7 Design Things To Do in Helsikini + Habitare

A few weeks back (OK slightly more than that, this post is long overdue *red face*!) I was invited to Helsinki to attend the interior, design and furniture fair Habitare. I totally fell in love with the Finnish capital all over again. It really is one of my absolute favorite European cities (and I'm not just saying that because I have a penchant for all things Scandinavian - honest!). If you're into design and looking for a weekend break - this is your bag. For those of you further afield, make a week or two of it and visit the Finnish archipelagos as well as the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort (it's on my wishlist!).

Helsinki Marketing - photo by Jussi Hellsten

Our chaperone was Annika Suomi, who knew just about everything there is to know about the best design spots in Helsinki! Over the space of three days, bloggers Holly Becker, Mette Jakobsen, Katariina Kalda, Stefan Nilsson and I enjoyed a design-packed schedule which included supper out on the island of Lonna,  holding a panel discussion at the Habitare fair and a tour of some of the most incredible stores, museums and galleries around the city (oh and we ate some delicious cuisine too!!). It was a whirlwind tour of some of the best design spots in town. If you're visiting any time soon, here are my tips:

7 Things to Do in Helsinki for design lovers

1. Take a tour of the Helsinki Design District and shop for books, design and craft at independent concept stores and galleries like Lokal and TRE!

Image courtesy of Lokal.
2. Take a guided tour of Alvar Aalto's House

2. Enjoy a morning at the Design Museum

Image by: Patrik Lindell/Vandalorum

3. Relax in a sauna at Löyly (beating yourself with branches optional!).

Helsinki Marketing by Pekka Keränen

5. Wile away a few hours at Iittala & Arabia Design Centre (check out this post by Holly Becker over at Decor8 to feel inspired).

Photo by Holly Becker / Decor8

6. Visit the island of Lonna for lunch.

Image - Salla Kantokorpi

7. Eat supper at Grön

Image courtesy of Grön

Where to stay: I loved my stay at Hotel Haven (I have to say, I kind of lucked out with this one!). And sister residence Hotel Fabian is also very central.

For more tips, the book Helsinki: People make the City offers some great advice from the locals and has been my bible both times I've visited (it captures the atmosphere of the city beautifully!).

Habitare design and furniture fair

While we were there, we also spent a few days at Habitare design and furniture fair. Suffice to say, it was hands down the prettiest fair I've ever attended (and I've been to a few!). It helps of course, that the Finns have an innate sense of style and this shone through across the stands! Here is my round-up of 2017 highlights.

1. To celebrate 50 years in the industry, Finnish interior design magazine Avotakka  collaborated with interior designer Maija Rasila (take a tour of her home here) to create a beautiful stand showcasing some of Finland's finest design pieces!

2. Scandinavian design is often about keeping things minimal and working with subtle colour changes. Pentik demonstrated this beautifully on their stand which was decorated in subtle shades of grey and dusty pink with the help of their ceramics.

3. A pile of design books including works by the famous architect Alvar Aalto (who's home we visited!) and Finnish design brand Artek were part of the Asun magazine stand. 

4. I kind of wanted to curl up on the Anno stand and get cosy among all their sumptuous textiles (and enjoy a fika at this table too!).

5. Toimittajien Tusina (The association of interiors journalists) selected their favourite 12 Finnish interior design products 2017 - which were showcased on this beautiful stand near the entrance.  

6. Having worked on a collaboration with Be&Liv in my own home earlier this spring I was so happy to finally meet the team in person and check out some of their new products - like the Peony Lamp.

8. And something for the children - the multi-purpose Nuppu sustainable ceramic children's tableware collection by Maija Puoskari caught my eye - in fact, I awarded it my design choice from the fair! Isn't it beautiful?

Kittos Annika and the Habitare team for inviting me to visit. I hope this post has inspired you to visit Finland some day soon too!

If you'd like to add any tips of great things to see and do in this wonderful city please add them to the comment section below!

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Malmö city guide: hip places to eat, drink and shop (design)

Have you ever visited Malmö, Sweden? It's been my home for the past 12 years and I'm so incredibly proud of Sweden's third largest city! For those of you wondering about geography (let's face it, I wasn't entirely sure where it was before I moved here) - it's the hub of Southern Sweden (listed 9th place on the New York Times top 52 places to visit in 2016 - if that's not reason enough!), and just over the Öresund bridge (yes, that's The Bridge - apparently there's a special tour these days!), from Copenhagen.  With an abundance of cool new boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and bars popping up all over town, I invited my friend and photographer Valentina Fussell over for the day to capture some of my absolute places to eat, drink and shop in Malmö.....

 - Cafés, restaurants & bars: 

Noir: this is the perfect little café to start your tour (with a freshly brewed coffee of course!), on sunny days you can sit outside and watch the locals cycle by.

Johan P - a fabulous fish restaurant (and fish market) in a former factory just off Lilla Torg - and the perfect place to enjoy oysters, seafood platters and the local catch of the day. It's also great for an early evening apéritif (if only to marvel at the high ceilings, decor and Flos lights).

Bastard - In my mind you can't beat this restaurant for an evening out in Malmö. Not only is the food and service excellent, it's buzzing every night of the week and turns into a popular spot for late night cocktails too. You'll need to book in advance.

Lilla Torg - drinks (or light lunch) at an outdoor table in this old square is also a must (try Moosehead or mello yello). You might also end up at Koi nightclub later on in the evening too...(just as I have done on eh hem a few occasions). 

Boulebar - Another unique place (and a new favourite) - is this establishment on Drottningstorget which combines good food and drink with a game of Boule. Go for brunch on a saturday and sunday with family and friends - or in the evening (brilliant if you're travelling in a group).  Look out for local farmers / fleas markets (and Christmas markets) on the square outside too!

Central - shopping

Miloii is my go to shop for clothes (selling brands such as A.P.C, GANNI and Rodebjer) and lovely things for the home. If you need more convincing - this is the the owner's home.

Blomsterpigen - this is one beautiful flower shop, and even if blooms aren't the most practical item to take home with you, I can still recommend visiting if only to see their magical window display and the little upstairs oasis!

Granit - A firm fixture in my Malmö 'interior shop tour', this is the perfect place to pick up practical items for the home (especially if you love simple, clean style and monochrome). Other favourites (particularly for Scandinavian designer items) include Malmö ModernOlsson & Gerthel, Norrgavel, DesignTorget, Form Design Centre (it's worth going in here for the building alone!) and Svenssons.

Formgruppen - a staple for locally made ceramics (and something unique to take home with you).

Mini Rodini - the cutest Swedish children's brand has opened up a shop just off Lilla Torg - because it would be mean to not pick up something for the little ones too!

St Knut Torg - restaurants & cafés 

This area of Malmö has a local village-feel and is well worth a visit for it's small, privately run cafes and bars. Hop on a bike (bike hire stations are located all over town) and enjoy.....

Söderberg & Sara - sit and read the paper alongside locals in this ecological bakery / cafe.

Spoonery - I often go here at lunchtime for the pared-back interior and chilli beef stew - mmmm!

No.6 Nip around the corner for a post-lunch coffee at this itsy, bitsy local cafe created by the previous owner of this home. He's since sold it but the decor and local vibe remains the same.

And if you like wine and cheese don't miss the neighbourhood hang-out- Kiez. There's a great write-up and a few of pictures of it here. For dancing the night away to live music - you can also head over the road to Cuba Café in Folkets park for a salsa (summer time only).

St. Knuts Torg - shopping

Flora Linea - Owned by Maja Ljungdahl, this little shop is a complete find! Well worth a visit if you love the idea of a hanging Kokedama (aka a Japanese bonsai where the root grows in a special soil wrapped in a moss ball) and seriously cute ceramics.

Kalbadhus / Ribbersborg - No visit to Malmö is complete without a visit to the sauna (this one's located out on a pier). When my family visit from London they call it 'the naked sauna', much to the bafflement of my Swedish husband - I mean, is there any other kind of sauna?! The traditional style saunas are divided up into female, male and a mixed section (note - don't make the mistake of thinking the teeny square cloth they hand to you when you go in is a towel - it's just for sitting on) after which a cold plunge into the Öresund strait is de rigueur! In the winter they'll cut a circle in the ice - so there's no excuse! Treat yourself to a hot chocolate (or something stronger) in the cafe / restaurant afterwards or enjoy the Sunday brunch (bentwood chairs alert!) with views over the sea and Ribbersborg beach.

I have to say this guide only scratches the surface of all the great places to eat, drink and shop in Malmö and we haven't even touched on Möllevången (with it's many, many fab restaurants and bars). Malmö guide II to follow imminently (once I've enticed Valentina back from Atlanta!).

In the meantime, here's a quick guide:

Möllevången (or 'Möllan')- Söder om Småland (ecological beers and great food), Malmö Brewing co. (Malmö brews for beer lovers), Tempo and Belle Epoche (for good food and cocktails).

Davidshallstorg: B.A.R (go for the taster menu!) and Escama (tapas on a balmy evening al fresco).

Places to stay:  a quick search on Air BnB has come up with some lovely little places including: a studio in Möllan, an apartment in Triangeln (great location, in walking distance of everything and near the tube). Or this beautiful home in Västra Hamnen, an area by the sea renowned for it's architecture and swimming (as well as a handful of cafés and restaurants) and 10 minutes by bike into the city centre.

Best time to visit - April to October (when the days are longer and the weather a little milder) or December (for the Christmas markets).

If you've visited Malmö and have some tips you'd like to share (or if you have any questions) you're so welcome to add them in the comments below.

I hope you make your way here soon. As they say in Sweden - Välkommen!

Credit: All photography by Valentina Fussell.

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