Tapiovaara was a designer, interior architect and professor, who promoted the new design that emerged after World War II. Best known for his furniture and interior designs, his work explored multiplicity: he created many versions of each important piece. His practices at Le Corbusier studio, and his close relationship with nature made him an explorer new design, when it transformed from being a cultural luxury to becoming accessible to everyone.
Ilmari Tapiovaara was born in 1914 in Hämeenlinna (Finland), and studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where he got in contact with functionalism, with Alvar Aalto's designs, and with the Modern movement. He then completed his training at Le Corbusier's studio. He was also greatly influenced and inspired by the contact with nature of his childhood: "Nature is the best and closest guide for industrial designers." Tapiovaara had to face the new practical challenges that modern industrial design posed: how to assemble series of pieces, how to package rationally for transportation and export, solidity, ergonomy, and the investigation on new materials and techniques. The result of his work are ironic and persuasive pieces, that make a subtle allusion to tradition, while stile being transgressor and timeless at the same time, and blessed by the poetic of shape. Ilmari Tapiovaara died in 1999, after having set the bases for the development of industrial design. A main characteristic of Tapiovaara's work is that he explored its possibilities through multiplicity: he created many versions of each of his important pieces, and reissued them in different shapes. He did this for instance with the Fanett-Demoiselle chair (1957); the famous Domus chair (1946), made of solid birch and lacquered plywood that was part of the furniture for the students residence Domus Académica, and then produced by Knoll as the Finnchair; the Trienna chair (1954); the Lukki chair, a chair that can be piled up, with a curved steel tube and plywood; the Otto cutlery (1986); or the Maija Mehiläinen lamp for Asko (1957), later edited by Santa & Cole. He also carried out many outstanding interior design projects in Finland, the United States and the rest of Europe, such as in the OKO Bank, Olivetti's showroom, or the Hotel Intercontinental, all of them in Helsinki. Besides his professional career, Tapiovaara devoted much of his time to teaching, in the United States and in Finland. He considered that designers needed to learn Philosophy, because without ideas there is no design and he considered that "Leonardo was the most famous and maybe the best product designer in history."