So I just got back from Helsinki. It was my third time there. I loved it. The design and aesthetics are deeply immersed in people’s daily lives and this is what inspires me every time I go there. We went to the University of Helsinki (amazing architecture and space) and they even have these Karuselli Lounge chairs by Yrjö Kukkapuro in chilling areas, not to mention Alvar Aalto’s furniture or littala’s timeless objects. No wonder why Finnish design, its functionality and quality are so appreciated by Japanese people. Already planning my next trip there!
In the world of furniture design, would you rather hear about the planning involved in making a 3D form using wire mesh and an existing chair - or a story of Finnish vodka, Finnish winter and man’s threshold for the cold?
It’s a cold night in Helsinki. Yrjo Kukkapuro is out with some mates. They’re probably talking about Finnish politics and Rally car racing. Vodka would have been sipped whilst they attacked and conquered these important subjects.
Eventually - Yrjo left for home, a little drunk. He walked up his front path, probably humming quietly to himself a glorious finnish song; probably the Nokia ringtone by Sibelius, and, keys in hand, he missed the keyhole and slumped backwards into a handy snow bank.
He blinked awake an hour or so later, and now a little more sober, probably looked around a bit,wondering why he was outside in the snow at 4 am. In minus 28 degrees. He struggled to his feet, and once again fished out his keys. This time he got in. As he started to undress, he had a quiet feeling of calm. Of comfort. He realized, even though it had been a little chilly sitting out in the freezing cold, that it had been incredibly comfortable. This set his designer’s brain into action - albeit Finnish vodka action. He grabbed a camera and an pen, took some photos of the shape he’d left in the snow, and made some memory-jogging sketches.
Then he went to bed. Over the next days and weeks he set about designing his chair. Then he put it on a spinning and reclining base - I suppose this has something to do with the amount he’d had to drink. The Karruseli was born, named by his daughter Isa, as it was “like a carousel!”.
Kukkapuro took the prototype to a furniture store in Helsinki. The store owner thought it looked rubbish. Fortunately, customers like it - and so it went into production and on sale. It is now Kukkapuro’s most successful chair. In 1974, the New York Times voted it as the most comfortable chair in the world.
You can see the Karuselli at Paramount - the top floor of Centrepoint, London, and Hotel Icon, Hong Kong. 145 of them. That was a nice order.