For thousands of years, stools have been the most widespread type of seating furniture, and it is little wonder that they still maintain their appeal, despite the relatively recent success of chairs. They have always been multipurpose, and continue to serve as seating, side tables, and as a means to reach higher shelves.
One of the most emblematic multipurpose stools is probably Alvar Aalto’s stackable, 1933 ‘Stool E60’ for Artek, an understated, round, plywood seat with four bent wooden laminate legs. Max Bill’s 1954 ‘Bill Ulmer Stool’ for wb form ab is another classic design, an angular multipurpose stool with a cylindrical cross bar. It can be used to store and carry books and magazines, and as a side table.
Mario Botta’s ‘Clessidra’ multifunctional stool for Riva 1920 is an abstract sculpture, constructed from two solid wooden hemispheres balanced on one another. Vibieffe-produced ‘Tavoloni 9500 - 43 | Table’ also takes the sculptural route, but is instead a crisp, crystalline formation bent from a steel sheet. Gianluigi Landoni’s ‘Domino 9265 Ottomans | Tables’ ensemble of multipurpose stools for the same manufacturer are simply cubes, whose finish can be further specified as wood, metal or leather upholstery.
Nolen Niu returns to more structural principles in the ‘Topic’ multipurpose stool, whose slender steel skeleton and and slim seat are welded together to produce a sturdy, yet delicate product. Sandin & Bülow’s ‘Plint barstool’ for Materia has a relatively simple tubular steel base, but features a saddle-like, padded seat which allows the user to sit in two different directions.
Shin and Tomoko Azumi’s ‘Log’ stacking multipurpose stool for lapalma is a conical seat with carved out sections made from curved plywood. Conversely, Aldo Cibic’s ‘Porcino Light’ for Serralunga is a more robust, sculptural, internally illuminated, plastic design.
Motomi Morii’s Nikari-produced ‘MMJ1 Stool’ is solid, almost archetypal, with four wooden legs which are given a literal twist, bringing a surprising sense of dynamism to this particular piece. Zieta’s ‘Plopp Alu’ is also inspired by traditional multipurpose stools, and accurately emulates their form, even though it is made from two sheets of thin, inflated aluminium.