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Finnish Furniture: How the World Fell in Love with Finland

Considered a design nation, Finland is known for its aesthetic both in architecture and interior décor. One of the most well-known and sought-after of these products is Finnish furniture. Famed designers such as Eero Aarnio and Alvar Aalto have put Finnish furniture on the map worldwide, and the iconic pieces have found permanent homes in museums, homes, and pop culture. While there is a variety of inventive designs in Finnish furniture, most share these key characteristics:

1. Clean lines
Designers of Finnish furniture broke the mold of highly ornate and decorative designs in favor of sleek and streamlined pieces. Finnish furniture is often free from harsh angles to prevent the minimal designs from seeming to start. A classic example is the Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto, which has bent “L-legs” that give it a fluid, organic form. This stool is a quintessential piece of Finnish furniture that embodies all of the following traits as well.

2. Form follows function
The “form follows function” principle came about in the late 19th and early 20th century in architecture, and because many Finnish designers also were architects, it applied itself to Finnish furniture as well. This ideology hand-in-hand with the divergence from ornamental pieces to a more utilitarian design. Designers of Finnish furniture tend to make decisions on the design of their pieces with the use and function in mind, not the look or style. That’s not to say the end result of Finnish furniture isn’t attractive, because the look is one of the many reasons it has such a cult following. There is a beauty in simplicity that Finnish furniture has, and continues to, master.

3. Minimal color palette
You’ll find that most Finnish homes have white or otherwise neutral walls, with similar tones carrying onto the furnishings as well. Although a minimal color palette is the norm in Finnish furniture, that’s not to say that Finns and fans of Finnish design shy away from color. In a country where much of the year is very dark and color, bold colors and patterns are welcomed in other home accents. The Finnish brand Marimekko is the most well-known way Finns bring bold hues and prints to their spaces.

4. Light, natural wood
Wood color trends come and go, and dark wood has long been a favorite among American furniture markets. But in Finnish furniture, lighter woods like birch are the obvious preference. Not only does it coordinate well with Scandinavian style, but it’s also practical: Birch is the national tree in Finland and forests are lush and abundant. Finns have a deep connection to nature, so it’s no coincidence that Finnish furniture utilizes wood as a natural resource to connect with the user.

5. Long-lasting craftsmanship
The first Aalto stool was created in 1933 and it’s very possible it’s still standing on three legs in someone’s home now in perfectly usable condition. The trees used to create the stools are 60-80 years old, and are made to last just as long. This is part of Finnish furniture manufacturer Artek’s slogan, “One chair is enough.” Finnish furniture makers aren’t in the business of fast fashion, and the quality products combat the problem of throwaway consumerism. Artek also has “2nd Cycle” stores, dedicating to selling vintage and used piece of furniture with plenty of life left in them. Many people actually like the worn look of these objects, as the markings tell the history and story of a piece well-loved.

6. Timeless design
Not only is Finnish furniture meant to last in craftsmanship, but in style as well. Finnish furniture often falls into the category of “mid-century modern,” but the look has long outlasted the era. Because of all the prior points made, Finnish furniture will always be relevant. In fact, mid-century modern was designed to look futuristic for the time, and Finnish furniture designers are forward-thinking creatives. These trend-trumping characteristics have made it just as popular as ever, and it will continue to be a staple in the homes, offices, and public spaces of the future.

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