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Two modernists meet in Stockholm

New Perspectives

The collaboration between Artek and Malmstenbutiken is no coincidence. Both brands have two celebrated designers in their history. Architect Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) and furniture designer Carl Malmsten (1888–1972) were master modernists who were both very influential in their time. Their careers spanned the same decades, when they both re-envisioned the beauty of everyday culture of their home country. The cultural differences between Finland and Sweden can be seen clearly in their respective views of modernism. For Aalto, design was very much about modern ways to use of wood. The elegant wavy lines in his designs were a perfect complement to the austere minimalism of Bauhaus. Both men were also highly appreciative of handicraft and woodworking. Malmsten was a champion of traditional craft skills. His designs attest to his fondness for rural romanticism and rustic styles, which he combined with sophisticated classicism is a modern way. Malmsten created a new homey and elegant style.

Jerk Malmsten, CEO of Malmstenbutiken, describes the collaboration: “I’m not interested in fixating on something becoming a classic and an icon of furniture design. Instead, I have always tried to ensure that Malmsten remains a pioneer and a trailblazer. That is what unites us with Artek. We are both among the first, relying on tradition, yet making the best use of curiosity and courage. What made the decision to collaborate even easier was the fact that we both have a background in design, which we use to try to make life better and create durable goods, and the fact that we love natural materials.”

Artek abc Collection

The abc Collection consists small objects that integrate naturally into the rest of Artek’s furniture collection. The title is a reference to the alphabet of living: the products serve the small needs of daily life and please the eye, bringing joy to the everyday. The objects in the abc Collection are functional and beautiful that all have their own place. The collection makes available unexpected, different and unique objects as a tribute to small production and art and crafts.

The showpiece of the first launch of the Artek abc Collection will be the Siena pattern, designed by Alvar Aalto in 1954. Aalto originally designed the pattern for fabrics. His idea was that it could be used freely for different purposes, and in fact Elissa Aalto once made an appearance wearing a dress made of a Siena fabric. The architectural and light Siena will be for the first time adapted to curtains, a soft blanket, a kitchen towel as well as coasters and trivets. The Siena range now consist nearly 20 small products.

Stool 60 Anniversary

Designed by Alvar Aalto, Stool 60 turns a venerable 80 this year. Stool 60 is the number one best-seller of Artek products and one of the most famous design products in the world. Artek will celebrate the birthday of the classic in many ways. The Malmstenbutiken range will include the anniversary edition of Stool 60 in colours that are borrowed directly from Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium (1928–1933): the yellow of the floors, the green of the walls, and the orange, white and black of the furniture.


In the career of Harri Koskinen (1970–), wood has been a particularly important material, along with glass. Wood for him represents Finnish identity, industry and crafts. Lento – Finnish for ‘flight’ – got its name for its lightness. In Malmstenbutiken, Artek will present the new Lento lounge chair and side table. The Lento range was launched in 2006. Koskinen designed the Lento chair as a durable piece of furniture for both public spaces and homes. The Lento Collection grew in 2009 when upholstered chairs and a table were launched at the Stockholm Furniture Fair. In Milan in 2012, Lento expanded to cover also lounges and lounge areas. The new Lento Lounge easy chair and side table are versatile, fitting public places, urban homes and country houses alike.

Artek Light Fittings

Light is a central element in Alvar Aalto’s architecture. He was also interested in the health impacts of light. Architecturally functional lighting is not merely an aesthetic matter, its purpose is also to make the spaces easier to use and to impart a sense of wellness. Although Aalto’s lighting solutions for natural as well as artificial light were always based on rational consideration, aesthetics was for him an important aspect of design as well.

Malmstenbutiken has an impressive selection of classic lamps designed by Alvar Aalto and a pendant by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon (1918–2008).

Floor lamps A805, A808 and A810 were designed by Aalto for the National Pensions Institute in 1954–59. The iconic Golden Bell ceiling lamp, A330S, was designed for the Savoy Restaurant in 1939. Its sister model, A440, was designed in 1954. Also known as the Hand Grenade, the A110 pendant was designed by Aalto in 1952 for the Finnish Engineering Society Building. The famous Beehive, the A331 pendant was designed in 1953 and it was part of the lighting solutions for the University of Jyväskylä.

Utzon worked in Alvar Aalto’s office in 1946. Eleven years later, in 1957, he designed the U336 pendant for Artek, the very time he also began designing the Sydney Opera House.

Classics with New Eyes

Artek classics are alive in time and space, always fresh. Along with Aalto’s designs, the furniture designed by designer/interior architect Ilmari Tapiovaara (1914–1999) still stands out from among the increasingly profuse trends in interior decoration and design. The calm the designs of the two masters radiate derives from a carefully considered essentialism. The combination of ergonomics, durability and aesthetics has endured for decades in schools, hospitals, restaurants and homes. The designs are the outcome of sustained thinking and sufficient time for experimentation.

Aalto’s Armchair 406 is a variation based on a frame he designed in the 1930s. The use of bent solid wood was the most important technical innovation made by Aalto, and it enabled the creation of many chairs that have since then become classics. The most famous of these include Stool 60 and Armchair 41, more familiarly known as the Paimio chair. The leather webbing of Armchair 406 was introduced in 1947.

In 1946–47 Tapiovaara designed, together with his wife, Annikki Tapiovaara, furniture for the new student dormitory, Domus Academica, in Helsinki. It was for that project the famous Domus chair and Domus armchair were created. Originally designed as a desk chair, the Domus chair was used from the start for many different functions. Domus was a great success, and became the guilding light for all of Tapiovaara’s subsequent work. Over the years, millions of Domus chairs have been placed in homes and public spaces.

The Tee-Tee Table was created when Tapiovaara was designing furniture for living rooms in 1939–40.

The Pirkka range was designed by Tapiovaara in 1955–1962 primarily for homes. The first product in the series was the Pirkka stool which was intended for cooling off after the sauna. Tapiovaara was a great admirer of Finnish rustic furniture and Pirkka is his modern interpretation of them.

In addition to chairs, Tapiovaara also designed several tables in the 1950s. He was particularly interested in their transportability and lightness. The Trienna Table was designed in 1954. The three joined plywood pieces double as legs and the top of the table. The seams between the pieces create a beautiful pattern on the top. The Trienna Table is elegant by itself and a fine centrepiece for creating exciting combinations.

Tapiovaara designed the Mademoiselle rocking chair and lounge chair in 1956. The design is based on the traditional Finnish spoke chair. 

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