Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alvar Aalto's Architecture, Furniture and Design

Any fan of Mid Century modern architecture and furniture design will no doubt recognize Alvar Aalto's designs. Known as the father of modernism in his native Scandinavia, his career in design was long and his influences can be seen today. If you are looking to add the hint of Scandinavian modern to your home, Alvar Aalto's work is the perfect inspiration.

Alvar Aalto was born in Finland and first learned architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology from 1916 to 1921. After leaving university in 1923, he opened his first architectural office. A year later he married a fellow architect named Aino Marsio and during their honeymoon throughout Italy Aalto was inspired by the country's classic designs. This inspiration would go on to shape his designs for the rest of his career, even while he interpreted them in new, modern ways.

Like many Scandinavian designers, Aalto started off in Classicism design and moved on to modern work. But unlike cold modernism, Aalto's architecture and interiors often featured natural materials like light-colored woods, warm colors, and curving lines. It wasn't just architecture where Aalto left his mark, however. Many fans of modernism will immediately recognize his many famous furniture pieces, like the Paimio Chair, Three-legged stacking Stool 60, Four-legged Stool E60, Armchair 404, Armchair 406 and others. His Paimio Chair is possibly his most famous piece, actually created so that tuberculosis patients could sit in it for long hours each day, the angle of the back of the chair being perfect for the patient to breathe most easily. His furniture is probably best known for its distinctive characteristics of light birch material and bent plywood, of which he pioneered certain constructions. Along with furniture, many of Aalto's glassware and textile designs are also famous, especially his vases.

Homeowners looking to emulate the Alvar Aalto spirit in their own spaces don't have to fill their house with only his designs, though that certainly wouldn't hurt. Whatever the bones of your house, keeping the colors warm and incorporating lots of light colored birch wood and other natural materials will certainly be in keeping with the spirit of Alvar Aalto design and the light and airy feeling of modernism.

Photos taken from: Steeldomus, Finlandiatalo, Bonluxat,, Qmark.

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