The Karuselli chair represented the dynamic design of its time

The Karuselli chair designed by Yrjö Kukkapuro has been a success in the design world already for over 50 years. How was this Finnish classic born?

Artek Karuselli chair
The Karuselli chair was launched at the Cologne furniture fair in 1965.

INTERIOR ARCHITECT YRJÖ KUKKAPURO is well-known for his geniously designed chairs. The starting point for Kukkapuro’s designs has always been human body and its proportions. The Karuselli chair, which was launched in 1965, is probably his most well-known work – both in Finland and in the world.

The playful name of the Karuselli chair was given by Kukkapuro’s daughter, Isa, in 1964. At the time she was seven, and staring at the prototype she exclaimed to his father: “This is like a carousel”.

Yrjö Kukkapuro
Designer Yrjö Kukkapuro (b. 1933) is regarded as one of the key figures of Finnish functionalism.

There is a funny story going on about the origin of the Karuselli chair. According to it, after drinking vodka Kukkapuro fell down on a pile of snow and got the idea for the Karuselli chair from the shape that was created in the snow. Even if this is a good story, it isn’t true.

According to a story, Kukkapuro fell down on a pile of snow after drinking vodka and got the idea for the Karuselli chair from the shape that was created in the snow.

In reality, Kukkapuro designed his chair using a light metal wire. He put the wire on an armchair, sat on it and this way the wire got a shape. The same technique was used for the armrests. Thus he had now a huge three-dimensional model of the chair.

After that Kukkapuro lifted the model on a table and looked at it from all directions, it’s then that the chair started to take form. The designer put plaster on the model and started to sculpt. He worked on the model an entire year, and at the end of 1964 there were already some samples of the chair made of fibreglass.

The Karuselli chair is also available in nougat and white.
Artek Karuselli chair
The Karuselli chair and stool make a great addition to a reading nook.
Artek Karuselli chair
Karuselli combined ergonomics, new materials, production methods, and artistic design in a new way. That is what made it a revolutionary piece of furniture.

Karuselli was a revolutionary chair for its time, and this is well illustrated by the following story. When Karuselli was almost finished, it was taken to a furniture store in the center of Helsinki. The owner of the shop, Gunnar Haimi, was terrified because he found the chair awful and could hardly conceal his feelings.

Suddenly, a man who was in the city on a business trip to walked in. He went around the shop, noticed the Karuselli prototype and asked what it was. Kukkapuro and Haimi said they were discussing whether the chair was on sale or not. The customer walked directly to the chair, sat on it, and after a few moments said: “I’ll take one of these”. In that moment, the owner of the shop felt relieved as he had just received confirmation that the design was suitable for sale.

See also:

• Artek's Karuselli chair >
• Products designed by Yrjö Kukkapuro >

Text: Anna Korpi-Kyyny Images: Mindre / Finnish Design Shop and Artek

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