11 Oct 2013

DESIGN: Bushel to Box - Vakka at Helsinki Design Week

Douglas Blyde discovers minimalist storage solutions at Helsinki’s Design Week - largest of its kind in Northern Europe. 
FINLAND, a modest country in Scandinavia compared to its royal neighbours, is famous for designing practical, durable, liveable furniture and fashion, from the Aalto Vase to Marimekko fabrics. 
Iittala’s new range of tactile boxes are a product of this philosophy, being light but strong, practical but elegant - and very versatile. 
Called Vakka (Finnish for ‘bushel’), these are formed of gently moulded plywood given a soft sheen from transparent but sweet-smelling lacquer. The lid is a micro-millimetre perfect fit, cut with simple handle-holds. 
Designer, Elina Aalto describes her brief: “to create an aesthetically pleasing container that does not look too much like a container.” She adds: “plywood is naturally beautiful – like beach stones. Its shape has not been deformed by force, and it gets better with age through dents and other scars.” Unusually, the finished result has proved “almost identical” to Elina’s first sketch. 
Aside from conventional storage, Vakka boxes may be stacked to form a library, used as a bedside table, or to frame artefacts and trinkets. They represent a progression for Iittala who through their production, are effectively moving out of the kitchen and dining room, where they are famous for tableware, and into the rest of the home.

Along with Arabia ceramics, the Finnish brand is owned by 364 year-old Fiskars who are probably most famous for producing iconic, orange-handled scissors. Indeed, a chandelier of these, strung from nearly invisible nylon strings, hangs in their showroom at Arabia. A district of Helsinki characterised by industrial architecture, it is so-called because it was originally thought a very long way from the city (today reachable by tram in 15 minutes).

Elina defines her approach as: “identifying problems and designing solutions.” So, what is next for the young designer? “I dream of designing a space-saving sink which can fit on top of a washing machine,” she says. 
From tasteful boxes to slim sinks, watch this space for Elina’s particular take on space solutions.

Vakka - available in white, plywood, plywood grey/white from Skandium, 247 Brompton Road (www.skandium.com). £169 (450 x 150 x 300mm); £199 (450 x 230 x 300mm)
For Red magazine