Eero Aarnio’s use of bold colors, organic forms and a plethora of materials changed furniture design.
Eero Aarnio was born on July 21, 1932, in the Kallio district of Helsinki, Finland. While his childhood was marked by the struggles of World War II (Kallio was one of the most bombarded districts in Helsinki), Aarnio’s need to create was relentless.
Pencil drawings on carefully unwrapped packing paper, as well as homemade clay toys and model planes made of firewood were Aarnio’s initial works of art. This interest in, and ability to work with, different materials would eventually help define Aarnio’s legacy as one of the great innovators of modern furniture design.
After a stint in the offices of architect Heikki Sysimetsä, where he was encouraged to pursue interior architecture, Aarnio studied at the Institute of Industrial Arts in Helsinki. While in school, Aarnio worked for two “fathers” of modern Finnish design: Ilmari Tapiovaara and Antti Nurmesniemi.
Upon graduating, Aarnio became an in-house designer for Asko Oy. After just two years, he was ready to make his own way and officially started his design office in 1962.
Over the next 60 years, Aarnio would produce some of the most iconic furniture of the modern era. Using bold colors, organic forms and a variety of different materials—including plastic, fiberglass and foam plastic—he changed the way the world looks at furniture design.
Today, Aarnio’s creations live in some of the most prestigious museums in the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and, of course, the Design Museum in Helsinki.
To learn more about Aarnio’s contemporaries, see learn about fellow Finns and MCM designers Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!