Ikea’s jigsaw-puzzle furniture and tasty meatballs might be what comes to mind when you think “Scandinavian design” but there’s a whole lot more on offer across the pond. If you’re renovating, keen to spruce up your space or want to be on trend, pack an empty suitcase, grab your Visa card and head to Helsinki.
Finland’s capital city is the 2012 World Design Capital, a title not bestowed lightly or without serious cutting edge design to back it up. To mark the occasion there are food festivals, interactive exhibitions, workshops and events throughout the year. The city’s Design District is home to more than 150 boutiques on 25 streets – you’ll find emerging, established and eclectic artists showcasing their work in one of the city’s coolest downtown regions.
It’s here you’ll find one of Finland’s most famous fashion houses. Marimekko burst onto the international runway in 1960 when Jacqueline Kennedy graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in a sleeveless red dress. The brand’s bright colours and bold prints are splashed onto fabrics, clothes, bags, crockery and cushions.
At Onea Design Shop you’ll find work by local Nordic artists, many made from fair trade and recycled materials. If you’re lucky, you’ll see owner Elin Muren behind the counter working on her latest painting. An on-the-spot commission is a great way to get an authentic piece of art to take home.
The Design Museum is located in the heart of the District and is definitely worth a visit. Home to more than 75,000 objects, the museum showcases a history of design from the nineteenth century to the present day, with exhibitions on emerging trends and classic themes. Get a crash course in the local history with the museum’s permanent “Finnish Form” collection, where there’s everything from scissors and motorbikes to ancient Nokia phones and espresso machines. Use your Visa card to buy tickets at the door and don’t forget to pick up a few souvenirs at the cutting edge gift shop.
Design is all about immersion, and at the Klaus Hotel you can literally eat and sleep in style. One of the international Design Collection properties, this hotel is the hotspot for celebrities, architects and design-minded people. The hotel’s interiors are based on the Kalevala, Elias Lönnrot’s epic nineteenth century novel, which captured the nation and is still a national icon. Battles between light and dark, the creation of the Universe, human emotions – the themes of the pages are played out in creative design elements. Use your Visa card to check in at the oval-shaped reception – a reference to the seven eggs laid and hatched during the creation of the Universe. Book into an “Envy” room, where a riot of different fabrics express this raging emotion. Have a drink in the Ahjo Bar, where light and dark battle it out in this moody space, then head to Ilmatar Restaurant. The hotel’s fine dining venue takes its name from the “goddess of air and mother of mankind”, according to the Kalevala.
At the height of cutting edge and eclectic design, Helsinki is a must-do destination for any design-minded traveler out there.
Korkeavuorenkatu 23 00130 Helsinki
Tel. +358 (09) 622 0540
Marikulma, Pohjoisesplanadi 33
Mon-Fri 10-20 Sat 10-17
Tel. +358 9 686 0240
Onéa Design Shop
Tue-Fri 10.30-17.30 Sat 10.30-15.00
Tel. +358 44 5660 446
Klaus K Hotel
Bulevarden 2 00120 Helsinki, Finland