individual units we show different products and exemplary solutions that were crucial to their development and character. The exhibition design is based on the New Order furniture system by Hay. They’re simply large tables, elements that are now performing a new task, including cable ducts and all other things you need for an exhibition. For the most monumental showcase, we built the system up to the top of the 9-m central room, reaching even higher in the stairwell into the second floor. For this towering construction we chose 30 prototypes that display two years of developing the new office chair for Wagner. It’s become an impressive demonstration of the time and ingenuity we and our client invested. All in all, we produced over 140 models: researching materials, seats, construction details from every angle and creating all of the qualities we wanted the finished product to convey.


We push boundaries and invest in the process at the studio because the effort delivers the type of work I want to make. I’ve always done things this way. In the very beginning I worked on Instant Lounge, which was an experimental range of chairs made by folding and bending sheets of perforated steel and plastic using a set of ordinary car jacks. The way we made the Instant Lounge is somewhat reminiscent of the Eames’s in the 1940s – they worked with an air pump to try to find out how to bend plywood. We still carry out those kinds of experiments. I approach many of our projects through the eyes and hands of a craftsman. Craft skills are powerful tools while creating shapes and balancing proportions. In many ways, craft helps to find the appropriateness a good product needs. And, last but not least, real models and mock-ups provoke communication within the studio, and with the client or partner. Over the course of the years we became more and more entangled with industrial partners; mid-size factories in the region between Munich and Augsburg. They are the firms supplying us with parts and knowhow. Many are family owned and help us to achieve the high-quality technical solutions we aim for.


‘If, like me, you’re lucky enough to cooperate with firms like Wagner or Thonet, you come to respect their mentality. In particular the way craft is integrated into industrial production. As you know, Thonet invented a way to bend wood. The B.09 Chair with armrests was heralded by Bauhaus as a true archetype of good industrial design. But still. When you visit the factory the legs and frames are in fact bent manually by two workers. In my Thonet no 404 an interpretation of the B.09, I took the bending as a guiding principle. But we replaced the traditional roundwood by flat strips. The legs and armrests are merged in a knot underneath the seat. For this construction we needed volume. So we used a very thick seat instead of the slim or rattan seat you find in traditional models like the Vienna Café Chair.


‘For my career the Houdini Chairs I did for e15 were true gamechangers. We show a number of those key moments here. The way we present projects and prototypes from collaborations with Wagner, e15, Hay and others is like displaying an open book. We open up the way we work to the visitors of the exhibition. You cannot buy the things you see, but are welcome to experience them and relate to the qualities we tried to put into the chairs, lights, etcetera. It’s like paying a visit to our studio.’


This interview was published in WOTH issue No4 still available in our shop.