Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some thoughts on Finland, timeless Nordic design and future home/tableware

Are you guys already fed up about my Finland fascination? No? Ok, then here once again another ode to this attractive country. Even though every single Baltic country has conquered a valuable place in my heart, I think Finland is my favorite country in Europe till now. Finland is just a bit different than the rest, and I like that, of course. 

Ever since my first visit to Finland in 2009 I was amazed by Finnish design for everyday use. I for example really like Arabia's Moomin cups, Finlayson's dish towels, Marimekko's playful fabrics and Iittala's timeless tableware. When visiting my dear friend Astrid in Copenhagen, Denmark, I was once again confronted with my desire to buy only high quality Nordic design items as soon as my wallet would allow it. At the moment it certainly doesn't, but who knows, maybe in the future while having a successful (and most important: fun!) job, I'll be able to make my dreams come true at the cash desk of Illums Bolighus. With a small dream fulfillment I'd be already more than pleased.

 My friend Astrid with her Marimekko bag, checking out Arabia's Moomin cups in Illums Bolighus, Copenhagen.

A while ago I wasted my time strolling around in Solaris shopping centre's book store in Tallinn in stead of learning for my German exam. Let's just call it a well deserved break. All around the store comfortable chairs are placed where sweet looking Estonians calmly flip through the pages of the books they're eventually not intending to buy. I found myself a wobbly legless chair which was fixed to the ceiling of the English book section with a chain. I snuggled up with the book 'Culture Shock! Finland' by Deborah Swallow. She wrote amongst others that Finland isn't the cheapest country, but that the products that are available are worth the high prices because of their outstanding quality. 

What I also find quite special on Nordic designs is that they can be some extremely timeless. Let's for example take the Aalto Vase which was created by the Finnish architect and designer Aivar Aalto in 1937. It's still very popular nowadays. Another case can be found in Sweden. The design of the beloved Fjällräven Kånken backpack I own since a couple of months still looks pretty much the same as it did during the 70s. It's simplicity survived several decades. I never thought I would wear a square-like backpack, but I'm so in love with my brick colored Kånken now. So much stuff fits in it and it's nicely waterproof. Yeah, worth the money.

 A perfect travel companion.

I'm aware of the fact that this is not really my most consistent story ever, but what I actually wanted to write about is Iittala's Sarjaton collection. This is a collection of cups, plates, bowls and glasses. Sarjaton means 'no series' in Finnish. It can be freely combined and no matter which pieces from the collection you take in any random color, it just always fits greatly together. It became my favorite range of tableware as soon as I touched the pieces for the first time. It feels a bit strange to describe it in this way, but the quality of the softness and the detailed completion of all Sarjartons' pieces just give you an instant shot of coziness which no IKEA cup ever equalized before. Here I realized I'd rather pay a little extra for products which will be used for many years on a daily base.

But... a Dutchman wouldn't be a Dutchman without going to the extreme to get more for less. Oh well, not that extreme in this case. It was just a coincidence. A while ago I went to Prisma, a supermarket chain owned by the Finnish S group. It was an early morning and the shop was almost completely empty. While heading towards the knäckebröd and cookie section I passed a table with 'Sarjatons', accompanied by yellow action price signs. Awesome, this entire collection hardly ever being sold beneath the retail price suddenly in discount (and no, no damages, no fakes). Even though I just wanted to do some food shopping I ended up buying the first high end pieces for my future Nienke-home. Yes, in a supermarket. I know that doesn't sound too well. The softness of the cups persuaded me to have sense-sensations within years from now. In addition to that the reminder of Finland and Estonia. Even though it was still expensive, the discount made me a happy Dutchman. Pity that this stereotype is confirmed even here in Estonia. My teacher in Ecotourism studies made fun about it already, telling he once had a Dutch couple making several expensive phone calls towards Estonia because they wanted their ten euro's for some kind of silly issue back. Their phone costs were probably a lot higher that those few euro's. "Matter of principle" is what a typical Dutchman would reply then.


To come back to the tableware while expanding to homeware... Now the end of my study period is in sight I have been thinking about my future accommodation. I cannot imagine myself renting (not even to mention buying) a house for a long time yet. Nevertheless, I can also not live in my old room at my parents' place for ten more years. That would be a bit strange. Maybe after some more exploring in Northern Europe I will eventually kind of settle down (I don't like this thought yet) somewhere. Let's keep in the middle where and with what kind of job conditions. I have been thinking how a typical Nienke-home would look like when I stumbled upon something I don't really understand. This is sort of a connection point with the Sarjaton tableware because of its diverse appearance while still fitting nicely together. I don't like these interiors which make you feel you enter a showroom in a dull furniture shop. I like character; a room that shows the soul of its owner. When imagining it all now, my own living room would be filled with drawings, maps and arty prints from the Baltic States, (non-cheesy) souvenirs from my adventures, colorful books representing my interests, piles of papers and notebooks, pillows with Finnish designs, natural elements like minimal processed wood in lighting sources and tables, my cozy blanket that kept me warm during my student time in Tallinn and an empty can of hernekeitto (pea soup) filled with coloring pencils randomly standing around. Not everything should be hidden behind the doors of cupboards.

Then now finally the issue that confused me, before I stop this rather long article. I'm very bad in making decisions, which brought me to the following thought. Why do people have 10 towels of the same kind, 4 pillows of the same kind, 6 tea cups of the same kind, etc.? Especially now I've seen so much Nordic design lately I just don't want to choose for one single kind of object with so many wonderful and diverse designs being around. Why not having 10 differently designed, happy towels, 4 completely random pillows which each bring you another memory and 6 awesomely different tea cups? There are no rules for this kind of stuff, so why not enjoying diversity? I think that would work for me.

 Joyful, colorful textiles from Finlayson, Luhta Home and Hemtex.

After having said all this, my future living room seems to be a chaotic place. But yet, it will be home, because all my adventures and memories will be right there with me, covered in a lot of playful Nordic patterns.

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