- A L V A R  A A L T O'S  P A I M I O  S A N A T O R I U M -

The colours of Paimio

Set amidst forests outside the small town of Paimio in southwest Finland, Alvar Alto's Paimio Sanatrium opened in 1933. Conceived as a 'medical instrument', the Paimio Sanatorium was dedicated to the care of tuberculosis patients. Every single detail of the hopsital had been carefully tailored by Aalto, often together with his wife Aino, to the precise needs of recovering patients. Some of Aalto's most famous furniture designs were first created for the Paimio Sanatorium.

Alvar Aalto on the roof

The Paimio Sanatorium

Aino Aalto on the terrace

The Colours of Paimio

Walking through Alvar and Aino Aalto’s Paimio Sanitorium, glowing colours are encountered at every turn. Set amidst pine forests outside the small town of Paimio in southwest Finland, this modernist icon opened in 1933, conceived as a ‘medical instrument’ dedicated to the care of tuberculosis patients. To further this healing purpose, a remarkable array of colours was selected for its interiors, intertwining throughout every element of the building.

Chosen in collaboration with artist Eino Kauria, known for his murals and stained glass, this palette of colours ranges from the canary yellow of the rubber flooring in the lobby and main staircase – emulating the sunlight considered essential for patient care – to the diverse greens and blues used for ceilings in the dining hall, reading rooms, lounges and patients’ rooms. These create a calm, peaceful atmosphere, particularly for those reclining in chairs and beds, and their lacquered finish reflects the gentle light filtered through the surrounding pines.

Stretches of corridor were also painted in different shades, helping with wayfinding, while elements such as lifts, stairs and heating were all given distinctive bold finishes. Each of these colours had its own place and its own purpose, whether stimulating or soothing. The result is an optimistic, welcoming structure, and one entirely designed to restore health, both physical and mental.

Admiring its lightness, warmth and tactility, as well as its hygienic and sound-reducing properties, the Aaltos employed wood, and in particular birch, extensively at Paimio, designing bespoke handrails, door handles and wall-mounted wardrobes. But it is their radical bentwood furniture, produced both for the sanitorium and other contemporary projects, that speaks most of their unique understanding of the material’s potential. 

Admiring its lightness, warmth and tactility, as well as its hygienic and sound-reducing properties, the Aaltos employed wood, and in particular birch, extensively at Paimio, designing bespoke handrails, door handles and wall-mounted wardrobes. But it is their radical bentwood furniture, produced both for the sanitorium and other contemporary projects, that speaks most of their unique understanding of the material’s potential. 

Today, many of those seminal pieces, including Chair 69, Stool 60 and Stool E60, are available in colours derived from Paimio – petrol, green, yellow and orange. Perhaps most famous of all, however, is the sculptural Paimio Armchair 41. With its angled back, the sprung plywood seat was designed to help the sanitorium’s patients breathe and relax in comfort. This graceful scroll-like seat is available in black or white, with its enclosing frame in natural birch.

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69 Chair - Green - Artek - Alvar Aalto - Furniture by Designcollectors

69 Chair - Green Artek

499,73 € 449,76 €
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69 Chair - Yellow - Artek - Alvar Aalto - Furniture by Designcollectors

69 Chair - Yellow Artek

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Stool 60 (3 Legs) - Natural Orange - Artek - Alvar Aalto - Furniture by Designcollectors

Stool 60 (3 Legs) - Natural Orange Artek

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Stool 60 (3 Legs) - Natural Yellow - Artek - Alvar Aalto - Furniture by Designcollectors

Stool 60 (3 Legs) - Natural Yellow Artek

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Stool E60 (4 Legs) - Natural White HPL - Artek - Alvar Aalto - Furniture by Designcollectors

Stool E60 (4 Legs) - Natural White HPL Artek

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Stool E60 (4 Legs) - Natural Green - Artek - Alvar Aalto - Furniture by Designcollectors

Stool E60 (4 Legs) - Natural Green Artek

329,12 € 296,21 €
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41 Armchair

41 Armchair "Paimio" White Seat Artek

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Side Table 606 - Artek - Aino Aalto - Furniture by Designcollectors

Side Table 606 Artek

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Footnotes: 
Text and images: Artek (c)