Sketches for the Paimio armchair

Image Credit: Alvar Aalto Foundation, courtesy Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum

Alvar and Aino Aalto – ‘Paimio’ Chair

One of the first truly modern plywood furniture designs, Aalto’s ‘Paimio’ Chair is a thin, light and curved plywood seat suspended between two narrow frames, giving the impression of a seat floating mid air. The organic curve of the seat and back is simultaneously an expression of Aalto’s free will as well as a masterly manipulation of the materials elasticity. It’s an iconic design that was to prove extremely influential, giving prestige to an often-overlooked material. 


Hans Olsen – ‘The Orange’ 

Hans Olsen challenged contemporary production methods with much of his inspiration coming from the newfound opportunities offered by moulding wood. As a result, swooping organic curves came to define many of his most famous designs. 

The Orange is a light, elegant and uniquely memorable mid-century armchair designed in the 1950s by the highly acclaimed Danish architect. Similarly, the Gesture Chair made in 1957, also used a single piece of wood for its back and armrests. 

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Saito Wood is a family owned company with a proud history that dates back to 1948. The company has humble beginnings, starting when founder Isamu Saito used the plywood moulding techniques he learned in the army to make small canisters. Saito would stack these on a bicycle trailer, ride into town and sell them to the locals.

By the 1960s Saito Wood had created a range of striking and beautiful products, all with vibrantly grained plywood. The designs perfectly captured the simple elegance of the Japanese aesthetic and became a coveted object in homes, restaurants and hotels throughout Japan and Europe.

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Saito Wood

Saito are specialists in the field of plywood moulding and have been making plywood baskets designed by Isamu Saito since 1959. Their selection of oak and walnut veneered plywood objects reflect beautiful construction and enduring design. 


Rex Kralj – The Shell Chair

The Shell takes its well-deserved place among the legendary works of art by Niko Kralj. It has come to embody one of the most iconic approaches to the concept of two moulded pieces of wood. Its bold contour and smooth curves make this chair instantly recognisable and a pure design classic.

Ercol – ‘Originals’ Butterfly Chair 

First launched in 1958 the Butterfly chair is just as fresh today. With distinctive curved bent plies, reminiscent of the profile of a butterfly’s wings, the Butterfly Chair is one of ercol’s most iconic designs. 


Garth Chester – The Curvesse Chair

We couldn't complete an edit of moulded plywood designs without mentioning New Zealand designer Garth Chester. Joining the ranks of Aalto and Olsen, the Curvesse chair is a world first – the cantilevered plywood chair. It is an undisputed icon of New Zealand design that we have had the pleasure of offering over at Mr. Bigglesworthy from time to time. 

Garth Chester – The Curvesse Chair

Image Credit: Mr. Bigglesworthy

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