Olli Mannermaa, one of my teachers and later my boss, once told me a story from his childhood. He had got a new, beautiful Teddy bear which was nice and comfortable. Olli was naturally very curious about the easily moulding material inside. He was very happy to find that the body was made of familiar sawdust. Aha! Good material for comfortable shapes! But mom was not happy at all.
Later Olli Mannermaa designed comfortable chairs with good form, for example Kilta chair, but at that time there were even better materials available than sawdust.
The first model from 1955 was made of laminated veneer. The later version from 1958 was the first plastic chair in Finland at that time. The production of the polystyrene-framed Kilta was based on a patent which enabled the frame to be moulded as one piece. The method was new, it was extremely well suited for serial production and made automation of the production process possible. The ground-breaking manufacturing method was a revolution in the chair industry. The Kilta chair was soon widely copied, but the quality and strength of the original Kilta was however never met. The chair itself was patented in 1968 and its form moulded upholstering method in 1974.
Soon there was a whole Family of Kilta chairs. With different pedestals it was possible to get task chairs, conference chairs and customer’s chairs. The smaller Mini Kilta had the first different shell without arm rests. Then there were bigger models for more prominent users. However, the basic Kilta chair is very comfortable for just everyone. The chair soon achieved international success. The whole range was photographed In New York for a poster, Manhattan in the background. That was made by Martela’s retailer in the United States. Kilta had many licenced producers in various countries, but as I mentioned earlier, it also was largely copied, even abroad.
Up to the eighties more than a million Kilta chairs were sold in Finland and much more all over the world. It had become so common that it could be seen everywhere. People wanted to have something different and the production was discontinued. But as the chair was so good, it was later reintroduced in the market and it’s still going strong.
It is a real classic.
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.