Seating: Artek's Timeless Tradition

Helsinki-based furniture manufacturer Artek long has prospered on its sales of furniture and lighting pieces designed by the acknowledged master of Finnish design Alvar Aalto, who founded the company in 1935 with Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen, and Nils-Gustav Hahl. But since Artek marked its 75th birthday last year, it has been decidedly on the move, expanding its North American presence with the opening of its first U.S. showroom in New York in March 2010, establishing a joint manufacturing and distribution venture with Finnish furniture manufacturer Martela Oyj in October 2010, and recently acquiring Finnish manufacturer Aero Design Furniture Oyj. With this latest move, Artek also acquired the trademarks to the furniture designed by renowned Finnish architect and furniture designer Ilmari Tapiovaara, thus expanding its offering of iconic Finnish design pieces and making a strong strategic statement about its future as a company devoted to design excellence in the Nordic tradition.

According to the company, Aalto’s products have accounted for almost 60 percent of Artek’s sales in Finland, and sales in the international market have almost exclusively consisted of classic Aalto designs. With the Tapiovaara range, Artek begins to create a broader concept for its collections. Under its new strategy, the company is poised to become a resource for internationally significant Nordic design products and achieve significant expansion through its new distribution channels.

Himself a great admirer of Aalto, Tapiovaara embraced the social equality of functionalism and was committed to the same ideological principles that drive Artek’s design philosophy, stressing the balance between aesthetics, ethics, and ecology. The Aalto and Tapiovaara collections are complementary in terms of their design vocabulary, where the tradition-inspired style of Tapiovaara’s wooden furniture presents a softer view that contrasts with the vividly architectural idiom of Aalto’s designs. “The Tapiovaara collection truly will complement the Alvar Aalto products and will increase the visibility of the Artek brand, certainly in the United States,” says Simone Vingerhoets-Ziesmann, executive vice president, Artek USA Inc.

Tapiovaara products are specifically designed for the contract market and have been sold into commercial projects for years in Scandinavia. Now they are available to the U.S. market for the first time through Artek. “Instead of designing and producing a new line of furniture, Artek has decided to sustain an existing brand and continue Ilmari Tapiovaara’s legacy under the Artek umbrella,” notes Vingerhoets-Ziesmann. “The collection has proven to be functional and durable in the hospitality, retail, and office environments and doesn’t have to go through a new product trial period. This is a luxury position to be in when launching a new line, and gives architects and designers the immediate confidence to specify the product.”    


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