20 Everyday Objects
Wooden stool made of two identical pieces of bent wood connected by a slender bar in the base. Each piece of bent wood is shaped like a swooping numeral 7, with the one on the right turned backward.

Butterfly Stool

Designed by
Sori Yanagi (1915–2011)
Rosewood-faced plywood, brass
Produced by
Tendo Co. Ltd, Tokyo, Japan
38.5 x 30.7 x 43 cm

The Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design, gift of Dr. Michael Sze, 2011.64

Yanagi’s stool demonstrates the minimal look and usefulness of Good Design in North America and in Japan. It also recalls the ancient form of the classic Japanese headrest, combining modernity and tradition. According to design curator R. Craig Miller, Yanagi “paved the way for several generations of Japanese designers who have exerted an enormous influence on modern and contemporary design.”

The rich grain of the rosewood surface makes it appear to be a handmade piece, but in fact it is a mass-produced design of two identical pieces of molded plywood attached with a brass rod at the center. Awarded a gold medal at Milan’s Triennale in 1957, Yanagi’s stool has been continually in production since it was introduced, and is widely available today through design stores and various online retailers.