Firmly on the ground: Vaarnii’s Peace outdoor lounge chair by Faye Toogood exudes strength and serenity

Vaarnii’s latest release, the 015 Peace outdoor lounge chair, is crafted with the northern climates in mind. It’s the perfect piece to welcome the early rays of spring sun, even as the final patches of snow still linger in the ground. Dive into the interview with British designer Faye Toogood to discover the inspiration behind the Peace series.

Faye Toogood with the Peace lounge chair
Faye Toogood set out to create a patio chair that could remain in the same spot perhaps even for generations to come.

WHEN THE DESIGNER, MANUFACTURER, AND MATERIAL all hail from the chilly climes of Northern Europe, you can bet the furniture is built to withstand the whims of northern hemisphere weather – as well as to be cherished from one generation to the next.

At the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February 2024, Finnish brand Vaarnii, known for its pine wood furniture, unveiled its latest creations: the 015 Peace series outdoor lounge chair and footstool. This marks the first collaboration between Vaarnii and acclaimed British designer Faye Toogood.

The Peace lounge chair, with its whimsically slender appearance yet solid construction, isn’t meant to be shuffled around. Instead, it’s designed to find its permanent spot, blending seamlessly into its surroundings. Over time, it could become a garden’s little sanctuary; a familiar, safe, and unchanging haven.

Like Vaarnii’s other outdoor pieces, Peace is crafted from Finnish heat-treated pine, celebrated for its superb weather resistance and the beautiful silver-grey patina it slowly develops.

Faye Toogood with the Peace lounge chair
Sculpture, materiality, and landscape are recurring themes in Toogood’s work, clearly reflected in the design of the Peace lounge chair.
Vaarnii: 015 Peace outdoor lounge chair
True to its name, the Peace outdoor lounge chair exudes tranquility: it’s a haven for relaxation and wellbeing, a cozy spot to unwind and soak in the surrounding scenery.
Vaarnii: 015 Peace outdoor foot stool
The Peace series also includes a footstool that echoes the design language of the lounge chair.
Peace lounge chair and ottoman
Thanks to its weather-resistant, heat-treated pine construction, the Peace series invites you to bask in the early spring sunshine.

Faye Toogood, Vaarnii invited you to think about a design for the outdoors. What were your immediate thoughts?
“Well, it was interesting as I had just moved to a new home with a very large garden, so large I hadn’t really gotten my head around what to do with it. Because of that, landscape – and how to reconnect with it – had been on my mind when Vaarnii got in touch. So, outdoor furniture seemed like a very good suggestion.”

You said ‘reconnection’. What is your connection to landscape and was it lost?
“I grew up in Rutland, a rural part of England. It was very dull, bleak, wild. My dad was an ornithologist. We would do nothing but walk on weekends, bird watch, forage. Our house was filled with books about nature, walking, and that had been a big part of my childhood before I moved to London as an adult. In my work, I frequently return to an appreciation of landscape through colour and texture, particularly those associated with the British countryside.”

Faye Toogood at her studio door
Faye Toogood founded her eponymous design studio in London in 2008.
Peace chair models
Studio Toogood’s work often results from collaborations with architects, sculptors, furniture makers, and illustrators.
Peace chair models
The final shape of Peace emerged through models assembled from wooden lollipop sticks.
Faye Toogood with a Peace chair model
Toogood envisioned the Peace lounge chair more as a place for introspection than for social interaction.

Did you know what you might like to design?
“I started thinking about a chair right away. I’d struggled to choose a chair for my own garden and ended up with some old Adirondack chairs, a universal design that the Peace Chair is inspired by. Great outdoor furniture can be difficult to find. There hasn't been much attention paid to it. Outdoor furniture is often designed by architects, made for a specific building, or else it feels gimmicky.”

Much of it is nostalgic, or costume-y. Which maybe reflects attitudes towards garden design. Or that there is perceived technical difficulty in designing and manufacturing it.
“It’s fallen to those outside of the furniture design world to make it. And that which is produced is most often made by our southern European and American friends who enjoy a different climate. It is interesting that this project is from a northern European designer for a northern European brand. I think we bring something different.”

“It is intended to stay where it is and survive everything the weather throws at it.”

What is that something? Is it a toughness?
“I think there is a robustness that perhaps wouldn't be there otherwise. This chair isn’t intended to be mobile. You should position it under a tree, or on a terrace and it will stay exactly where you put it. It is for resting in, for reading in, for taking in the countryside. It is not for sociability per se. Nor is it meant to be transitory, a moveable piece of furniture. It is intended to stay where it is and survive everything the weather throws at it.”

Exactly: There is outdoor furniture that is transportable, versatile, slightly disposable, but this is not that at all. How did the design come about?
“We always begin with model and maquette making. And as the model-making materials came out in our studio; clay, paper, wire, there was also a box of lollipop sticks. We started playing around and creating shapes. That provided us with a geometry that became very interesting. I think we’ve retained that playfulness (the name comes from the way we thought the chair looks like a peace sign) from the original model making in the final design.

Thinking of the Adirondack provided us with a starting point for proportions. The Adirondack became popular at the beginning of the twentieth century and was first promoted as a chair for well-being – its angles demand a posture that throws open the chest and helps deep breathing. The Peace Chair is also a chair for wellbeing; for life, aging, breathing, for taking time for yourself – it is a sanctuary.”

Vaarnii: Peace outdoor lounge chair and foot stool
Unlike lightweight and portable patio chairs, the Peace outdoor lounge chair and footstool stand for permanence and stability.
Peace chair backrest
Rounded ends lend the sturdy, exaggeratedly long pine planks visual softness and a playful distinctiveness.
Peace foot stool details
The fundamental quality of pine impressed Toogood. The designer believes the slowly silvering wood will only grow more beautiful with age.
Peace outdoor furniture in sunlight
”The Peace Chair is also a chair for wellbeing; for life, aging, breathing, for taking time for yourself – it is a sanctuary,” Toogood describes.

How did you find working with pine?
“As a studio, we have a connection with simple, hardworking materials. With clothing, we use canvas and calico, for other projects we use clay and wire, paper and card. These are elementary materials, not often considered ’final’. But we find real beauty in them. Vaarnii's raw ingredient is pine. And it, too, has an essential, fundamental quality to it. But it is not easy to create elevated designs out of simple materials. As a designer, you have to work a little harder.

I love the fact that the pine will continue to age, evolve. We’ve left room for it to change as it ages, to silver, to crack. I think this chair will be more beautiful in ten years time than it is today. This acknowledging of aging is really special, it is something that we usually turn away from. Underlining the change in the natural material is a good thing. The Peace Chair will take the battering of the weather, it doesn't need to be covered, it’s not precious. This chair is like a piece of leather furniture. It will get better, softer, more beautiful as it ages. It has that same quality.”

“I think this chair will be more beautiful in ten years time than it is today.”

Outdoor furniture that integrates with its surroundings is perhaps the most effective.
“Yes. There is something really special about how things change in the garden, the passage of time, the cycle of life. It forces you to be contemplative. This is the kind of chair you could sit in and think about that and feel part of the natural world around you.”

When using large quantities of pine, it can be challenging to find comfort in the brutality. But the Peace Chair has a visual softness to it, despite its bulk. It looks like a welcoming invitation to relax.
“We spent a lot of time getting the angles and proportions just right. We amplified it, made it purposefully naive, the rounded edges add a visual softness too. But the Peace Chair is a robust piece of furniture too. Put it this way, it isn’t going to blow away.”

See also:

All Vaarnii products >
All Faye Toogood designs >

Interview: Laura Houseley Edit: Nora Uotila Images: Vaarnii

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