Column: Home with a collection of stories

The memories related to objects convert the most ordinary items into treasures. “Most of the items in my home have a value that cannot be measured in any currency,” says Design Stories columnist Hanna-Katariina Mononen.

Ceramic bowl by Gunnar Nylynd
A ceramic bowl, designed by Gunnar Nylynd in the 1960s, brings joy to Hanna-Katariina Mononen’s everyday life.

FIVE YEARS AGO, I stayed in Copenhagen in a loft apartment, which was so Danish in all its simple beauty that I found it difficult to leave it during my stay. I preferred to pretend to be able to play the grand piano, to sip coffee on the roof terrace and slide from one room to the next, imagining spending the rest of my life there.

During my stay, there were a few details which hinted – and eventually I asked the landlord – that the apartment used to be the home of designer Niels Jørgen Haugesen. A few years later, we bought six Haugesen chairs at an auction. These were the same chair design that were everywhere in the Danish apartment – even in the bathroom, getting rusty. I’m not sure which I enjoy more: the chairs or the memory connected to them.

Our living room features a 1970s sofa, which was probably the project of a DIY carpenter. It took us three hours by car along winding roads through fields during bleakest November to reach it. The owner of an old villa on a wooded plot said the sofa was the best place to have a nap as a child. I’m not good at napping at all, but I’ve received reports that the sofa performs that function immaculately.

The chair was not in particularly good condition, but it received a home that appreciated its rugged patina, and I’ve had it ever since.

A Domus chair by Ilmari Tapiovaara was the first item I ever bought at an auction: I can still remember vividly the endorphin-laden fervor and excitement when I raised my hand to make a bid. The chair was not in particularly good condition, but it received a home that appreciated its rugged patina, and I’ve had it ever since. The chair became such an inseparable part of all my homes that I’ve long since stopped thinking about it as part of any esthetic entity. It just is.

From my latest trip abroad, I carefully brought home in my hand luggage a small ceramic bowl designed by Gunnar Nylund for Rörstrand in the 1960s. I use it as a salt container, picking salt flakes from it daily for my food, thanking myself that despite my hesitation, I decided to buy it (my hand luggage was already rather bulky).

The stories filling my home may not compare with those of the Grimm brothers, but they are all the more significant to me. Thanks to the stories, the importance of these items is much greater in my life. When we have been dreaming about an item, saved up to buy it, traveled a long way to get it, learned what a journey it has taken to reach us, and finally brought it gently home, we can appreciate it fully.

When we know an item’s past, we also want to make sure it has a good future. It’s the only way the story will go on.

Hanna-Katariina Mononen

The author, Hanna-Katariina Mononen, reflects on the issues of a beautiful and sustainable life in her monthly column for Design Stories. She thinks that just like in life, in the home, the most beautiful parts are unplanned – and often relatively ordinary as well.

Text and image: Hanna-Katariina Mononen

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