Here Are the Highlights From Helsinki Design Week

Couldn’t make it to Helsinki Design Week? No need for FOMO—here’s what caught our eye this year.

The 49th edition of Habitare, Helsinki’s annual furniture and design fair, included established Finnish brands like Nikari, Hakola, and Marimekko, but also presented exciting new work from young Finnish designers. Among them was Petteri Häkkinen, whose Piccolo tables are the epitome of Nordic understatement.  

These graceful wood serving spoons are by designer and cabinetmaker Antrei Hartikainen. Hartikainen was Design Forum Finland’s Young Designer of the Year in 2018. 

The Fold Shelf by Rasmus Palmgren collapses flat for portability. Palmgren was one of four up-and-coming designers showcased in Habitare’s "Talentshop" section. They were chosen by Imu, a design organization that helps promising young designers make the transition from student to professional.  

Also in Talentshop: Kristoffer Heikkinen’s draped Loiko Chair.  

Hemmo Honkonen’s Audible Furniture, which makes sounds when you use it, drew smiles. The emerging designer’s stand was named "best stand" at the fair by Alberto Alessi, this year’s International Friend of Habitare. Alessi was tasked by the show’s organizers with picking his favorites in five categories.   

Alessi’s selection for "best concept" was Riot Innovations’ smart—and smartly designed—Eese power strip. The app-enabled strip reduces electricity use by automatically recognizing and cutting off standby energy. 

The Ebba sofa and Hide lamps are by Laura Väre, 2019’s Young Designer of the Year.

At the Helsinki Design Museum, the exhibition "Secret Universe" presented the work of Aamu Song and Johan Olin of Company. The two have traveled the world for more than a decade, unlocking the secret techniques of master craftsmen and women and helping to interpret their products for a modern audience.

A twist on traditional nesting dolls, these "Sea Matryoshka" figures, designed by Company and handcrafted in Semenov, Russia, illustrate a marine food chain. 

Dance Shoes—designed for twirling around with a child on your toes—are Company’s whimsical take on classic wool felt shoes. They’re manufactured by hand by Lahtiset in central Finland.

A neo-renaissance palace completed in 1891 was the setting for "Erottaja 2," a first-of-its-kind exhibition of Finnish design spanning 65 rooms on five floors. The building had not been open to the public before the event and most likely won’t be again. Recently purchased by BlackRock, it’s being developed as office spaces. 

Among the works at Erottaja 2 was "Equal Network," by Petri Eskelinen, who says his mechanical sculptures are trying to find "analog metaphors for our digital-age problems." 

The Helsinki Design Week Product of the Year, selected by a jury of design professionals, was the VR-1 from Varjo, a Finnish tech company founded in 2016. It’s the world’s only human-eye resolution virtual reality device.    

Photographer Katja Hagelstam is the creator of the Design District concept store Lokal. Her home in Helsinki, where she features many of the artists and designers whose work she sells in her store, is one of the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) homes in Finland. 

Also in the Design District, Lovia is an accessories brand that uses only excess materials, such as remnant leather from furniture companies and elk leather left over from population control hunting. Every product comes with a "DNA" code that corresponds to information on the website about its raw materials sourcing and pricing. 

A design-minded trip to Helsinki wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the internationally acclaimed Oodi Library, designed by Finnish architecture firm ALA and opened in December 2018. The three-story building’s undulating wood facade stretches across a broad plaza.

The Savoy restaurant was designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto in 1937. (Aalto’s famous vase for Iittala is actually known as the Savoy vase, since it was created for the restaurant.) During this year’s Helsinki Design Week, Savoy’s new owners announced plans for a refresh under the direction of interior designer Ilse Crawford and introduced a new menu by head chef Helena Puolakka. The dining room chairs, designed by Aino Aalto, are original. They’re not going anywhere.


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