Mari Relander’s holiday gift tips: “The key to selecting good gifts is listening and understanding”

Mari Relander, an interior architect and partner in the award-winning design studio KOKO3, is enthusiastic about plants and art. Read about how Mari is doing now that the year is nearing the end and get tips for gifts with character from Finnish Design Shop’s selection!

Interior architect Mari Relander of KOKO3
Mari Relander and KOKO3 have designed interiors for Solo Sokos Hotel Helsinki, Finnair Premium Lounges, and the restaurants Yes Yes Yes and Madonna, among others. One of the latest projects is a restaurant that will open at Hakaniemi Market Hall in the spring 2023.

Hi, Mari! What have you been up to lately?
“I’m doing great, thanks for asking! We’ve been designing interiors for many new sites, which means that in addition to being an inspiring time, the fall has been a super busy time for us. As a child of summer, I’m not the biggest fan of the holidays, but what I do like, very much, is all the parties held before the holidays. I just love fun and overwhelmingly joyous parties. One of the must-have things at the end of the year is, of course, KOKO3’s office party, where the Secret Santa tradition has been taken to a whole new level. The self-made surprise gifts worth a few euros are just so imaginative and crazy. Last year, someone had made a pair of Nike sneakers out of gingerbread dough.

December evenings are also spent with friends, having a great time – and both light and deep conversations. However, for such a plant enthusiast as I, the dark end of the year can also be a bit distressing. I’m desperately trying to fix the situation by using various plant lights at home. I feel better when my plants are doing well.”

What traditions do you or your family have for end-of-year celebrations?
“I’ve often spent the holidays with my relatives in Tallinn, which, as a medieval city, is of course perfect for that purpose. Unlike us Finns, Estonians don’t have the habit of eating ham during the holidays, and one of the more memorable trips to Tallinn for the holidays was the one when I traveled there with a ham in my backpack. Cooking the ham just didn’t go quite as planned when it turned out that the appliance my brother had taken for an oven was in fact a microwave! Luckily, my other brother also had a real oven and we were able to cook the ham on time.

“My goal has been to do as little as possible during the holidays, and I’ve really succeeded in that!”

In recent years, I’ve been spending the holidays at my mother-in-law’s in Turku, which is also a city full of cozy festive atmosphere. My goal has been to do as little as possible during the holidays, and I think I’ve really succeeded in that!”

What is the best Christmas gift you have received or given?
“Coming up with gift ideas is not only creative but also great fun. Unfortunately, my husband Janne keeps beating me in this game 6–0. He’s almost annoyingly good at selecting presents, so I’ve been pampered with really fun and insightful gifts over the years. The key to selecting good gifts is listening and understanding. The gifts, in a way, reflect who you are. Or, at least I’ve felt this way about many gifts, whether it’s been a carefully selected watering can or a Snoop Dogg fan shirt.

Our home wouldn’t be a real home without all the wonderful works of art we have. Last year, my husband and I decided that in the future, the only gift we’ll get for the holidays is a jointly selected piece of art. The first of them was Anssi Kasitonni’s piece featuring characters from our childhood, Alf and Garfield – or ‘Alien’ and ‘Predator’, as Anssi puts it – going head-to-head.”

Mari Relander’s gift picks:

The Wrong Shop Mandrill poster, 68 x 50 cm

Mandrill poster by The Wrong Shop

“I’m sure that everyone has a friend who abhors empty walls, thinking about what on earth to hang on them. For that person, as well as the teen in the family or someone who’s just moved to a new home or is looking for some color in their life, I warmly recommend The Wrong Shop’s high-quality posters. This poster boutique collaborates with the creme de la creme of designers, and the man who has made it all happen is no other than Sebastian Wrong, whom I’m a big fan of.”

Mandrill poster by The Wrong Shop >
All posters >

Flos Bellhop table lamp, brick red

Bellhop table lamp by Flos

“I had a debate with my friends Tiia and Veikka about the usefulness of rechargeable table lamps. I really like these, since small rechargeable lamps help create the architecture of light even when there’s no mains power available. I can see this Bellhop lamp being very useful in garden parties in the fall and get-togethers in the winter when you’re having a good time on the balcony with friends.”

Bellhop table lamp by Flos >
All portable lamps >

Pidät Bird Silo feeder

Bird Silo feeder by Pidät

“I love everything about this bird feeder. It’s a great choice for parents, grandparents, friends, holiday-home neighbors – and for the common yard if you happen to live in a housing company. This is a high-quality Finnish design and all in all a perfect gift for anyone who enjoys watching small birds on a daily basis.”

Bird Silo feeder by Pidät >
All patio & garden >

Vaarnii 010 Circle Cut-out wall hook, pine

Circle wall hooks by Vaarnii

“I have a strong feeling about Vaarnii being the next big thing in Finnish design. To us Finns, Vaarnii’s products feel familiar – almost like something our grandpa could’ve carved – yet the details, proportions, and courage to keep it simple raise them to a whole new level. The best things are often the ones that seem strange at first. These pine hooks are suitable for any space, and we all own things that need to be hung on something from time to time.”

010 Circle Cut-out wall hook by Vaarnii >
All wall hooks >

Örsjö Plissé White Edition table lamp

Plissé White Edition table lamp by Örsjö

“Can I tell you a secret? It takes about ten different sources of light to create balanced lighting in a room. And since this Plissé lamp, which looks like a pleated skirt, has an energy-efficient bulb, I can recommend it with a clear conscience. This lovely pleating created by the design duo Folkform looks both timeless and modern. This new lamp by Örsjö, which manufactures high-quality luminaires, has all it takes to become a classic.”

Plissé White Edition table lamp by Örsjö >
All table lamps >

Antrei Hartikainen Kukkii Fungi sculpture, medium

Kukkii Fungi sculpture by Antrei Hartikainen

“In my opinion, in addition to being a master carpenter and an award-winning designer, Antrei Hartikainen is a poet – a poet of wood. I still remember the moment when I first came across these absolutely fabulous wooden flowers at an exhibition. This would make an amazing gift for a person who’s into skillfully crafted items, art and plants.”

Kukkii Fungi sculpture by Antrei Hartikainen >
All art objects >

&Tradition Collect SC70 planter, 15 x 18 cm, ochre

Collect planter by &Tradition

“I dare say that I know a lot about pots – perhaps even too much. This is a pot that I can heartily recommend, as I’ve really put it to the test at home. In my house, the pot contains a red, double-flowered China rose that my mother-in-law has given me. So, this is a great gift idea for all plant enthusiasts. This taller version has enough room for creating a sufficiently deep drain using expanded clay pebbles. The Collect collection includes various sizes from small to delightfully large.”

Collect SC70 planter by &Tradition >
All indoor gardening >

Mari’s TOP3 this Christmas:

  • ROE – “At the holiday meal, I always remember just how much I love roe – and wonder why I don’t buy or eat it more often.”
  • WHITE LILIES – “When it comes to festive flowers, nothing beats white lilies. Even though I love plants of all shapes and sizes, I cannot stand the festive flower arrangements sold at supermarkets that are adorned with red bows and plastic elves and mushrooms. Those I don’t need or want.”
  • EVENING WALK IN THE CEMETERY – “Having lost my father, I’m moved by the mere thought of hundreds of candles twinkling in the cemetery on Christmas night, each a sign of longing.”

See also:

More gift ideas at Finnish Design Shop >

Text: Sarianna Määttänen Images: Manufacturers

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