“The chair began to whisper to me”

“The chair began to whisper to me”

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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, Petter Eklund shared the story about a set of chairs that will be owned by his children one day.

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It was the stamp that won me over. I was wandering through the antique fair when I stumbled upon some run-down Aalto chairs. A Chair Model 66 caught my eye. It didn’t have the usual seat, round like a plate, but a larger one with four rounded corners. It was made of worn birch with a patina veneer, old and exquisite. I looked underneath and saw the stamp – not “Artek,” as I had expected, but rather “Hästbergs skola” (Hästberg School).

I understood that this was not a common Aalto chair, but a unique sort that had stood in a classroom in Tuna Hästberg, a Swedish mining village, nestled in the woods between Ludvika and Borlänge. The chair began to whisper to me – of afternoons filled with geography lessons, nervous fingernails scratching at chipped paint during exams, the sounds of slamming desk lids and feet running out to greet the summer holidays. I imagined the chairs left empty in quiet classrooms, baking in the summer sun until the late days of August, when everything would begin all over again.

The stamp served as an evocative reminder of the clever functionalism of Aalto chairs. High quality for everyone – even for school children in a small mining community in central Sweden.

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The mine was closed in 1968. Gradually, over time, Hästberg School enrollment shrank, until the institution finally shuttered its doors in 2003. The Aalto chairs had probably been cleared out some time beforehand. Where had these worn-down chairs been hiding all these years?

Of course, I took two of them home with me and introduced them to a new generation of children – my own. Spaghetti sauce and sticky sandwich fingers added new layers to their scratched varnish. Homework was completed in their sturdy embrace, and the chairs accompanied our family on every move. The great thing about Aalto chairs is that they blend and settle into new rooms without pretension, humbly adapting to growing people and new needs year after year. One day, my children will inherit them and find new ways of using and enjoying this furniture they grew up with.

Another benefit of the chairs is their straightforward design. There’s never any hassle with them; if the legs start to wobble, just tighten the screws. I like that simplicity – the fact that the legs are screwed right into the wood. No frills. Everything with a clearly stated function. There are 1,000 sophisticated ways to attach a chair leg to a seat, but Aalto must have thought: “What the hell? Let’s keep it simple – we’ll screw the legs on.” Today, the screws are a bit rusty after decades of rainy summers in Tuna Hästberg. But they’re still as sturdy as ever.

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Chairs resembling Petter's finding