Finnish designer Tapio Anttila's very own furniture line, Tapio Anttila Collection, creates timeless, functional, and responsible designs. In an interview with Design Stories, the long-time designer and interior architect talks about his design philosophy and how important it is to consider sustainability at all stages of the design process.
Hi Tapio! How are you?
“I've got a lot going on – although I could pretty much say that at any given time. I always have to have several projects underway, it’s just my way of living. I’m always creating new products that I then also need to supervise and drive forward. It keeps me moving.
A particularly heartwarming recent event is the Green Good Design Award that I recently received for my Renki collection. We’ve been focusing a lot on sustainability and that’s why this award feels especially nice.
I’ve also brought sustainability to a more personal level: I recently turned 60 and was gifted 660 tree seedlings by my team. They compensate for the carbon footprint of my entire life so far. We playfully talk about ‘Finland’s most carbon-neutral designer’!”
You certainly have done a lot to be more sustainable at Tapio Anttila Collection. How do you take these matters into consideration during the design process?
“Already the first drafts are important. Durability is one of the most crucial factors and I strive for it in several ways when designing. I often use wood as a material, because wooden furniture functions as carbon storage – the longer they are used, the longer they store carbon.
In addition to a timeless design language and material choices, I pay attention to visual and structural durability, maintainability, and repairability. A big part of it also revolves around producibility, optimal packaging, and transportation. I aim to consider the entire lifecycle of a product.”
“Durability is one of the most crucial factors in a sustainable product, and I strive for it in several ways.”
You also calculate the carbon footprints of your products and compensate them. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
“We have our own carbon footprint calculator that we use to monitor each step of the manufacturing process from material choices to production and from transportation to disposal. It gives us important information for planning our work. We can monitor our emissions and react quickly if we see that something is not up to par.
We also compensate the carbon footprints of our products which means that all Tapio Anttila products are carbon neutral. We do this by planting trees in our local forests so we know exactly where and how it is done.”
Could you tell us a bit more about your design process in general? Do you sit down to brainstorm or do the ideas just spring up?
“My process is not straightforward, and it doesn’t follow a pattern. Each product is different and is designed differently. A lot of it happens in my mind so it is not tied to a place or time. I might wake up at five in the morning with an idea or a solution to a problem.
Sometimes the ideas come naturally, sometimes in a conversation, and sometimes you have to dig deep for them. I always have my “antennae” up, really. When I face an everyday problem, I instantly start thinking about a solution for it. I sketch by hand a lot, and when I have a preliminary theme, idea, and shape in mind, I move to the computer and begin the often long and painstaking process of productization. I usually juggle several projects which are at different stages, and that often makes my days quite challenging!”
Do you have a specific space, home, or type of person in mind when designing?
“I create furniture for anyone who shares my values and appreciates sensible Finnish design. My products are lightweight and often multifunctional, so they fit well into homes and spaces with limited square footage – which is a pretty common problem.
“When I face an everyday problem, I instantly start thinking about a solution for it.”
I’m a trained furniture designer and interior architect and I always try to think about how my furniture works in a real space. I try to make furniture that is actually usable. In addition, upholstered furniture can be modified with different fabrics and wooden ones with different stains to match the overall décor. I don’t design furniture to be put in museums but to be used in real homes.”
We always like to hear how designers themselves live. What does your own home look like?
“I’ve been in the industry for such a long time that our home is full of prototypes and fair and photoshoot pieces as well as a variety of experiments. There’s enough to go around. My family’s used to furniture coming and going. Often at a pretty fast pace, as well, and I don’t always remember to warn them beforehand. I haven't really bought furniture for our home.”
Do you have a favorite piece of furniture? If you had to choose just one.
“As I said, our home is full of my own designs. A rare exception is Harry Bertoia’s Diamond chairs, of which I have two. I originally found them in a dumpster and they’ve been with me for decades through different apartments and different decórs.
The chairs are a great example of timelessness and sustainability: they were designed in the 50s, but look great even in modern homes. They are super comfortable to sit on although the chair is almost intangibly light.”
3 x Tapio Anttila’s favorites:
1. Movie: “All Hercule Poirot movies. In addition to brilliant plot twists, I like the 1930s atmosphere and art deco designs.”
2. Smell: “I’m into classic cars and their interiors have a really nostalgic smell – it takes you to a time that will never come back.”
3. City: “Any small lakeside town in Northern Italy. I like the food, the way of life, the scenery, the timelessness.”
Text: Emmi Ratilainen Images: Tapio Anttila Collection