22 of Our Favorite Finds From Helsinki Design Week

Our highlights from the Finnish capital include vibrant textiles, forward-looking innovations, and wooden furnishings that are anything but stiff.
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When it comes to Nordic design destinations, many may think of Stockholm or Copenhagen—but you’d be remiss to overlook Helsinki. The Finnish city made waves in 2012 when it was crowned a World Design Capital for its use of design to drive cultural and economic growth—and over the past 10 years, its creative scene has only picked up steam.  The city sprang to life this month as Helsinki Design Week kicked off, the Habitare trade show opened its doors for the first time in two years, and scores of showrooms and venues launched exhibitions and events.

Whereas the Nordic nations are often associated with functionalist, wood-forward furniture and minimalist—dare we say "blandinavian"—interiors, it’s clear that designers in Finland aren’t afraid to push the envelope with splashy color, fresh forms, and new approaches and materials geared toward social and environmental sustainability. Read on for a few of our favorite finds from Helsinki Design Week 2022.

Psychedelic Color

Finarte’s Blending Collection by Minni Havas

Founded in 1985, Finarte is a family-owned rug company that pairs Nordic textile traditions with avant-garde designs. For its latest collection, the brand teamed up with Finnish artist and designer Minni Havas for a swervy set of textiles defined by vivid color and organic forms abstracted from fruit motifs. Finarte’s entire line is handmade in India from natural or recycled materials, and all of its products are fully traceable.

The Finnish company Durat has developed a durable, 100-percent recyclable surface material made from resin and post-industrial plastic chips. It’s available in over 1,000 colors, including speckled options that mimic the texture of terrazzo, and it can be cast for applications ranging from countertops to sinks and bathtubs, as seen in its vibrant new showroom by Linda Bergroth.

Featured at Habitare’s Talentshop exhibition, textile designer Zuzana Zmatekova draws inspiration from new media and virtual reality to create technicolor fabrics with a shimmering, otherworldly quality. Zmatekova used 3D modeling tools to design her Real Virtuality collection, which seeks to replicate the fleeting effects of iridescence and moiré.

Textile designer Lilli Ilmavirta looked to the natural world to create a colorful carpet with lofted tufts that resemble a topography of lichen and moss. The piece, named Sammal, was featured in Habitare’s Protoshop exhibition.

Color ruled the day at Habitare’s Signals exhibition, where curators Susanna Björklund and Sisse Collander cooked up a surreal kitchen tableau centered around the theme of Magic.  

At Habitare, up-and-coming designer Venla Varjus showcased a plush collection of wool pillows and rugs that pair fluffy texture with pastel tones to satisfying effect.

Kinks in the Woodwork

Matami by Miika Ruotsalainen

Inspired by the Japanese art of ikebana, designer Miika Ruotsalainen carved fresh functionality into his Matami table by hollowing out its legs to serve as flower vases. The sculptural piece was featured at Habitare’s Protoshop exhibition.

Finnish designer Antti Tuomi leverages utilitarian straps and cinches in Still Combining, a clever line of collapsible furniture that disassembles in a snap—perfect for those that are always on the move. The flat-pack furnishings assemble without glue, and tensile straps peek through the structure of each piece for a pop of color.

Helsinki-based Poiat is a multidisciplinary design studio whose works range from interior architecture to finely crafted furniture. Their latest launch, a low sideboard for the Bastone collection, features a spindled structure designed to emulate the way that light falls through a forest of tall trees.

Featured at Habitare’s Protoshop exhibit, the Birdbox is a flat-pack birdhouse made entirely from plywood. Tautvydas Petruskevicius designed the nautilus-shaped habitat using just 8 pieces of ply and two pins.

Finland is covered birch and pine forests—and while the former is sought after by furniture makers, the latter is oft overlooked as a lesser wood. Vaarnii’s Return to Pine collection celebrates the raw, natural beauty of the affordable, locally sourced material through a line of striking furnishings. Two standout pieces are the sculptural lounge chair and the recently launched Hans pendant, which updates a classic ’60s design by Hans-Agne Jakobsson.

Maiju Räty’s mesmerizing Alvari lamp is made of thin sheets of plywood cut and perforated by a CNC machine. It’s designed to pack flat for shipping, and it can be set on a stand or suspended from above as a pendant.

At Habitare, few could resist running a hand over Ilme’s Kanto table, which features a curvaceous form reminiscent of a smooth river stone. The Finnish spruce table is a fresh launch from the   young Helsinki-based brand.  

Finnish designer Reeta Laine launched her own studio in 2022 after working for Nina Bruun Design Studio for five years. Debuting at Habitare, her Layers and Repetitions collection includes a granite side table, a set of segmented lamps, a patterned quilt, and an armchair composed of vertical and horizontal slats that rhythmically repeat.

Low Impact, High Design

Coral by Megan McGlynn

Designer Megan McGlynn is experimenting with nanocellulose, a novel renewable material made of wood pulp. The pieces in her mesmerizing installations dry and set in unique ways to create delicate forms reminiscent of flowers, fungi, and coral reefs. Her work is showcased in the Designs for a Cooler Planet exhibition at Aalto University.

Also exhibiting at Aalto University’s Designs for a Cooler Planet show, fashion and textile designer Sofia Ilmonen has created a line of modular dresses that can be endlessly adjusted and resized using cinches, buttons, and loops. The garments are truly one size fits all, and they can be transformed as needed to extend their lifecycle. 

Fair Trade company Mifuko empowers female artisans in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Ghana to create socially and environmentally responsible textiles and homewares for fair pay. The company’s baskets and bags are made from natural grasses, paper string, and recycled plastic, and each Mifuko product bears the name of the artisan who crafted it.

Founded by Lukas Schuck and Tea Auramo, Fluff Stuff seeks to provide a more sustainable alternative to the down feathers and polyester fibers that fill puffy jackets, pillows, and duvets. The renewable material is made from cattails, which can be grown in peatland ecosystems that serve as carbon sinks.

Designer and researcher Mari Koppanen’s Fomes seats are made from wool, wood, and amadou, a soft and velvety suede alternative made from polypore mushrooms. The natural, vegan, and cruelty-free material is used in traditional handicrafts in eastern Transylvania, and Koppanen has been exploring new applications and processes to broaden its use.

The Austrian company Organoid has created a line of wallpapers infused with flowers, leaves, grasses, and other organic materials salvaged from various industries. The ingredients are affixed to flax or adhesive backings with a bio-based glue, and their appearance, texture, and scent evoke the charm of the alpine landscape.

Peacock feathers and butterfly wings get their sheen from microscopic nanostructures that reflect light. Aalto University researchers have discovered a way to replicate this effect by processing wood without using any pigments, dyes, or chemicals. The designers believe that the iridescent material can offer a sustainable alternative to toxic colorants, plastics, and metallic foils. 

Tikau’s new collection of Ülle textiles are completely sourced and manufactured in Finland. The company purchased a series of manual looms from a 1940s factory, and sourced wool from the country’s livestock industry that would have otherwise gone to waste. The resulting textiles are supremely soft and feature subtly nuanced textures.

Travel and accommodations for this coverage provided by Habitare.

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