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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 Japanese Designer Midcentury Signed Bent Rosewood Butterfly Stool
By Sori Yanagi
Located in Studio City, CA
A perfect fusion of western function and eastern/ Asian sensibility, the iconic butterfly stool was originally conceived in 1954 by Japanese designer Sori Yanagi. The stool is made f...
Category

20th Century Japanese Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Materials

Brass

Mid-Century Modern Sori Yanagi Butterfly Stool in Walnut and Plywood
By Sori Yanagi
Located in London, GB
Ease of travel in the jet age encouraged a growing fusion of cultural influences after World War II. Although Yanagi's stool was designed and manufactured in Japan, it employs Wester...
Category

Vintage 1980s Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Brass

Sori Yanagi, Early Production "Butterfly" Stool, Walnut, Brass, Tendo Mokko 1954
By Sori Yanagi, Tendo Mokko
Located in West Palm Beach, FL
A rare and early organic "Butterfly" stool, designed in 1954 by Sori Yanagi. Produced by Tendo Mokko, Japan, with original label. Other designers of the period include Isamu Noguc...
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

Butterfly Stool for Tendo Mokko by Sori Yanagi
By Tendo Mokko, Sori Yanagi
Located in Barcelona, Barcelona
Butterfly stool designed by Sori Yanagui for Tendo Mokko. In good original condition, with minor wear consistent with age and use, preserving a beautiful patina. Sori Yanagi wa...
Category

Vintage 1960s Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Brass

Pair of Sori Yanagi Butterfly Stools
By Sori Yanagi, Tendo Mokko
Located in Barcelona, Barcelona
Pair of butterfly stools designed by Sori Yanagi. Manufactured by Tendo Mokko (Japan) in 1954. In good original condition with minor wear consistent with age and use, preserving ...
Category

Vintage 1950s Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Wood

Sori Yanagi Butterfly Stool
By Sori Yanagi
Located in New York, NY
Ease of travel in the jet age encouraged a growing fusion of cultural influences after World War II. Although Yanagi's stool was designed and manufactured in Japan, it employs Wester...
Category

Late 20th Century Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Plywood

Sori Yanagi Rosewood Butterfly Stool Japanese Midcentury Architect Design
By Sori Yanagi
Located in Washington, DC
Well used 1950s butterfly stool. This stool can still be used, tested by 165 pound person, no yawning, no total crack through anywhere, just heavily worn. A wonderful time-wron piece...
Category

Vintage 1950s Japanese Mid-Century Modern Stools

Materials

Rosewood

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