Alvar Aalto – Finnish Furniture Designer

Posted on 17th August 2011 in Finnish Designers, Furniture Designers

Being born in Finland right before the turn of the century in 1898, he made his mark on design in both the architecture and interior design world. Originally schooled and expressing his work in the Nordic Classicism style evolving to a modernist, organic style, Alvar Aalto approached furniture design from a total work of art approach. The integration of both the architecture of a building as well as the inside modern furniture design, textiles, paintings and finishes were considered and carefully designed to work as a harmonious whole.

Studying architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology, he graduated in 1921 and returned to Jyväskylä to open his own firm. There he met and married Aino Marsio, also an architect who through their association with the client, Harry and Marie Gullichsen during the late 1930’s encouraged them to move away from their more traditional designs and to become more innovative. This particular commission was to design a home for the couple that incorporated several influences including Finnish, Japanese as well as English and modernism.  He also saw this as an opportunity to create a model upon which mass housing could be produced.

Prior to this time he had spent working with plywood as the material of choice. In 1932 he invented a new form of laminated bent-plywood furniture. With patents obtained for these innovative techniques and influenced by the Bauhaus designers he met, his work received popular acclaim encouraging he and his wife to broaden their design efforts into forming a company called Artek that also offered glassware. While he is credited for having designed 500 buildings of which 300 were built, he was also known for his meticulous design of modern furniture producing pieces that performed seamlessly incorporating form and function.

In 1932, the Paimio Chair which in keeping with his desire to design the furnishings for his buildings, was to be included in the Paimio Sanatorium. Designed to allow a tuberculosis patient to be able to sit and breathe easily for long periods of time, it was made of birch wood with a cantilever design that seemed to defy gravity. These same materials were used for both the Three Leg Stool 60 and the modified Three Leg Stool X600 which provided style in a basic utilitarian fashion. In 1933, he included a four legged stool.

One of his more interesting chairs is the Armchair 400 covered with reindeer fur, again, made of simple bent birchwwod. One of his most famous accessories is the Aalto Vase which is a glass hand-blown vase allowed to follow modernist organic lines.






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