Design Trends

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, 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

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.

Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto. Image via

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.

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.

Saarinen Round Table and Tulip Chairs by Eero Saarinen, from Knoll

Light, Natural Woods

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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.

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Stark & Minimalist Palette

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 a 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.

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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

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.

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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.

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

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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.

Aalto Vase by Alvar Aalto. 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.

Ruutu Vase Collection by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. Image via

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.

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.

Ball Chair by Eero Aarnio. Image via

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.

Tank Armchair by Alvar Aalto. Image via

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.

Mademoiselle Chair by Ilmari Tapiovaara. Image via

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.

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

Nicole Tatem

Nicole Tatem

Nicole is the Sr. Site Merchandiser for Accessories, Kids, and Textiles at YLiving. She is obsessed with great design in all forms with a special love for jewelry, wine bottle labels, and tableware. When she’s not exploring the many museums and art galleries of the Bay Area, Nicole spends time looking for and visiting obscure and unusual destinations (locally and abroad) while practicing her photography skills.

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