Alvar Aalto chairs

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2015-06-26 11:13:41

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Alvar Aalto chairs

Alvar Aalto chairs are items of furniture designed by the renowned Finnish architect.

Background

Alvar Aalto (1898 – 1976) was a Finnish architect and designer whose work spanned styles including Nordic Classicism, Modernism and Monumentalism.

In addition to his architectural designs, Aalto produced a variety of furniture including stools, chairs and floor lamps along with glassware and ceramics.

His work is characterised by his belief in the concept of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, meaning a ‘total work of art’ – along with his wife Aino, Aalto produced furniture, decorative objects and interior surfaces for his buildings to create a complete statement of design.

In 1935 he founded the manufacturing company Artek, which produced the furniture and glassware designs for his projects. Artek continues to manufacture Aalto’s designs to this day, along with the work of other contemporary Finnish designers.

Collector’s guide

Aalto created a wide range of lounge chairs, armchairs and side chairs, each with its own specific model number. Since 1935 they have been continuously manufactured by Artek, with new models selling for anything from $200 (stools) to thousands of dollars for lounge and armchairs.

Some of his most famous designs include:

  • Chair 41: The Paimio chair, originally designed for use at the Paimio Sanatorium in Finland in 1932. The cantilevered birch wood chair features bentwood arms and was created to aid the comfort of tuberculosis patients
  • Chair 406: The Pension chair, featuring a cantilevered birch frame and webbing on the seat and back.
  • Chair 404: The Tank chair, a cantilevered arm chair with an upholstered seat and back

Aalto also designed a range of three and four-legged stacking stools which are highly popular with collectors today.

Price guide

Because Aalto’s designs remain in production today, made by the original manufacturer Artek, the value of vintage models can vary.

The most sought after models are those which employ Aalto’s trademark ‘cantilevered’ style using bent-wood arms and simple lines dating from the 1930s. Original Paimio chairs from this period can sell for over $20,000 at auction depending on the condition.

Also highly popular are original ‘Tank’ armchairs upholstered in vintage fabrics and leathers. These can often sell for $1,000 - $15,000 each, depending on the type of upholstery.

However, vintage sets of stools tend to sell for far less than contemporary models in the same design – new stools tend to retail for $200 - $400, whereas sets of four or six vintage models can be found at auction for around the same price.

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