Ideas + Inspiration

Celebrating 100 Years of Finnish Design

This year, Finland is celebrating 100 years as an independent nation. In honor of Finland’s centennial, we wanted to take a moment to exalt the tenants of Finnish design and take a look at some of the many iconic modern design contributions by Finnish designers.

First, a few facts. Finland shares borders with Sweden and Russia and is also near Norway and Estonia. Considered a Nordic country, Finland is part of the geographical region of Scandinavia. In 1917, Finland declared its freedom from Russian rule and became an independent country. The country is known for views of the Aurora Borealis during winter, midnight sun during the summer, saunas, thousands of clear lakes, ski resorts, and the real Santa Claus.

Finland is also known for its design and considers itself a design nation. From architecture and city planning to interior design and product design, the design is integrated into the everyday lives of the Finnish people. Finnish design has been promoted internationally since 1875 and includes a number of iconic, modern pieces contributed by designers like Eero Aarnio and Alvar Aalto, among many others. And among all Finnish works, you’ll find a few key functional and aesthetic design tenets.

Clean Lines

modern stool 60s in multiple colors.
Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto – Image Via

First and foremost, clean lines are the foundation of Finnish design. Keeping things simple yet elegant, Finnish furniture is designed with great care and built to last. Take the Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto for Artek.

This classic three-legged stool exhibits minimalist design and Finnish design at its best. Reduced down to the most basic elements, arched legs allow this stool to easily stack.

modern blue saarinen chairs and matching dining table.
Saarinen Round Dining Table & Tulip Armless Chair with Seat Cushion from Knoll

Another great example is Knoll’s Saarinen Table. While Knoll is not a Finnish company, the designer Eero Saarinen’s Finnish heritage shines through in the design. With simple lines and a slender base, this design icon continues to be a favorite of modern design enthusiasts.

Light, Natural Woods

Finnish design lounge chairs and artwork.
Image Via

Taking inspiration from nature and the beautiful landscape, light wood furniture pieces are a common element you will find in Finnish design. Combined with those simple, clean lines, light woods easily complement the modern, minimalist interiors commonly found in Finnish households.

modern dining chairs and table.
Image Via

Stark & Minimalist Palette

Finnish tea trolley in living room.
Tea Trolley 901 from Artek – Image Via

Keeping in line with form and function, Finnish design focuses on quality over quantity. Each piece, whether it be a chair, table, glass, or vase is carefully chosen for what it brings to space. Multi-functional pieces, like the Tea Trolley 901 is a great example. Crafted from birch, a popular wood in Finnish design, this trolley can be used as a side table or storage piece when it’s not being used as a serving piece.

Keeping furniture to a minimum and the space as open as possible allows the natural woods and carefully considered furniture design to shine.

Bright Colors + Playful Patterns

modern design in textiles.
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Incorporating bright colors and playful patterns into their clothing and interiors, the Finnish people infuse a sense of optimism and cheer to their environment. By far the most popular designs come from the textile company Marimekko. Founded in 1951 by Armi Ratia, Marimekko’s colorful clothes, housewares, linens, and pillows are known worldwide.

birght and modern animal and wildlife print.
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In celebration of Finland’s centennial, Marimekko has created a special print inspired by Finnish folk tales. The eye-catching pattern incorporates the wildlife that inhabits Finland’s northern country.

white modern bar cart.
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Bright colors are also brought into the Finnish home through beautiful glass dishes, vases, and decorative objects.

Alto Vase from Alvar Aalto
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Known for their exquisite designs, the glass company Iittala is most recognized in the U.S. for its Savoy Vase. Also referred to as the Aalto Vase, this vase from designer Alvar Aalto debuted on the design scene in 1936.

modern rectangle vases.
Ruutu Vase from Iittala – Image Via

Iittala continues to make breakthroughs in glasswork and dinnerware by pioneering the transition from decorative dinner sets to tableware that embodies progressive Scandinavian design.

Finnish Designers

Finnish designers have made significant contributions to modern design that are recognized classics today. Some of the most significant contributors include Eero Aarnio, Alvar Aalto, and Ilmari Tapiovaara.

puppies sitting on Finnish furniture.
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Eero Aarnio began experimenting with plastics in the 1960s and found recognition for his design of the innovative Ball Chair, Pastil Chair, and Bubble Chair.

Finnish lounge chairs.
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In addition to his iconic Aalto Vase, Alvar Aalto was also known for his furniture and architectural designs. Some of his most-recognized designs include the Stool 60,  along with the Tank Armchair and Chair 69.

Finnish design old fashion chair.
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Desiring good design for everyone, Ilmari Tapiovaara created quality pieces at an affordable price. He is known for his Mademoiselle Chair, Domus Chair, the Pirkka Collection, and Trienna Table.

blown glass blue bird.
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One last designer to mention is Oiva Toikka, a Finnish glass designer. His best-known works are the glass birds he creates for Iittala. These charming creatures are popular decorative pieces in many Finnish homes. He creates new birds for the collection each year, and this year he designed two special birds for Finland’s 100th.

Sleek, bright, and charming, Finnish design is a significant contributor to the modern, minimalist design that is still popular today. Happy anniversary, Finland!

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