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Butterfly Stool
Iconic Designs

Butterfly Stool

About the Design

Consisting of two gracefully curving and identical molded plywood shells that recall butterfly wings and are fastened together by a single brass crossbar, the Butterfly stool by Sori Yanagi (1915–2011) is the most acute mid-century merging of Eastern and Western sensibilities.

When he introduced the structured chair to a market that had until then been defined by tatami mats, Yanagi upended Japanese tradition. But the Tokyo-born furniture designer, who created the all-plastic Elephant stool during the same year in 1954, demonstrated reverence for the past with his piece, too: The chair’s two inverted, L-shaped plywood components, constructed by molding methods made popular by forward-looking American designers Charles and Ray Eames, have been compared to calligraphic forms and resemble the regal, spare torii gates that serve as entrances to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, bringing together the sacred and mundane worlds.

The son of Soetsu Yanagi — the founder of Mingei, the Japanese folk art movement — Sori studied painting and architecture, and later worked for French architect-designer Charlotte Perriand when she was appointed an arts and crafts advisor to the Japanese Board of Trade in 1940. Yanagi became her travel companion in Japan, learning about European modernism and French design, and eventually switched his focus from architecture to design. As a product designer, he was immensely prolific and worked steadily until his death in 2011. Yanagi’s wide range of items, from Sony’s early “H Type” tape recorder (1951) to children’s toys to pedestrian bridges to a best-selling stainless-steel teakettle, more than half a million of which are sold yearly in Japan, defined postwar Japanese society. His products are both practical and distinctly modern, and are characterized by an affinity for both new shapes and simple, functional forms. As a designer, Yanagi’s modernist focus on efficiency and structure yielded a legacy of creative pieces that not only struck a nerve in Japan, but defined its postwar society as well.

The Butterfly stool, an early-career design first manufactured by Tendo Mokko, has remained in production since the 1950s — it’s currently available from Vitra in maple and rosewood. Soon after it debuted, the stool won the Gold Medal at the Milan Triennale of 1957 and later entered the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and elsewhere. Simple and sculptural, the Butterfly stool is Yanagi’s most celebrated and well-received piece of furniture.

Butterfly Stool

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Sori Yanagi "Butterfly" Mid-Century Stool in Plywood Produced by Tendo ca 1980s
By Sori Yanagi
Located in Stockholm, SE
Rare and great example of Sori Yanagi iconic "Butterfly" stool in bent plywood produced by Tendo Mokko, Japan ca 1980s. This example was purchased by the previous owner in Tokyo in t...
Category

Vintage 1980s Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Plywood

Butterfly Stool by Sori Yanagi
By Sori Yanagi
Located in Paris, FR
A butterfly stool, model "S-0521/M", by Sori Yanagi, in wood and patinated brass, manufactured by Tendo Mokko, Japan, with the old editor’s label, model designed in 1954.
Category

Vintage 1950s Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Brass

Rosewood Butterfly Stool by Japanese Designer Sori Yanagi
By Sori Yanagi
Located in Dronten, NL
A perfect fusion of western function and eastern or Asian sensibility, the iconic butterfly stool was originally conceived in 1954 by Japanese designer Sori Yanagi. The stool is made...
Category

Mid-20th Century Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Brass

Sori Yanagi Butterfly Stool
By Sori Yanagi, Tendo Mokko
Located in Los Angeles, CA
Sori Yanagi was born in Tokyo, Japan. He was very influenced by Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand, whom he translated for when she visited Japan. Yanagi's designs are known for the...
Category

Vintage 1980s Japanese Modern Stools

Materials

Stainless Steel

Butterfly Stool by Sori Yanagi for Tendo Mokko
By Sori Yanagi
Located in Sammushi, JP
Rare butterfly stool designed by Sori Yanagi, manufactured by Tendo in Japan. It has an oval seal. It is a proof that it is a valuable early work. Comes with a red cushion. It's the...
Category

Vintage 1960s Japanese Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Materials

Teak

Sori Yanagi, Early Production "Butterfly" Stools Walnut, Brass, Tendo Mokko 1954
By Sori Yanagi, Tendo Mokko
Located in West Palm Beach, FL
A set of rare and early organic "Butterfly" stools, designed in 1954 by Sori Yanagi. Produced by Tendo Mokko, Japan. Priced and sold individually. Other designers of the period incl...
Category

Vintage 1950s Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Brass

More Sori Yanagi Designs
Elephant Stool
Elephant Stool
Average Price
US$2,535
Number Available
4
Elephant Stool
Materials
Fiberglass, Plastic
Styles
Mid Century Modern
The postwar era in Japan is now considered the origin of the country’s design and manufacturing revolution, and the Elephant stool, designed in 1954 by Sori Yanagi (1915–2011), is one of the most recognizable objects to emerge from it. The Elephant stool — named for its similarity to the lovable mammal’s chunky feet — is a stackable three-legged plastic stool. Originally produced in fiberglass by Japan's Kotobuki Seating, the Swiss furniture company Vitra now makes the stool in injection-mold...
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