Mika Tolvanen: “The Visu chair taught me the importance and difficulty of keeping it simple”

Mika Tolvanen, who designed the Visu chair collection for Muuto, aims to create objects that are playful but not boisterous. We interviewed this award-winning Finnish designer about the birth and future of the Visu collection.

Designer Mika Tolvanen
Besides the Visu chairs, Mika Tolvanen has also designed the Restore storage baskets for Muuto.

THE CHAIRS IN MUUTO'S Visu collection feature curved plywood in a multitude of forms. In this collection by Mika Tolvanen, centre stage is taken by a curved-plywood chair, for which Tolvanen has designed an entire range of leg options. The colourful chair collection, which was launched in 2013, continues to expand.

In addition to dining chairs with wooden and metal legs, the Visu collection includes bar stools, office swivel chairs and relaxing lounge chairs. The chairs are available with a natural oak or ash veneer, painted in vibrant colours, or with textile upholstery. Different Visu chairs go well together at home and in public premises.

Muuto Visu chair, rose
Visu chairs are available with wooden or metal bases. The lamp is Muuto’s grey Under The Bell, designed by Iskos-Berlin.

“Visu has a recognizable, yet fresh appearance. The simple strong profile gives Visu a crisp new look, making it modern yet timeless in its appearance.”

Muuto Visu lounge chair, natural oak
Visu lounge chair in natural oak is Mika Tolvanen’s personal favourite.

Hi Mika! How are you?
“I’m fine, thanks. I've had a fairly busy start to the year.”

What was your initial idea for the Visu design?
“I wanted to design a fresh, updated version of the ubiquitous plywood chair. After studying numerous classic plywood chairs, I eventually found a way of adding my own perspective to the design. I sketch a lot of chairs before deciding on a direction. Muuto and I worked for four years on perfecting the structure, the curves and the details before introducing the design.”

How does Visu stand out from other chairs?
“Visu has a recognizable, yet fresh appearance. The simple strong profile gives Visu a crisp new look, making it modern yet timeless in its appearance.”

What is your favourite Visu chair, and do you have some at home?
The oak lounge chair is my personal favourite. I have a couple of dining chairs at home and several versions of the lounge chairs, bar stools and side chairs, some upholstered and some not.”

Muuto Visu bar stool
Visu bar stool is perfect for homes and public areas alike. The bar stool can be purchased through Finnish Design Shop’s Customer Service.
Muuto Visu chair, grey
The grey Visu makes an excellent dining chair.

“It’s important for me to design products that are playful and have their own character, while simultaneously having a quiet presence. I don’t want for my designs to shout.”

Muuto Visu lounge chair
Upholstered Visu lounge chair is especially comfortable to sit on. The dark blue version, upholstered in Steelcut 775 wool fabric by Kvadrat, is available for order through Finnish Design Shop’s Customer Service.

What kinds of lessons have you learned from designing the Visu chairs?
“Both the importance and difficulty of keeping it simple. In design, the simple things are always the most difficult to realise. I also learned about chair strength analysis, since the chairs had to pass a series of tests with all of their leg versions. It’s important for me to design products that are playful and have their own character, while simultaneously having a quiet presence. I don’t want for my designs to shout.”

Will additions still be made to the Visu collection?
“Work is in progress on a few new versions, such as a version with armrests, and new colours. However, I don't yet dare to promise when each kind will be ready.”

Muuto Visu chair collection
Muuto’s Visu collection continues to expand, as Tolvanen is working on new members for the popular chair family.

What are you working on at the moment?
“I founded the company, Studio Tolvanen Oy, together with my spouse, Julie Tolvanen, in 2015, and we're currently working on sofas, chairs, tables and small objects for a number of companies. We are also considering an exhibition in the spirit of leisure-time handicrafts, to be held in collaboration with Maija Puoskari and Tuukka Tujula next autumn.”

Mika Tolvanen and Julie Tolvanen
Mika and Julie Tolvanen founded Studio Tolvanen in 2015.

Who: Mika Tolvanen

• Born in 1975, graduated from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2001.
• Founded Studio Tolvanen together with his spouse Julie Tolvanen in Lauttasaari, Helsinki, in 2015.
• In addition to the Visu chair, has designed items such as the Restore storage basket and Base table for Muuto, the Kuppi wall light and Nakki sofa collection for Woud, and the Hoop umbrella stand for NakNak.
• Awards: Finnish Furniture Designer of the Year 2017, winner of Finland100 furniture design competition by Isku, and the Bruno Mathsson award in 2012. Studio Tolvanen was also involved in the Furnishing Utopia project, which won the Furniture of the Year 2018 award.

See also:

Mika Tolvanen's designs >
Visu chair by Muuto >

Editing: Nora Uotila Images: Muuto Portrait: Juha Törmälä

Previous story
Next story