Then vs. Now: Armchair 400 and 401 by Artek

Here are two 2014 reissues from the classic archives—armchairs 400 and 401—that showcase exactly how it's done.

Designers operate in a world of “new,” with more products coming out each year than one person could possibly keep track of. And then there are the classics—those products which we all know and love—even revere—and see in projects time and time again.

On their surface, it seems these concepts are able to stand the test of time with effortless grace, but there is actually a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make sure the original ideas stay relevant, and continue to blend seamlessly with our modern aesthetic. Artek is one such brand that has mastered the art of the icon.

Here are two 2014 reissues from their classic archive—armchairs 400 and 401—that showcase exactly how it’s done.  


  Then Now
designer Originally designed in 1933 by Alvar Aalto. Reinterpreted by Hella Jongerius in 2014—her first collaboration with Artek.
features Aalto’s designs embodied simplicity in form, function, and color. Jongerius sought to soften the overall look by creating a tonal color palette around four wood finishes and new, more tactile upholstery fabrics for a more diffused graphic aesthetic.
materials The original designs came in natural birch.

Light colors and textured fabrics were key characteristics of Aalto’s designs. He especially loved the animal prints that were in vogue at the time, and the 400 armchair in the zebra print became one of the company’s most well-known pieces (original upholstered chair shown top left).
Jongerius created four new tones: silver birch, honey, walnut, and charcoal stain, adding depth and warmth to the collection.

Two Jongerius textiles were selected for the upholstery of the 400 armchair to create a soft, graphic look: Hours is a fabric inspired by the natural color variations of sheep’s wool in different seasons and in varying light conditions, while Borders celebrates the beauty of fabric edges with small bands woven by hand and embroidered together to create larger fabrics.

For the collection of the 401 armchair, Jongerius combined structured fabrics to create a playful color blocking effect. The combination of the two colored pieces and a third fabric covering the back breaks up the long lines of the 401.


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