FINNISH STYLE IN THE TWIN CITIES FINNSTYLE [MPLS]
When Finnish design blew up this year with Helsinki’s selection as design capitol of the world, Ben Horn was not surprised. The title, he says “has put Finland back in the limelight”. Ten years ago, Horn brought Finnish design to the Twin Cities when he opened Finnstyle. “Finnish design has wowed the design world since the early 1950s. Their products are practical and beautiful and innovative with materials and technology.” The bold, colorful patterns of Marimekko, sleek Iitala glassware, and modern Alvar Aalto housewares and furnishings line the shop in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis. So what is it about Finnish design that warrants the title of design capitol of the world? “Finnish products are high-quality and long-lasting. People appreciate that these items can be passed on to a future generation and still look and function perfectly. The Alvar Aalto vases first designed in 1936 still look cutting-edge and modern,” says Horn. In honor of their design title, the well-known companies like Marimekko and Iitala have been churning out exciting new products as well as rereleasing some old classics, which Horn has of course stocked in his store. “A new version of Kai Franck’s utilitarian Kartio glassware, first designed in 1958, is ultra thin and elegant, yet stackable and naturally easy to use on the tabletop. Also this year, Marimekko re-introduced its Helsinki print from 1952.” If you’re looking for your own piece of quintessential Finnish design, Horn has some recommendations: “Marimekko’s Unikko poppy flower print is one of the most iconic Finnish designs. Unikko dresses and tunics are especially popular and it’s always fresh because Marimekko releases new colors and updated cuts every season. Recently, Converse shoes and Marimekko joined forces, and the shoes they’ve made are cool, comfortable and really popular.” www.finnstyle.com
Don’t ask Ben VandenWymelenberg how much wood a woodchuck could chuck. He has heard that question a lot lately and doesn’t know the answer. But he does know that he wants to “put nature back in people’s lives.” The recent University of Minnesota architecture grad partnered with fellow student Kevin Groenjes to start WOODCHUCKcase, selling wooden covers for iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. His late night idea has become a hit, with many local stores selling the cases and Best Buy recently agreeing to stock the Woodchuck. Not only a beautiful addition to electronics, the Woodchuck Case is durable and in most cases will outlive the phone or computer it’s attached to. The company hopes to be in other large retailers and on the global market soon, but until then, the pair is focused on “Woodchucking” Beats by Dre headphones, Apple’s wireless keyboard, Droid phones, and other pieces of cold electronics that could use a wooden touch. www.woodchuckcase.com
CONRAD TABLE, MISEWELL [MILWAUKEE]
TRASH-TO-TREASURE FURNITURE DESIGN
Omforme, a Norwegian word meaning “to transform,” is turning the Twin Cities’ trash to treasures. Founded by interior designer Carter Averbeck, the Minneapolis artisan shop transforms discarded and forlorn furniture finds into beautifully upcycled pieces. Where do you typically find your furniture? We find furniture in a variety of places from Craigslist, old storage warehouses, yard sales to items thrown out or set on the curb as trash. Because we are focused on a mission of saving good items for refurbishing, anything considered passé by others are pieces we find the most appealing. Is there one neighborhood that is particularly prolific in throwing out old stuff? For the most part, there isn’t one specific neighborhood but rather those that are going through a transitory phase from humdrum to gentrification. Houses in older neighborhoods get sold, remodeled and much of what is in those homes get thrown out during the process without a second thought.
Sweden is best known for its meatballs, cold weather, and easy-to-assemble furniture. Replace meatballs with beer and you could be talking about Milwaukee these days. Misewell was founded by Vincent and Paul Georgeson who share a belief that the best materials and craftsmen combine to make the best design. The brothers have been pumping out award-winning furniture design since 2009. The Milwaukee version may value locally sourced materials and a Midwestern sturdiness more than its Swedish counterpart, but their commitment to functionality and an easy assembly is the same. Misewell’s Conrad table is one of the best examples of all of the above with a locally harvested walnut top and legs that easily snap into a steel bracket, all handmade in Minnesota. The Milwaukee brothers will be releasing their newest line of furniture in the near future. www.misewell.com
What is the golden rule of revamping old furniture? Our golden rule is: Does the piece have good lines? Many aspects go into that, such as if the item has an iconic shape like the Louis XVI style chairs we found slated for a landfill or a classic modern outline on a dresser that is still considered stylish in our current market. What many people don’t realize is that furniture styles actually change very little over the decades—only the outer shell changes. A sofa’s fabrics can look dated, yet the lines of the piece are great. When we transform a piece, we consider the frame and what would be a good fit as far as injections of style to breathe new life into a piece. It could be a fresh coat of lacquer, reupholstering, adding sculptural details and a host of other elements we have at our disposal to use on any given item of furniture. What is the time period that is most often discarded? Currently the most items come from the late mid-century period up until the late 1970’s. But we see items from every time period during the twentieth century being discarded.
Do people not understand what they are throwing away? Sometimes we wonder that ourselves when we find really great items left by the side of the curb. I believe there is an overwhelming habit to just throw away things in favor of new ones. So much of our society is built around the notion that dispensable things are somehow better: food, products, clothing, furniture. The very idea of transforming a piece of furniture doesn’t come naturally to most people, hence buying new is easier. I also think that even if a person knows a piece of furniture might have value, they may not have the creative vision or motivation to transform a piece into a new look. Why did you decide to turn this into a business? This has really been a passionate hobby of mine since, forever! I would find a great piece of furniture that had seen better days, revamp it and use it in my home. With the right amount of creative thinking, anything can be transformed into something better. Being in the Interior Design business for as long as I have, I have seen incredible things come from that world: cool, sleek, cutting edge and expensive. There is an overwhelming abundance of accessories and furniture being manufactured at breakneck speed and it got me to wondering: What happens to all this stuff? Where does it go when it’s no longer given value? That answer is usually: in the trash. Our landfills are at the brink of being overstuffed with perfectly good items of furniture. By taking these items and giving them a new lease on life, it’s has been amazingly gratifying to witness how people are now starting to see the value in older furniture that has been transformed through the artisans at Omforme. www.omformedesign.com
Published on May 10, 2013