Artek presents Alvar Aalto’s iconic Tea Trolley 901 reinterpreted by Dutch designer and colour expert Hella Jongerius.
The Tea Trolley, a versatile and moveable side table, was inspired by British tea culture, with which Alvar Aalto had become familiar through his travels, as well as the Japanese wood work and architecture he admired.
In 1936, the Tea Trolley had its international debut at the Milan Triennale in an exhibition on the modern Finnish interior. Since then, this functional yet charming product has found a prominent place in many homes all over the world. One of these is the Villa Mairea, a private residence considered a masterpiece of 20th century architecture designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto for the ardent art patrons Maire and Harry Gullichsen.
Over the years, numerous variations of the Tea Trolley have been developed, featuring functional components such as baskets or trays. It has also been produced in various sizes, in surfaces from wood to linoleum, tiles and laminate, and in a range of colours. Dutch designer and colour specialist Hella Jongerius has delved into Artek’s archives to revisit what is possibly Alvar Aalto’s most cherished product, the Tea Trolley 901.
Hella Jongerius created two new versions of the Tea Trolley 901, one light and one dark: the “light” Tea Trolley has a frame in natural lacquered birch, a cream linoleum top tray and a bottom tray in contrasting white laminate. The wheels are lacquered in a cream hue matching the top tray, creating a soft contrast to the blond birch.
The “dark” Trolley boasts a black lacquered birch frame, which reinforces the graphic qualities of the structure. A peat-coloured linoleum top tray and wheels lacquered in the same colour are combined with a bottom tray in charcoal linoleum.
While the upper tray of the Trolley fully catches the light, the lower level always remains in shadow. Jongerius accentuated this effect by using different colours for the respective levels. The wheel, the Trolley’s most prominent detail, takes up the colour of the upper tray in a harmonious way. With these subtle interventions, the Tea Trolley’s distinct geometry and beautiful materials are accentuated and presented in a new light.