Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi’s life, work and leisure come together in the Design Museum’s fascinating exhibition in Helsinki

The Antti + Vuokko Nurmesniemi is the first exhibition to focus on the Finnish designer couple’s life together and both of their careers from the 1950s up to the 21st century.

Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi
Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi in the Helsinki studio home in the 1980s. Image: Antti Nurmesniemi's archive.

THIS AUTUMN, the Design Museum’s main exhibition features works by one of Finland’s most renowned designer couples – first time ever in the same exhibition. Interior designer Antti Nurmesniemi (1927–2003) and textile artist Vuokko Nurmesniemi, née Eskolin (b. 1930) are both top names in the Finnish design history. They contributed to building equality and the Finnish welfare society in the post-war era, both together and independently.

Antti + Vuokko Nurmesniemi in Design Museum
The Design Museum's exhibition is open 28.10.2022–9.4.2023. Image: Paavo Lehtonen.
Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi
Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi, 1965. Image: Antti Nurmesniemi's archive.

Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi had an uncompromising attitude as advocates of good and sustainable design. Work and leisure, family and friends were all intertwined in their lifestyle. The Nurmesniemis were eager to network internationally, and they were included in setting the foundation for the international reputation of Finnish design.

Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi had an uncompromising attitude as advocates of good and sustainable design.

“During their international travels, their social life expanded and their working methods were often very much all-encompassing. Antti Nurmesniemi actively contributed to debate in society in topics of design, and his working style was very systematic, whereas Vuokko had a more intuitive and free-form approach. Their working methods also reflect their personalities,” concludes Design Museum’s Harry Kivilinna, one of the exhibition curators.

A red Pehtoori coffee pot
The Pehtoori coffee pot by Antti Nurmesniemi, 1957. Image: Mari Kallionpää.
A portrait of Antti Nurmesniemi
Antti Nurmesniemi in the 1950s. Image: Antti Nurmesniemi's archive.
Chair 004 by Antti Nurmesniemi.
The striped chair 004 by Antti Nurmesniemi, 1980. Image: PF-Studio.
Orange metro bench in Helsinki
The iconic Helsinki subway train bench, 1979. Image: Mari Kallionpää.

In the 1950s, design education was not strictly limited to a certain profession. Vuokko Nurmesniemi was trained in ceramics, but she pursued the profession of a textile artist. Antti Nurmesniemi took his degree in interior designer, but he ventured into industrial design and graphic design.

The couple’s collaborative projects were usually connected to exhibitions, such as Artek’s breakthrough exhibition in Helsinki in 1957 and the Triennale Milano of 1964.

The living room in the Nurmesniemi House
The Design Museum's exhibition also features original furniture from the studio home in Kulosaari, Helsinki. Image: Sameli Rantanen.
Nurmesniemi House
View from living room to dining area. Image: Sameli Rantanen.
Furniture and lamps by Antti Nurmesniemi
Furniture and lighting by Antti Nurmesniemi. Image: Paavo Lehtonen.

One of their most important and long-term projects was their atelier house, located in Helsinki’s Kulosaari district, and its interior design. The atelier house, designed by Antti Nurmesniemi, was completed in 1975. In their house, home and work, public and private became intertwined. The house does have separate facilities and entrances for the home and the design agency, but you can see into the downstairs agency from the window in the upstairs living room.

“The atelier house reflects Antti Nurmesniemi’s philosophy on the significance of interior design.”

“The atelier house reflects Antti Nurmesniemi’s philosophy on the significance of interior design. The structures of the house included some of the most modern technology at the time, and it oozed the futuristic house concept. The atelier house was a meeting place for their wide circle of friends and clients, and it became an important place for shooting the collections of Vuokko Oy, the textiles designed by Vuokko Nurmesniemi and the furniture designed by Antti Nurmesniemi. In addition to a place for work and a private home, the atelier house became a space for exhibiting Finnish design”, explains Susanna Aaltonen, a curator of the exhibition.

Along with the drawings, the exhibition also includes original furniture and textiles from the Kulosaari home.

Vuokko Nurmesniemi's Myllynkivi dress with the pattern called Pyörre from 1964. Image: Paavo Lehtonen.
Vuokko Nurmesniemi
Vuokko Nurmesniemi and a fabric called Kakemono, 1957. Image: Antti Nurmesniemi's archive.
Vuokko dresses
The exhibition features nearly a hundred Vuokko dresses. Image: Paavo Lehtonen.
Jokapoika shirt
The Jokapoika shirt is in Marimekko's collection, it is decorated with the iconic Piccolo pattern. Image: Paavo Lehtonen.
Vuokko Nurmesniemi
Vuokko Nurmesniemi in 2015. Image: Juliana Harkki.

The Nurmesniemis had extremely productive careers. Antti Nurmesniemi completed hundreds of interior designs and the exhibition showcases nearly one hundred dresses by Vuokko Nurmesniemi.

The Design Museum's exhibition features furniture, lighting, fabrics, clothes and ceramics – and included is also the famous orange bench from the Helsinki metro, which Antti Nurmesniemi designed together with Börje Rajalin.

The exhibition also sheds light on the working processes of them both, Antti Nurmesniemi’s contributions as a thinker and an influencer in society in addition to his design work, and showcases Vuokko’s creativity through the design process of the Pyörre print and the pieces of clothing that followed.

The colorful and inspiring exhibition is emphasized by designer Linda Bergroth's insightful exhibition architecture, which elevates the objects to the spotlight.

Antti + Vuokko Nurmesniemi, 28.10.2022–9.4.2023, Design Museum, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, Helsinki, Finland.

See also:

Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi's designs at Finnish Design Shop >

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