Jan 26, 2014

Two beds - One dog

It is said that a bed is one of the most important pieces of furniture one should invest, as we spend one third of our lives in it. Despite of this piece of good advice, we have been sleeping in an old monster, which should have been replaced both for visual and ergonomic reasons a long, long time ago. For some reason, it just hasn't happened yet.

Then one day Pekka's cousin called and asked if we could "baby sit" his bed for an undefined time. He was moving, and the bed wasn't suitable for his new apartment, but he didn't want to get rid of it either. As we had been admiring his bed and thinking of trying to find something similar, we were happy to help him. So a few days later, the old monster was gone and the new arrival had moved in.

Master Urho's bedroom

The bed is called Bella Notte by a Finnish manufacturer Asko. Launched in 1962, it was designed by the in-house design team led by the technical director Frans Meltovaara. Meltovaara, who had been hired by the founder Aukusti Asko-Avonius in 1930's, was a prominent character in Asko's history. He was a "behind-the-scenes" man of action, who ensured the chosen designs were aligned with capabilities of the factory.

At his own time, he might have influenced Asko's direction even more significantly than the founder Asko-Avonius himself. Indeed, it was Meltovaara who first met the designers, such as Tapiovaara and Wirkkala, and decided which ideas would move further. It was also him who was responsible for the technical advancements at Asko. Eventually, Meltovaara retired from Asko with a special recognition given by the Finnish president for a person with exceptional achievements in the field of industry.

Original Asko label

Asko, established in 1918 adopted a functionalist approach similarly to its Scandinavian counterparts after the exhibition of Stockholm in 1930. The transformation from period pieces to functionalism was demonstrated for the first time in the 1932 Asko catalogue, which introduced several items with direct lines and flat surfaces by Maija Heikinheimo.

Also the key design driver of Bella Notte was indeed functional: modularity, in the form of a removable and changeble head board. A consumer could choose a bed with a specific type of head board, or change it later to something different if needed. In our bed, the serial number of the frame (6057) is actually different from the serial number of the head board (6076), indicating this head board is not the one launched in 1962, but another option launched a year later. Bella Notte bed remained in production until 1974.

Side table
One of the reasons the Bella Notte also appeals to us is the teak finish. In 1954, teak entered the Finnish furniture market and remained popular throughout the sixties. The idea of using this exotic wood came from Denmark, where it had been successfully utilized by the furniture industry for several years. One significant reason for the teak expansion was an increase in global availability partly attributable to the war in Indochina, where roads needed to be built and trees cut to provide access for the heavy arms.

Unlike in Denmark where massive teak was preferred and carefully handcrafted by woodsmiths, in Finland teak was mainly used as a top layer of plywood veneer. Therefore, even if teak was a prominent wood on the surfaces of pieces of furniture manufactured in Finland in 1950's, the total share of teak used remained rather low.

Teak, of course!

So, to make a long story short, we are now sleeping much better than before. And the second bed?

Before Christmas, we heard Sofi really enjoys playing with dolls in day care. As she didn't have any at home, we helped her to write a letter to Santa Claus with a few wishes: a doll equipped with a bed and carriage. As Santa was a bit busy we offered him a helping hand and managed to find a 1950's doll bed from a Finnish internet auction site. The label on the bottom indicates it has been manufactured by Niemen Tehtaat Oy, which is the oldest Finnish family business established in 1898. The company still belongs to the same family, and remains as one of the largest furniture manufacturers in Finland.

Different bed, same dog

When Sofi isn't using the bed for one of her dolls, Urho may cease the opportunity and use it to support his nose, especially if the bed has been left in a place where the pipes of water floor heating create a nice, warm spot for him to lay down. That is, of course, if someone has first gently guided him away from his preferred place, the bigger one of the two beds. Fortunately, if all else fails, there is always the couch.


  1. Sänky on kuin teille tehty. Testinukkujakin taitaa hyväksyä.

    1. Moi, Jep ja näyttäisi siltä, että testaaja ei käytä sitä pelkästään nukkumiseen, sillä silloin tällöin tyynyjemme alta löytyy kätkettyjä luita.. :)

  2. Hyvä Niemen Tehtaat! Meillä on Gustavit kirjahyllynä.
    t. Heidi

  3. Thanks for your blog and introducing us to Urho. I enjoy both of them very much.