"I have no intention of letting it go just yet."

"I have no intention of letting it go just yet."

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Easy to maintain, repair, and repurpose, Artek’s designs are made to last. Many of our friends and collaborators have lived with an Artek piece for years. We asked them to share a story about their favourite one and why it brings them joy.

In response, Johanna Gullichsen wonders about the origins of a family heirloom.

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If only furniture could speak...

It would be interesting to hear what stories this little bench could tell.

It has spent time in the homes of several members of my family. I wonder where it’ll end up next.

It must have started off at my grandmother’s house. Then it was at my aunt’s, then at my parents’ place, then back at my aunt’s. It came into my possession at the end of the 1980s.

I remember it from my childhood, upholstered in a rifle green fabric. The cushion often served in my younger siblings’ games – as a raft or a building block in some imaginary house or nest they were building under a table.

The bench became mine some 30 years ago. I was in the process of learning upholstery, and I decided to renew the webbing and reupholster the seat cushion.

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I chose a raffia fabric available from Artek at the time, frequently used on some of the Aalto furniture. When I removed the old upholstery, I discovered an interesting history. At some point in the past – probably after the war, when materials were scarce – the seat cushion had been thickened with wood shavings, a once common practice.

The original raffia upholstery was worn but not lost, and there were remnants of leather piping and leather-covered buttons. My upholstery skills weren’t up to the task of the buttons and piping, so I simplified things a bit. I think it looks fresh like this. Raffia is such a lovely material.

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I had a loose cover made in the Nereus fabric from my own collection. I looks fine, don’t you think?

The bench has served me well for three decades now, in three different homes. I have no intention of letting it go just yet.

What I don’t know is who designed the bench. Maybe it’s a very early Artek piece? If anyone knows, it would be nice to hear more stories.

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Though the exact origins of Johanna’s bench are unknown, it’s likely an early design by Aino Aalto, perhaps even custom made for Maire and Harry Gullichsen. Benches are typical elements in Aalto interiors and featured heavily in the couples’ Helsinki home and in Villa Mairea, as displayed above.

Photos: Johanna Gullichsen, Nico Backström

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