Venerable Norwegian manufacturer Stokke—today considered one of the world's foremost companies for children's design—was founded in 1932 in Ålesund, a small city on the west coast of Norway. It was originally named Møller Stokke after its two founders, Georg Stokke and Bjarne Møller, but sometime in the 1940s or '50s, Møller sold his share in the company and it was rebranded simply Stokke. Until the 1970s, Stokke focused on the production of ergonomic, comfort-driven seating for adults.
In recent years, the vintage market has heated up around Stokke pieces from the midcentury, which are rare. Between ca. 1947 and 1970, Stokke's in-house designer Arnt Lande was a staunch proponent of functionalism and flexibility. Lande's Combi Vipp Recliner (ca. 1958), Akaba Chair (ca. 1960s), and Swing Star Recliner (1965) are highly prized. Gerhard Berg was another designer who contributed to Stokke's postwar success, especially with his hard-to-find Caro Armchair (1957), Selje Rocking Chair (ca. 1960s), and Kubus Seating (1964).
In 1967, Stokke hired young graduate designer Peter Opsvik, who would play a key role in moving the company in a new direction. His first project, the Oase Easy Chair (1967), featured the body-hugging lines that were Stokke's signature up until that point. But Opsvik's Minimax Chair (1970) introduced a more streamlined, Pop aesthetic, while also stepping into the territory of design for children: the height of the chair was highly adjustable so that it could be used from childhood to adulthood. Two years later, Opsvik’s Tripp Trapp (1972)—the most famous adjustable highchair for children—was debuted and won countless awards all over the world.
Through the end of the 20th century, Stokke continued producing Opvsik’s innovative seating designs, like the posture-improving Balans Seats (1979-84) and the tree-like Garden Chair (1985), alongside those of other ergonomically-minded designers, such as Terje Ekstrøm's Ekstrem Chair (1984) and Per Øie's Move Stool (1984).
Since 2006, Stokke has focused solely on high-end, well made children’s furniture and nursery products. It was owned by three generations of the Stokke family until 2014. Today, the company is owned by NXMH, an investment company based in Belgium.
Some sources indicate that ca. 1968, Stokke founded a sister company called Westnofa dedicated to seating for the domestic market. Pamono editors are conducting more research.
For more information about Opvsik's interest in revolutionizing seating habits, check out his book Rethinking Sitting (2009).
* Images courtesy of Stokke and Peter Opvsik