Design : Artek + Aalto’s Stool 60

A highlight of our last trip to Helsinki was our visit to the Artek flagship showroom. Before I take you there, via the doors of my memory, I kinda want you to know that I’m a big fan of Finnish Design, I adore Finnish glassware and am quite in love with Alvar Aalto’s furniture designs more than his architecture. Now perhaps you can  really imagine how excited I was to get through those doors.

My eyes scanned the room in happy heart-shaped elation before they rested on an installation, mounted on wall in pride of place. Hiro and I stood there. Looking. Smiling. Enjoying the very sight of the deconstructed 60 Stool.

Now before any of you shout “IKEA” at me (and before I retort with “CHEAP KNOCK OFFS”), here are some points to consider:

  • Alvar Aalto designed  Stool  60 way back in 1933.
  • At first glance it may well look like just another simple stool. But look again! See those curvy legs? That was a trailblazing design that utilised an innovative new technique developed by Aalto. He made a series of precision vertical cuts into the top of each solid birch leg and inserted and goes in thin sheets of plywood before gently steaming and bending them to achieve the curvature.  The result is a detail that is as beautiful as it is practical and strong.
  • The legs could now be screwed directly onto the underside of the seat, cutting out the need further joints and potential weak points.  It also made it possible for large-scale manufacture of the stool.
  • The result is a sublime stool which is functional, robust, versatile and  timeless – probably all reasons contributing to IKEA’s decision to produce a knock-off inferior quality version.

Buying a Aalto’s 3 legged Stool 60 will set you back around £180 (depending on the finish). The Frosta costs about £10.00. So why on earth would I rather skimp and save and fork out my hard earned money to have a Stool 60? Well it’s very simple to me:

  • I respect designers and their work from thought processes right up to the finished article. I appreciate the amount of work it takes to make this happen and buying a knock-off or fake that supports theft and counterfeits does not bode well with me.
  • I support designers and makers that take the time to know and understand the materials that they work with such depth that they can anticipate, and ultimately manipulate its behaviour. It takes serious dedication to get to this stage.
  • I admire quality in design. Right from the quality and provenance of materials, quality of manufacturing processes to quality of finish.
  • I believe in integrity and honesty within design. Theft – especially that which undermines the work, inspiration and  innovation of another designer is unacceptable.
  • I demand longevity in the items I buy. The design must be timeless because I do not go in for trends. It must last long enough for me to pass down these cherished objects to my son so they can be part of his story. Throwaysim is something that I’ve always sought to avoid.
  • Today, Stool 60 is still made in the A-Factory in Turku, Finland, where it takes 42 production steps to complete a single stool. 25 of these are dedicated to the L-leg alone.

The Making of Stool 60 from Artek on Vimeo.

I know that ultimately Stool 60 is just a thing and that material possessions are not nearly as important as living our lives in a fulfilling and honest way. But I do not want to put things in my home that I don’t connect with. I try to buy things with a story that I believe in from their origins right to their manufacture. I feel that by carefully and conscientiously choosing to buy things that I truly love, believe in and respect enough to have in my home to enjoy and grow old with over trend-led items that neither hold their value nor their appeal is a far more authentic way to create the bones of my home. This is why I am currently saving up for a Stool 60.

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