Tour Iittala & Arabia Design Centre Museum in Helsinki

Hello friends, how are you? I just had the honor to visit Finland, with thanks to Habitare who brought me there to give a lecture at their fair and to participate on a panel with experts in social media and design like Niki Brantmark, Mette Jakobsen, Katariina Kalda and Stefan Nilsson.

The ultimate cherry on top though was that Habitare further arranged for us to eat at some of Helsinki's best restaurants and they left their tour director, Annika Suomi, with us to share the city with her golden keys, contagious enthusiasm and fantastic energy level. Boy, did I love Annika - she just may be the best tour guide I've ever had in my life. She was also perfect with giving us time to look around and enjoy ourselves and though our schedule was full, the pace was perfect so we were not in vans very long and she didn't take us all over the country - we stayed in Helsinki and trust me, there was more than enough to do there. What a great city!

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So now, let me tell you all about Arabia at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre and my private tour that Annika arranged since I was the last of the group to stay in the city an extra two days on my own. My Arabia tour, of both the museum and the artists' studios, was wonderful and I'll never forget it.

Arabia is one of Finland's most respected and beloved tableware brands and has held this position for nearly 150 years. Finland has a very strong design legacy and Arabia is part of that, as a true pioneer of Finnish design. You can't walk into a Finnish home and not find something from Arabia there. Flea markets, second-hand stores, antiques dealers, eBay, you will find Arabia in all of these places in addition to shops all over the world.

Then there is the second iconic Finnish brand, Iittala. What started as a glass factory in Iittala, Finland, is also found in homes of design lovers globally, from glassware to kitchen cookery and decorative objects for other rooms in the home. I was invited to their glass factory but could not make it on this trip, though in the design centre on the 9th floor you could see some of the history of the brand, view iconic pieces and of course on the lower floor, shop for the gorgeous products of Iittala, including the beloved Alvar Aalto vase which I had the pleasure of also seeing very personally when I toured Aalto's private home in Helsinki just a day prior.

Would you like to see the Arabia building and particularly, the museum located on the 9th floor of the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre located at Hämeentie 135 in Helsinki? Of course you would! In a follow-up post, I'll show you the artists' studios too where some of the ceramics for Arabia are conceptualized and later, put into production.

The Iittala & Arabia Design Centre - in the museum on the 9th floor.

The Iittala & Arabia Design Centre - in the museum on the 9th floor.

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE BELOW TO ENLARGE OR PIN To SEE MORE OF THE MUSEUM

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Birger Johannes Kaipiainen, a great Finnish ceramicist and painter, did amazing work. A platter like this goes for around 10,000 Euros at a an antiques market today. His Paratiisi range is a well-loved classic of Arabia but personally, I love the original work they were modeled after best. Wow.

Birger Johannes Kaipiainen, a great Finnish ceramicist and painter, did amazing work. A platter like this goes for around 10,000 Euros at a an antiques market today. His Paratiisi range is a well-loved classic of Arabia but personally, I love the original work they were modeled after best. Wow.

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Product timeline, very interesting to peruse.

Product timeline, very interesting to peruse.

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While at Arabia on my tour, I learned something else. Book character Moomin by Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson, had their first products at Arabia with figurines, dishes and mugs releasing in the mid century. Today, Moomin is hugely popular, especially to Japanese tourists. In fact, whenever I saw Japanese tourists in the city, they were holding bags from Arabia or checking out in the Arabia shop with loads of Moomin branded products. I bought my son's first good quality silverware set after my tour, with Moomin on the handles, and he loved his gift when I got home. He proudly uses them each day since.

I hope that you have enjoyed touring one part of the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre with me today - the museum. Tomorrow, I'll share the studios were their artists create upcoming collections.

(Photography + Text: Holly Becker for decor8)