Dictionary of Nordic design: Artek

Artek is an iconic Finnish furniture manufacturer, best known for coveted classics such as the Aalto stool and the Beehive lamp. Humane values and an innovative attitude have made Artek a globally known brand, whose products carry on the legacy of its founders in an unforgettable way.

DICTIONARY OF Nordic design is a column for introducing and highlighting important brands and designers, who have shaped Finnish and Scandinavian design. The first brand to be showcased is Finnish furniture manufacturer, Artek.

Artek was founded in 1935 by four young idealists – Alvar and Aino Aalto, Nils-Gustav Hahl, and Maire Gullichsen. They published a design manifesto inspired by functionalism, stating that Artek’s aim was “to sell furniture and to promote a modern culture of habitation by exhibitions and other means”.

Since day one, Artek has stood its ground at the intersection of design, architecture, and art, making Finnish design and Alvar Aalto's furniture known all over the world.

An image featuring Artek's Aalto table 80A, serving trolley 901 and Domus chair as part of a home office decor.
Artek's iconic furniture, such as Aalto chairs and tables have a special place in Finnish homes and hearts. In the photo, table 80A is accompanied by tea trolley 901 – designed by Alvar Aalto in 1936 – and Ilmari Tapiovaara's Domus chair from 1946.
Artek's Armchair 400, also known as Tank, is an undeniable milestone in furniture design of the 1900s. Alvar Aalto designed the Tank chair in 1936 for the Milan Triennale, where it was awarded. The eye-catching zebra fabric is one of the original upholsteries.
An image featuring Artek's Aalto chair 69 and A805 floor lamp beside a dining table, as part of the dining room decor.
The Aalto chair 69 is an uncompromisingly functional classic from 1935. The chair is a perfect companion for a dining table, but its durable structure and timeless design have also made it one of the most popular pieces of public furniture in Finland. The A805 floor lamp, or Angel Wing, is also designed by Alvar Aalto.
An image with Artek's white AMA 500 pendant lamp.
Aino Aalto created the AMA 500 pendant originally for Villa Mairea, a building she designed in collaboration with her husband Alvar Aalto. Villa Mairea is regarded as one of the greatest home designs of 20th-century architecture.

Today, Artek's furniture and luminaires, such as the Aalto stools, chairs, and tables, form the cornerstone of Finnish design. The majority of Artek's furniture is still manufactured in Turku, Finland, where Artek has been manufacturing its products since the 1920s.

Artek’s original values – long-term durability, high quality, and clean, functional forms – are still at the company’s very core.

The most essential material used in the designs is Finnish wood, particularly birch and pine, which are processed with innovative woodworking techniques developed by Alvar Aalto.

An image featuring Artek's grey Riihitie plant pot and Aalto chair 611 as part of the decor.
In addition to furniture and lighting, Artek's selection includes textiles and charming decorative items packed with personality. The Riihitie pot is a design by Aino Aalto. Alvar Aalto's chair 611 is also part of Artek's range.
An image featuring Artek's A333 pendant as part of the bedroom decor.
Artek's timelessly elegant A333 pendant is also known by its jovial nickname, Turnip.
An image of Artek's Aalto stool 60 in a birch hue and Artek's Aalto screen 100 as part of the living room decor.
Visit Franckly for pre-loved Artek treasures. The Aalto stool 60 and Aalto screen 100 are both designs by Alvar Aalto.

Alvar and Aino Aalto gave contemporary furniture a signature look – a warm and gentle one, deeply inspired by Finnish nature. The use of natural materials and a humane approach, together with the constant search for new technical solutions, have made Artek a company whose values are still very much modern today.

Artek’s original values – long-term durability, high quality, and clean, functional forms – are still in the company’s core, and it hasn't lost its founders' radical and innovative attitude either.


Artek 

  • Artek was founded in 1935 by Aino and Alvar Aalto, Maire Gullichsen, and Nils-Gustav Hahl. The first Artek store opened in Helsinki a year later in 1936.
  • The name Artek is a combination of the words art and technology.
  • Artek's range is based on iconic products by Aino and Alvar Aalto, complemented with modern classics from contemporary designers such as Daniel Rybakken and TAF Studio.
  • In 2010, Ilmari Tapiovaara's celebrated designs were added to Artek's selection.
  • Artek has operated under Swiss manufacturer Vitra since 2013.
  • All of Artek's bentwood furniture, such as the Aalto classics, are made in Turku, Finland.

Favorites from Artek

Aalto tea trolley 901
Zebra cushion cover
Aalto pendant A331
Aalto armchair 41
Aalto screen 100
Aalto armchair 400
Aalto floor lamp A810
Aalto side table 915
Aalto chair 611
75 Years poster
Aalto table 91
Aalto pendant A330S

See also:

All products by Artek at Finnish Design Shop >
All designs by Aino Aalto >
All designs by Alvar Aalto >

Text: Design Stories Images: Artek

Previous story
Next story




Save on Finnish Design Shop’s entire range and up to 30 % on sought-after brands!

See the best deals

For the love of design

Design Stories is Finnish Design Shop's own online magazine, that takes you to beautiful Nordic homes, introduces new products and beloved icons – and much more!

Go to the Design Stories front page

Shop Nordic design

Design Stories is provided by Finnish Design Shop, the world’s largest online store specialized in Nordic design.

Discover our selection

Buy & sell authentic vintage

Franckly.com is a curated online marketplace for pre-owned design maintained by Finnish Design Shop.

Find treasures at Franckly