Vaarnii, a furniture studio co-founded by Artek and Tom Dixon alumnus Antti Hirvonen, launched at London Design Week 2021 with a tight edit of Finnish Pine furniture, lighting, and accessories. In a world eager to paint, varnish, stain, and lacquer wood in all its forms, the debut also caught the attention of design enthusiasts across the pond. Vaarnii collaborates with a multitude of contemporary designers, including Max Lamb, Frederick Paulsen, Kwangho Lee, and Soft Baroque to produce furniture and home accessories that predate the genre of Finnish Modernism popularized by Alvar Aalto. What makes Vaarnii so compelling is the way each maker defies an expectation of rigidity and simplicity in their works.
Until recently, if a collector wanted to judge for themselves the comfort of Lamb’s geometric lounge chair or how exactly the faces of Lee’s totem-like side table are joined, they would need to trek to Los Angeles, Canada, or overseas to do so. That recently changed thanks to Suite NY, where the brand recently put down roots in New York City. For more than a decade, Suite NY has brought the wares of some of the most high profile global designers to industry professionals and the public alike from a light-filled 8,000 square-foot showroom in the heart of the city. There, shoppers can discover pieces by the likes of Achille Castiglioni and Jaime Hayon, along with new launches from exciting upstarts, like Hirvonen’s Vaarnii.
Hirvonen views Finnish Pine’s wild grain and knotty surface not as a material flaw, but as a sign of masterful craftsmanship and “honesty.” “A good way to explain it is by comparing it with an Italian design,” he tells Surface. “If there’s a seam on an Italian product, they do what they can to hide it to make the design as minimal as possible. Our approach would be to make that seam the main feature.” Hirvonen also embraces the way a home full of life and movement will quite literally shape a softwood like pine. “Our products wear in instead of wear-out,” he says. “It takes about 100 years for a pine tree to grow into a length ready for harvest in Finland. Our promise is that our products will last at least that long”