When people think of Finnish furniture design, the first name that comes to mind is probably Alvar Aalto. If not, then Artek, Aalto's company he eventually founded and, with his talented wife, grew to international recognition. Most likely though, Ilmari Tapiovaara is not a name that would jump to the front of you're average design enthusiasts consciousness. Which is a shame, because Tapiovaara, though with an admittedly much harder name to pronounce, was arguably every bit the designer Aalto was, though he devoted much of his efforts to ensuring the common worker could have access to good design, not just the wealthy man.
This was, in part, due to the fact that Ilmari got his start during lean times in Finland; WWII and its aftermath. His countrymen had little means with which to furnish their homes, and he refused to believe that good design had to be expensive. In this he wildly succeeded; beginning with his stackable 'Domus' chair. A stylish, affordable chair made from bent laminated parts, it was sold throughout Europe and even shipped to the States by the millions through the '50s and '60s. It is rumored they can still be found just kicking around general stores in out of the way towns in Texas and the Midwest.
One could say Tapiovaara's career hit a high mark when he was asked to lead a UN Development program helping developing countries to design products to be manufactured there. He was thus sent to the tropical island of Mauritius, resulting in the photo below.
Ilmari may have spent his career and its aftermath in the shadow of Finland's most beloved designer, but Alvar Aalto was still his hero and a source of inspiration to him. In fact, one could say he embodied Aalto's philosophy of 'democratic design' more than Alvar himself. Doing more to put good design in the average household than any other designer in his time. In any event, there are too many great designers from Finland to have just one as a household name...