Furniture Designer Eero Aarnio – Images used to recall the 1960’s might include these: Twiggy, go-go boots, clear plastic bubble umbrellas and matching raincoats made from shiny, brightly colored plastic, and, of course, the iconic Ball Chair by Eero Aarnio.
Aarnio, a Finnish interior designer, was born July 21, 1932, became well known for his furniture designs, most notably the fiberglass and plastic chairs.
Upon completing studies at the Institute of Industrial Arts in Helsinki, he started his own practice. One year later, in 1963, he designed the Ball Chair – a hollow ball seat for one person on a stand. Referred to as a “room within a room” (his original prototype included a red phone built into the upholstery), is a cozy and peaceful atmosphere, insulating outside noises. While it reflects private space, that the chair can move about on its stand, allows the enclosed individual to see the outside world on his own terms, from his own perch.
In an interview with Aarnio, he explained, “The idea of the chair was very obvious. We had a home but no proper big chair, so I decided to make one, but some way a really new one. After some drawing, I noticed that the shape of the chair had become so simple that it was merely a ball.” Pinning a full-scale drawing on the wall, he “sat” in the chair to see how a head would be able to move seated within. In similar tests, he determined the height of the chair, making sure that it would be able to fit through a doorway.
In creating the chair’s prototype, he explained that he used “…inside moulding, using the same principle as a glider fuselage or wing.” The chair was finally laminated in fiberglass. “…the naming of the chair was easy, the BALL CHAIR was born.”
The chair, presented at the international furniture fair in Cologne in 1966, was quite the sensation, resulting in Aarnio’s designing an entire line of fiberglass designs. The design was followed by the Bubble Chair – a clear seat suspended from a ceiling. Aarnio’s other designs included the floating Pastil chair (modeled along an inner tube) and Tomato chair (a more stable seat between three globes).
His designs were an important part of the 1960’s culture, and were seen in sets of period science-fiction films. As the designs used simple geometric forms, they were ideal for the venue.
As fiberglass was known to be a dangerous material to those working in its manufacture, Aarnio replaced it with safer types of plastic. Toys and furniture for children are still designed by Aarnio.