Eero Aarnio’s warm and versatile Rattan collection

In the early 1960s, Eero Aarnio designed some curious rattan stools and a lounge chair. Now they are available again as part of the Eero Aarnio Originals collection.

Eero Aarnio Rattan Collection
A group of Mushroom stools and the Elephant Boot lounge chair in Eero Aarnio's home.

MANY FAMOUS DESIGNERS have designed rattan furniture, and they were joined by Eero Aarnio in the late 1950s. Aarnio is a Finnish designer best known for his iconic late 1960s plastic furniture, such as the Ball Chair and Bubble Chair, but over his long career he has also worked with other materials. Rattan was used as the material for the curved Mushroom stools and the larger Elephant Boot lounge chair.

Aarnio was drawn to work with rattan in 1954 by the father of his wife Pirkko who worked as a crafts teacher. He asked Aarnio to try weaving a rattan basket.

The young designer grasped the opportunity – throughout his career, Aarnio has always been eager to try out new materials and production methods. The first specimen was more of a loose piece of poor quality than a showcase of rattan weaving, but it gave him the opportunity to try the production method for himself.

The advantages of rattan are its lightness, durability and warm feel. Rattan furniture also has its own, unique look, as it is still made manually by weaving.

“While working, I realized I could make furniture out of the material. An inverted basket already looked to me like a small stool. It merely needed a more interesting shape and more supporting structures inside,” Eero Aarnio described.

And so Aarnio started developing his idea. He added playful, impressive arches to the shape of the stools. By 1960, the concept was ready for production, and the following year the rattan stools became available for sale as part of Asko’s collection.

The set of seats was christened Juttujakkara (Story Stool). Aarnio had had a group of test stools at his own house by the fireplace. When family or friends sat on them staring at the blaze of the fire, good conversations always followed.

The name turned out to be difficult to translate into other languages, however. When international marketing for the stools began, the name was changed into Mushroom, which is what the stools are known as even today.

Designer Eero Aarnio
The first version of the rattan stools was born when Eero Aarnio weaved a rattan basket in 1954, which he thought resembled a stool turned upside down.
Eero Aarnio Originals Rattan Collection
In Aarnio's home the Mushroom stools have their place in front of a cozy fireplace.

In Finland, the stools were first presented to the public in 1961 at Asko’s exhibition space in Helsinki together with Aarnio’s other new furniture. They attracted interest immediately.

Helsingin Sanomat reporter Annikki Toikka-Karvonen who visited the exhibition described the stools as a “surprise” and thought Aarnio’s design had “more fresh vision and developable new ideas than we have had in a long time” (HS, February 2, 1961). Toikka-Karvonen predicted a bright future for the fun, homely and comfortable Mushroom stools, as she thought they were suitable for a multitude of purposes both indoors and outdoors.

Eero Aarnio
The Mushroom stools became Eero Aarnio's first international hit.
The Mushroom stool and Ball Chair – two iconic seats by Eero Aarnio.

To an international audience the stools were presented the following year at the Cologne furniture fair, and they became the first international hit in Eero Aarnio’s career. The seats got prominent exposure in important international media.

The Mushroom stools proved that Eero Aarnio was a name to remember. The young Finnish designer had the ability to create playful, relaxed and attractive shapes from any material.

When Aarnio combined the easy-going design language of the Mushroom stools with plastic and bright colours a few years later, he became instantly known to the entire world of design. The Ball Chair (1963), Pastil Chair (1967) and Bubble Chair (1968) were introduced at the Cologne fair in the late 1960s and became the exhibition’s most photographed products – as well as design icons.

Eero Aarnio Originals Rattan Collection
Elephant Boot, designed in 1961, is a good-sized rattan lounge chair. The Mushroom stools double as side tables.
Eero Aarnio Originals Rattan Collection
The Elephant Boot lounge chair makes a great addition to a reading nook or a lounge area.

After the Mushroom stools, Eero Aarnio returned to rattan and designed the Elephant Boot in 1961. It was a good-sized, impressive rattan lounge chair where one could assume a relaxed seated position.

Exact information about how many Mushroom stools or Elephant Boots were made by their manufacturer Sokeva and for how long has not been preserved. The designs were weaved for decades, but after the initial excitement, only in small batches and on order.

In recent years, we have seen a real rattan boom. The beautiful, traditional natural material has returned to home interior design. Rattan furniture can be used in the designs of indoor areas and balconies as well as covered terraces.

Since Aarnio’s rattan chairs were available for a long time only occasionally, they were forgotten. In the autumn of 2019, they returned to production: Eero Aarnio Originals, which now has exclusive rights to Aarnio’s classic furniture, began to manufacture them under the name Rattan Collection.

“Eero Aarnio’s rattan furniture once again feels extremely current in terms of material and design language as well as its flexibility. People today live in rather cramped spaces, and there is a great demand at homes for furniture that can be used for multiple purposes. The Mushroom stool is a handy piece of furniture precisely because it can function as a seat – either individually or as part of a larger group – and can equally well be used as a coffee table and a counter. Genuine natural rattan also has its own charm,” says Eeva Teronen from Eero Aarnio Originals.

Eero Aarnio classics

Eero Aarnio
Mushroom stool
Eero Aarnio
Bubble Chair
Eero Aarnio
Ball Chair
Eero Aarnio
Mushroom Double stool
Eero Aarnio
Mushroom stool
Eero Aarnio
Pastil Chair
Eero Aarnio
Elephant Boot lounge chair
Eero Aarnio
Pony chair

See also:

All products designed by Eero Aarnio >
The Eero Aarnio Originals range >

Text: Anna-Kaisa Huusko Photos: Suvi Kesäläinen and Eero Aarnio Originals

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