Eero Saarinen – Finnish Furniture Designer

Posted on 27th July 2011 in Finland Designers

Eero Saarinen, Born in Finland on August 20, 1910, he is known as an architect and industrial designer. Considered one of the masters of American 20th Century architecture, he came to the United States in 1923 with his father, also an architect growing up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Studying both sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére in Paris and later studying architecture at the Yale School of Architecture, he graduated in 1934 returning to Finland then eventually coming back again to Michigan to work for his father and teach at the Cranbook Academy of Art.

Joining the military service in 1940, he was assigned the duty of illustrating bomb disarming manuals. It was during this time that he became friends with Charles Eames and the two began to collaborate together on modern furniture design. They designed a chair which they received first prize in the competition, “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” in 1940.

He continued to work with the Knoll furniture company designing the “Grasshopper” lounge chair and ottoman (1946), the “Womb” chair and ottoman (1948) and the “Womb” settee in 1950. While the “Grasshopper” lounge chair was not very popular the “Womb” chair did better. Constructed of foam over a molded, reinforced fiberglass shell with cushions filled with polyester fiber with a foam core, it typifies much of the modern furniture during this time.  Working with these new industrial materials, this led to him producing his most famous “Tulip Chair” or Pedestal group.

The “Tulip Chair” designed in 1955-56 was also produced by the Knoll furniture company located in New York. Like other industrial designers of the time who were also designing contemporary furniture, he continued to work with space age materials, continuing with his use of fiberglass. While his intent was to produce a one piece modern furniture chair he found that fiberglass as a pedestal base did not have the strength to support the chair. He instead designed a cast aluminum base with a finish that matched the chair portion to give the appearance of being one whole piece.

Continuing his success with architecture, he was known for his attention to detail which showed in the contemporary furniture that he designed. American corporations responded favorably to his ideas and commissioned him to design their headquarters; John Deere, IBM and CBS. Utilizing the minimalist lines that he had become known for he designed tightly rational exteriors contrasted with dramatic sweeping staircases incorporating modern furniture that he had designed.





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Eero Aarnio – Finnish Furniture Designer

Posted on 25th July 2011 in Finland Designers

Eero Aarnio is best known for his use of acrylic plastic, functional forms, playful colors and user friendly furniture. Considered a pioneer in the use of this material in industrial design, he was born in Helinski, Finland in 1932. Studying at the Institute of Industrial Arts from 1954-1957, he began designing for both interior and industrial use. One of his first pieces was the Ball Chair in 1963 made of fiberglass.

Modern furniture was never going to be the same. The fiberglass ball connected to a metal swiveling base with the cushions containing foam and fiberfill. Originally produced with the color choices of white, red, black and orange, one of the novelties of this chair was that it provided an enclosed sense of space and sound. Sitting inside makes you feel like you are in your own private enclosed space. Some people actually add speakers and Aarnio fitted a ball chair with a telephone. This chair unlike the Bubble Chair, was affixed to a base that would allow for rotation yet still providing a sense of being in a space within a space.

Fascinated with this material, fiberglass, he continued his exploration of contemporary furniture designing functional pieces while stretching the boundaries of shape and form. His next designs in modern furniture included the Pastil chair which won a 1968 American Industrial Design Award and the Tomato Chair which gained him international recognition. Both of these chairs were meant to float in water providing a shiny smooth surface that is as much sculpture as it is a place to sit.

One of his better known pieces is the Bubble Chair, which he designed in 1968 which again utilized modern furniture materials, this time exploring the use of acrylic and chromed steel. Similar to the Ball Chair, it also provides a sense of privacy and enclosure. The original design was based on the dome shape of a skylight.  Since he was not able to produce a clear pedestal base for the chair like he wanted, he instead choose to hang it from the ceiling.

Not wanting to block the outside light he included clear as a material color choice. In this way the world can easily be observed from a quiet and calm place. Used on movie sets in sci-fi flicks it can also easily fit into the scheme of a contemporary furniture design providing a welcome place to sit and certainly creating a novel modern furniture conversation piece.


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