Finnish Design - A Way of Living

Author: Maria Laitinen   Date Posted:8 November 2018 

From the land of cold, dark winters, magical northern lights and vast areas of wilderness comes design that is derived from the beautiful surroundings and turbulent history. However, there is much more to Finnish design than just beautiful objects.

Pictured: Lyyli boxes by Finnish designer Katriina Nuutinen

Geographically positioned between Sweden to the West, Russia to the East and Norway to the North, Finland has always been in the crosswise of different cultures. With hundreds of years of foreign rulers (first Sweden, then Russia), Finnish culture is a fascinating mixture of East and West. 

The pared-down minimalist designs that started emerging from Finland in the 1950’s, were part of a larger “Scandinavian look”, with similar designs coming from Sweden and Denmark. What is now known as “Finnish design” is in fact largely influenced by this fairly recent movement. 

Pictured: Iittala Taika plate by Finnish designer Klaus Haapaniemi

The other distinctive influence for Finnish design has been the Slavic culture with bright colours, floral patterns and ornamental decorations. This trend has seen a revival in recent years and has been embraced by many Finnish designers.   

Inspiration from Outdoors

Looking at some of the most iconic Finnish designs, such as the bright Unikko print from Marimekko, the classic waves of the Iittala vase or the timeless wooden Alvar Aalto stool, it is not very hard to see where the inspiration has come from. With vast areas of wilderness and four distinctively different seasons, Finns have a way of embracing nature with open arms. 

Pictured: Unikko fabric by Marimekko

Organic shapes and patterns are seen throughout these iconic Finnish designs and they are a constant reminder that the nature is never far from a Finn’s mind. The use of natural materials like wood is still the most highly regarded, and some of the most prolific Finnish designers have a background in cabinetmaking or other related field of craftsmanship. 

Pictured: Bastone cabinet and sideboard by Finnish Designer Antrei Hartikainen for POIAT.

A Way of Life

Despite consisting of the most eye-catching pieces, the concept of Finnish design goes beyond beautiful objects. Regarded as an essential part of the everyday life, Finns are always surrounded by some of their most iconic designs. 

You will find Alvar Aalto furniture in public places like libraries, cafes will serve you water from Iittala glassware and Marimekko is somewhat a staple that you will find in most Finns’ wardrobes. Investing in higher quality pieces that can be passed from generation to generation is still favoured over mass-produced bric-a-brac.   

With durability and functionality at its core, Finnish design was always meant to be enjoyed and appreciated in daily life – just like it has been for decades.