The Ball Chair: An iconic piece of furniture from the 1960s

Ball Chair, red interior. By Banalities, CC BY 2.0

The Ball Chair, also known as the Globe Chair was created by a Finnish furniture designer called Eero Aarnio. In 1962, Aarnio moved to a new house and started his career as a freelance designer.

Aarnio’s house was missing a big chair so he decided to design a totally new one. The chair was designed in the simple shape of a ball, hence its name. The only thing that had to be taken into consideration was the chair’s size: it had to fit through a door so it could be easily transported.

Ball Chair, Eero Aarnio. By I, Sailko, CC BY 2.5

The prototype for the chair was built by Aarnio himself: “… I made the first prototype myself using an inside mold, which has been made using the same principle as a glider fuselage or wing. I covered the plywood body mold with wet paper and laminated the surface with fiberglass, rubbed down the outside, removed the mold from inside, had it upholstered and added the leg. In the end, I installed the red telephone on the inside wall of the chair.“ This is how one of the most iconic chairs of the 20th century was born. The original handmade chair is still in the designer’s home.

Ball Chair, red interior. By Banalities, CC BY 2.0

When two managers from Asko came to visit Aarnio in his home they immediately noticed the chair. Aarnio was keen to introduce it commercially. The Ball Chair was introduced in 1966 at the Cologne International Furniture Fair where it became an instant attraction.

The chair brought international success to its creator and was the basis for an entire line of fiberglass interior design.

Ball Chair, Eero Aarnio Retrospective in Berlin. By Régine Debatty, CC BY-SA 2.0

The chair is often described as “a room within a room”; the form of the chair provides a quiet and private atmosphere for the person sitting in it. Its occupant is not totally separated from their surroundings, however, because the chair can rotate on its axis. As it has been said, “there is a symbiosis between the space in the chair and the world around it”.

Ball Chairs, Eero Aarnio Retrospective in Berlin. By Régine Debatty, CC BY-SA 2.0

More recent versions of the Ball Chair have increased the chair’s size and have incorporated interesting additions like MP3 players. Simple yet elegant, the Ball Chair is considered a classic of industrial design. Like many other famous designs, the Ball Chair has found its way into movies and series. It has appeared, among others, in The Prisoner, Mars Attacks! and Dazed and Confused.