Inside: Finnish Interior Trends show us how to add more layers to our homes.
My eyeballs felt like they were frying. A dripping branch was handed to me and I slapped myself with it. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I dashed to the icy shower.
My first traditional sauna was a shock. The 48 open tabs in my brain seemed to melt away. This refuge from “the real world” left me feeling restored yet exhilarated.
Finnish wellness traditions
To the Finns, taking a sauna is far from exotic. It’s been integral to their way of life since about 7000 BC. Today, almost every Finnish home has a sauna.
There are many traditions that sustain Finnish culture. Physical activity, connection to the forest, wholesome food, and the sisu mindset. Sisu is: “stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness”.
The Finns weather hardship with refined simplicity—and their interior design reflects that. Minimalist, white spaces with graphic black and wood accents. If you’re like me, you’ve drooled over these photos on Pinterest.
Yet, Finnish design trends show us different ways to make our homes a refuge from a stressed-out world.
Enter global information overload
Opening night at the recent Vancouver Interior Design Show was overwhelming. But, one exhibit grabbed me.
What the HEL from Finland is a design installation curated by Susanna Björklund. I got to meet this charming trend analyst, and my husband chatted with her in Finnish.
Despite their traditions, Finns are not immune to the evils of modern life. Björklund’s exhibit signage sums up our new reality:
Internet never sleeps. There is too much noise and the human mind cannot digest the never-ending stream of information. The hard disks of our brains are full. We can only process a tiny fraction of what we see.
The word hel piqued my curiosity—is it a reference to the afterlife in Norse mythology? Are we to see the modern world as a kind of hel?
The exhibit stood out as an oasis of colour among drab booths in the show. Signage described “What the HEL” as
a curated multilayered design installation, showcasing quirky and colorful Finnish design, visual interior trends, societal trends and interesting phenomena, all happily mixed together with a touch of Finnish oddities.
Björklund does indeed combine many elements with wit and positive energy. While reflecting global design trends, “What the HEL” manages to stay true to Finnish style.
The new Finnish layers
This new Finnish look is all about layers. Think warm, vibrant, and slightly unexpected.
“What the Hel” layers:
- clash with panache: fearless but considered mixing
- saturated colours: port, rose, apricot, orange, cyan, powder blue, azure, olive, golden brown
- blonde wood: classic Finnish design
- Finnish folklore: prints, patterns, and motifs connect with the past
- layered texture: wool, shag, linen, leather, wood, cane work
- craftsmanship: art, furniture, decorative objects, textiles
- pattern: evoking the past and present
- layers of pattern: walls, furniture, throw pillows, rugs, art
- walls: William Morris-esque floral or bold brushstrokes
- patterned light: from mobiles and Secto Design pendants
- nature inspired patterns and colours
Covetable Finnish design
Much of the charm of “What the HEL” comes from the artful mix. But so many items deserve individual appreciation for their beauty and craftsmanship.
The installation showcased pieces from 30 designers, artists, and companies. Some lovely examples (see photos):
- Secto Design pendants—these beautiful lights make a statement without overpowering
- Arte Bloom sofa by Nikari
- “Merry-go-round” side table/stool by Hanna Anonen
- woolen Bombroo rug designed by Klaus Haapaniemi at Tikau
- the exquisite Fiori shelf by Antrei Hartikainen
- “Les Chats, amis de Putte” pillow by Klaus Haapaniemi
Mix some HEL into your home
“What the HEL” gives loads of inspiration for making a home feel vibrant and warm. The idea is to feel safe…without playing it safe.
Visual stimulation, comfort, and tradition are key:
- add some bold colour and pattern to your home
- keep it cozy with textiles and texture
- connect to the past with traditional materials and patterns
- choose local, handmade, quality pieces
- pick materials, colours, and motifs inspired by nature
Warning: don’t go overboard. According to Helsinki-based interior designer Linda Bergroth (quoted in Vogue):
Finnish people don’t go bold, colorful, and fun on everything—the opposite actually. They tend to like peaceful, timeless, and simple design like the Japanese, and on the other hand choose very wild, bold, and crazy prints. What’s nice is that these two opposites—neutral and crazy colorful—can coexist in an interior or person at the same time.
So, are white, minimalist rooms the answer for our information-overloaded lives? Or do saturated colours and busier spaces comfort us? When it comes to creating a home that’s a refuge from modern life, the verdict is out. Tell me what you think in the comments!
In the meanwhile, I’m itching to add a patterned pillow to my sofa. Or maybe my living room needs a bright side table. Dang it…I think I’ll just rip out my second bathroom and install a sauna.
More Finnish awesome
- sources for the curated items at What the HEL
- Wallpaper and Nordic Style both covered Björklund’s “Signals” exhibit at Habitare (Finnish furniture, interior decoration and design fair)
- fascinating article from Vogue: Finnish Interior Designers Show How Bold, Colorful Prints Might Be the Best Way to Greet Cold Weather
- Forbes covers How Finnish Culture Can Teach You To Design Your Life
- on my wishlist: this book about the Finnish way of life. By the way, that’s an affiliate link. If you make a purchase after clicking, I may earn a small commission—it won’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support this blog (my disclosure policy).
Loved your post. I love Finnish design just having a hard time to apply it in my home. It looks more boho/modern/eclectic. LOL. The wallpaper is amazing.
Yes, it can be an intense look! But we can pick and choose the elements that click for us. I’d love to have that wallpaper in a powder room 😉
Kari Hansen says
Hi, Ksenia! Lovely post, helped me get a real sense of the exhibit! I want some Finnish HEL in my house now! Love the bold patterns mixed in — definitely my kind of thing. Also love your resources list at the end. I want to read those articles and get that book too! xoxo
Glad you liked it Kari! The Finns really do have a knack for this. Thanks for stopping by.