Rebar by Sylvain Willenz / Studio Visit

Designed by Sylvain Willenz, the Rebar series of side- and coffee tables combines the sleek elegance of marble with the industrial strength of rebar. These original tables come in a range of sizes, heights, and styles, to be used in various scenarios in any space.

We chatted with the designer about his unconventional use of materials, his inspiration for the series, and why tables with a bottom tray are just so smart.

Marble and industrial steel are unlikely companions: how did you decide to bring them together for these tables?

Sylvain Willenz: Indeed, as you say, it is rather surprising to see rebar (concrete-reinforcing steel bars) associated with marble and used for furniture… but I really love contrasts, of materials or ideas, and finding beauty in what is sometimes seen as incongruous. I find it interesting to sometimes shift things from a certain level or context to another.

When I was researching steel bars for a furniture collection, it occurred to me that rebar was an interesting material to experiment with. I found that its structure, which is engineered for technical reasons, was rather beautiful, and could also be interesting from a decorative point of view, especially if contrasted with a more valuable material such as marble.

The effect is striking, graphic, surprising, and engaging, as it makes one think of the materials used to create the furniture; everyone knows rebar, but has rarely seen it in a living room.

What was the design process like, from initial sketch to finished product? Were there many changes and modifications along the way?

SW: Working with HAY, we identified the most important pieces of furniture suited to the concept, ultimately focusing on side- and coffee tables, which allow a certain freedom of expression and indulgence in decoration.

The Rebar series, which is super simple, and functional above all, nonetheless has a sculptural effect in a room. They are subtle statements, or accent pieces. But mainly, by designing them to carefully balance the decorative aspect with colour, choice of marble, and various formats, makes them classic and passe-partout pieces of furniture.

What was your inspiration when designing this table?

SW: I wanted the Rebar series to be a real family, so naturally we came up with a small round-table (with a top in either marble or a steel tray), which can be used next to a seat or sofa. Then we designed the small coffee-table with marble top, to place in front of a sofa or against a wall.

And then the tray-table, which has the particularity of having a marble top and a tray underneath, which is very practical as you can place all sorts of things in it or even use it as a mini-bar in the corner of the room. I quite like that idea, with tableware on the top, and bottles on the lower tray; I think that’s a very chic way to use it. But in the end, it has a such a convenient format that it can be used in many situations: in the bedroom as bedside table, in the hallway, in the dining room as a small side-board, and so on.

How would you describe your signature aesthetic?

SW: My work is generally very graphic, slightly playful in shape, but always with a classic and elegant dimension. Originally, I wanted to be a cartoonist, but then, when I was 18, I discovered product design. The idea that you could design anything appealed to me. Over the years, I developed a singular style of ligne claire, which I think is typical to my vision, and to my drawing background. And I’m fascinated by materials, production, manufacturing, and detail.

I like to combine my idea for a design with an intelligent use of material and technique, so that it is sound in all respects; industrial, economical, and cultural. It is also important to me that people can relate to my products and feel good using and living with them.