It follows me wherever I go. There it is on Instagram, every few days, appearing in a tastefully chic and curated at home photo.
It’s there in the dreamy workroom of fashion designer Maggie Marilyn. A collection welcomes you at K Rd cafe Bestie and on the footpath outside Ponsonby Rd’s Bambina. Multiple friends have at least one displayed with pride inside their rental homes.
And I’m pretty certain that it appears somewhere in the pages of every single issue of every local home magazine I’ve ever picked up.
I'm talking about the Martino Gamper Arnold Circus stool, and now that I've pointed it out, you too will see it everywhere.
Available in various colours - muted or pastel or bright, pick your #vibe - it’s easy to see the appeal. Decorative and practical, the little polyethylene plastic stool is light, modular, stackable and durable.
And versatile. Yes it’s a chair. It’s also a nifty little side table. It’s easy outdoor seating. Tip it upside down and use it as storage, or a bucket, or a bin. Stand on it and it’s a handy step ladder. It’s also the ideal size and height for TV dinners, apparently.
Editor of Homestyle magazine Alice Lines - who has three in her household - believes its popularity comes from the sweet spot where accessible and original design meet.
“This can be hard to come by, as so often interior design is considered something of an elitist pursuit. I love that it champions democratic design, where form, function and sustainability combine at an affordable price point.
“I can actually remember one of the first times it popped up in the magazine, back in 2014. We were shooting the home of an Auckland based creative woman, and she had a couple in her kids rooms… She mentioned that she had brought them as forever pieces for her kids to take with them when they left home so they would have something ’nice’ in their first flat.”
I had always considered it to be the 'home accessory' of choice of a very specific type of (white) Auckland creative: a fan of Katie Lockhart interiors and Derek Henderson photography, they love pottery, organic cotton and handmade things. No shade; I just described myself (although I don’t actually own one).
I wouldn't be at all surprised to find one in the Karangahape Road campaign office of Chlöe Swarbrick or the home of PM Jacinda Arden (both would probably have it in sage).
But at some point this stool has crossed over from being a design insiders’ favourite to having much more mass appeal. Angular and colourful, they’re ideal for any Instagram #aesthetic. Hannah Barrett uses hers (orange and sage) to display bountiful bouquets; Monday Haircare boss Jaimee Lupton has a couple in an almost perfect shade of millennial pink.
Originally designed in 2006, the stool found its original home as part of a project in London’s Arnold Circus area - described as the world’s first council estate (since gentrified) - used as the 'official seating' for community events. Today, they're produced in Auckland's Wairau Valley.
Auckland homeware store Everyday Needs was the original seller of the stool in New Zealand, and is still the main retailer; director Louise Simpson says they are "purchased steadily on a daily basis" here and internationally.
"I think that the popularity lends itself to the large array of versatile colours complementing any location, durable construction working across both interior and exterior spaces, strikingly simple lines, functional design and an interesting origin / designer story," she says. "The no-fuss simplicity and functionality appeals well to the New Zealand market.”
“There will always be an object of the moment," says Homestyle's Alice, "but I like that this is a piece that makes good design available to everyone.”
Main photo by Olivia Renouf
Here, there and everywhere (on your feed):