Katriina Nuutinen: “Light makes an apartment a home”

The home of Finnish designer Katriina Nuutinen in Joensuu reflects a chain of traditions. Self-designed lighting fixtures and vases meet grandma’s rug and great flea market finds.

The rug made by Katriina’s grandma takes pride of place on the living room wall. Its colors are repeated in the pillows. The mirror by Iina Vuorivirta is on loan from Katriina’s sister. There is a Candeo bright light on the ceiling and an Oma lamp on the wall, both designed by Katriina.


Designer Katriina Nuutinen and her son Onni. The home is a 70 square meter dwelling in an apartment building from the 1950s in Joensuu.

The showcase inherited from grandpa has traveled with Katriina from one home to the next for more than ten years. Katriina collects brass candlesticks from flea markets. The Lyyli glass box is Katriina’s own design.

THE AWARD-WINNING DESIGNER Katriina Nuutinen stands in the hallway of the four-room apartment built in the 1950s in Joensuu and looks up at the old veneer doors.

“These surfaces gave the apartment a homey look. It felt immediately like this was our home. I knew that my furniture would fit here easily”, Katriina says.

The 1950s design language of the house charmed the designer, and the ambience of the apartment was also right.

“I really like the dimensions of our home. The large, elongated foyer accommodates a lot of closet space”, Katriina praises.

The plan of the apartment was not bad either. The hallway provides convenient access to the kitchen, the living room as well as the small room between the sleeping areas of Katriina and her five-year-old son, Onni.

The shelving unit bought from Joensuu’s recycling center is deep enough for books but still lightweight. On the shelf is a Sielulintu piece by friend Teemu Järvi as well as the designer’s own Pulu oil lamp.

Vintage, inherited items and, above all, Katriina’s own works visible here and there make up a home that looks like its inhabitant. Katriina specializes in lighting design, glass and ceramics.

“Glass enchanted me right away, but it was not until my Master’s degree studies that I felt that I had found a natural connection to and the right kind of expression for it.”

Katriina’s latest works include the Lyyli boxes, Perho mirrors as well as the Nuppu and Oma lighting fixtures. Her breakthrough piece from 2009 is probably the most famous. It is the beautiful, jewel-like Hely lamp.

“The Young Designer of the Year 2011 award I received right after graduation was the commendation that confirmed that I was on the right track.”

The Pulu vases on the dining table are Katriina’s own handiwork.

Katriina studied industrial art design at Aalto University in Helsinki. A few years ago, she returned to her hometown of Joensuu even though many people assumed that work would force her to live elsewhere. Katriina is happy with the solution. With a child, it is easy to live in a city with the grandparents and many other close relatives and friends.

“I wanted to give my son the same kind of happy, care-free childhood that I got to experience.”

“I wanted to give my son the same type of happy, care-free childhood that I got to experience.” Settling in the city was facilitated by the fact that Katriina had already managed to create networks as a designer, so it is possible to work a little further away from the Helsinki metropolitan area.

“Joensuu has a diverse range of artists. The university city is active and interesting – young people bring life to this place”, Katriina says.

The String shelving unit in the kitchen is from a second-hand shop. Its shelves were wrapped in the pages of newspapers from the 1960s, which Katriina framed and hung up in the bedroom.
Light is important to the designer. The service cart is from the flea market, and the pendant is Tom Dixon's Beat.

The mother and son moved to this apartment in March of 2016. The apartment had been renovated just before the move. The gray floor and walls fit the spirit of the house and Katriina’s style of interior decoration.

The gray floor and walls fit the spirit of the house and Katriina’s style of interior decoration.

The location is also excellent, as Katriina found an office and an exhibition space nearby. She is involved in the Woutila association that rented premises from a former commercial property and organizes art exhibitions and other cultural events.

“Although my home and workplace are situated close to each other, I try to leave my work at Woutila. In the profession of designer, ideas are of course brewing even after working hours, but I dedicate evenings as time for Onni and me”, Katriina says.

As its name suggests in Finnish, the Oma floor lamp is Katriina’s own production.
The bookcase was purchased from the flea market with ten euros when Katriina still lived in her childhood home.

In her work, Katriina attaches particular importance to consideration of the environment. Quality trumps quantity, and if quality turns out to be beautiful as well, design work has been very successful.

“In my opinion, the designer is responsible for what is produced to this world of abundance. I value products that are made close to the consumer.”

“In my opinion, the designer is responsible for what is produced to this world of abundance.”

This ecological view is also visible in the home. Katriina’s favorite place is in the living room where she often finds her way to the dining table with a teacup in hand. The Artek table and chairs are flea market finds made by Katriina’s mother. Katriina has painted them black.

Katriina was in need of a companion for the black dining table and a small surface for putting things down. The red and green wheel of the service cart found at a second-hand shop made her fall in love. On the left on the wall is a marker pen drawing of a tree by son Onni, and on the right a piece by a friend, photographer Anna Salmisalo.

New furniture is rarely bought for this home. The most beloved items are purchases from the flea market or second-hand shops. Katriina considers a teak-veneered cabinet her best find.

“A while ago, I happened to contemplate what makes an apartment a home. Through my profession, light is an important element for me. I also cherish objects that have been with me from one move to the next and have now returned to Joensuu.”

The most beloved items are purchases from the flea market or second-hand shops.

Katriina values inherited items, and the most important ones are the rug and shawl made by grandma. Katriina hopes that eco-friendly values are also reflected in the objects she designs.

“My products hold up in observation through a magnifying glass, and that is why they have strong values attached to them. People appreciate that kind of thinking”, Katriina ponders.

The premise produced results once again when she was selected to the Talents à la Carte exhibition for young talents at the Maison & Objet fair in Paris in January 2016 with five other designers. It was her most significant trade fair appearance to date.

“Many companies that had been following my career came to meet me in Paris, and we agreed on future cooperation”, Katriina rejoices.

Ecological choices in both decoration and design are important to Katriina.
The atmosphere in the bedroom exudes the 1950s. The linen sheets and gray wall create a soft ambience.

The future also includes other plans. However, they are only dreams as of yet. Katriina reveals one: it is drawing and building her own house. It would be a tiny, modern log house. Realizing this dream will have to wait, however, as right now she wants to concentrate on her career as a designer.

“My goal is to expand my range of materials and to design meaningful products that enhance people’s well-being from high-quality materials.”

Fortunately, the job is full of inspirational starting points. “Material innovations, a diverse and competent production team as well as bold, open-minded and, above all, skilled artisans“, she lists and looks out from the second-floor apartment.

The windows providing a view of a sheltered courtyard do not need curtains. Light, the lighting designer’s greatest inspiration, may enter freely.

View Katriina Nuutinen's designs here >

Text: Jonna Kivilahti Images: Krista Keltanen

The story was originally published in Avotakka.

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