Next up in our 'Icons at The Conran Shop' series is Sir Terence Conran's favourite chair, the all-enveloping Karuselli Lounge Chair, designed by Yrjö Kukkapuro for Artek in 1964.
The Karuselli's award-winning inventor is a central figure of Finnish functionalism who, in his creations, prioritised sense and function above all. Dating back half a century, the story behind his chair's conceptualisation is a fascinating one, with two versions to suit all senses of humour.
Officially, Kukkapuro designed the Karuselli after playing outside with his daughter and watching her make snow angels. An alternative, and less family-friendly account of the Karuselli's beginning, alleges that the maker fell asleep in a seemingly cosy encircling of snow after a heavy drinking session. Captivated by how the snow would perfectly surround the contours of the human body, he was destined to embody this in a piece of furniture.
Years in the making and a result of countless experiments, Kukkapuro was guided by the question, "Does it make any sense to design a chair which is not good to sit on?" He began work on the Karuselli in the 1950s, before perfecting it for a suitable unveiling in the Swinging Sixties. The final product presents an undulating form resulting from a fibreglass shell with supple leather upholstery and generous padding, complete with swivel and rock capabilities, to move with the lucky sitter. To this day, the Karuselli is carefully crafted in Finland where it was created.
Greeted with critical acclaim, the legendary Gio Ponti is known to have spotlighted the chair on a cover of his architecture and design magazine Domus in 1966. Still, most instrumental to the Karuselli's success is perhaps its endorsement from Sir Terence, who was a proud owner of four.
Sir Terence averred that the Karuselli is "the most comfortable chair in the world… I lie back in it with a glass of whisky and a cigar and immediately feel that life is worth living." A Vanity Fair feature on the 'doyen of design' recalled that, when not "making his rounds in London," Sir Terence would be found reclining on his Karuselli "in a sun-drenched study off the kitchen at Barton Court, near the tiny Berkshire village of Kintbury."
The Conran Shop offers the Karuselli in three 'Prestige' leather finishes; a European hide from Sørensen worthy of the chair. This premium leather flaunts a soft, full-grain, with resistance to smudges and stains, as well as water and dirt repellence for easy upkeep. Additionally available is a miniature, specially designed by the Vitra Design Museum for furniture connoisseurs. In 2020, we were also honoured with offering a limited-edition all-black finish, with only 20 in existence.