Timo Mikkonen and Antti Rouhunkoski design timelessly, but with time. The work of design studio Poiat combines minimalism with rich materials.
How did Poiat come into being?
Timo Mikkonen: “We met in 2002 at the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Already during the first year of study, through acquaintances, we had the opportunity to design the Gallery clothing store and the Johto café with its chairs for the Kamppi shopping center. Quite crazy in retrospect, but it went well. Later, Antti was an entrepreneur and I worked for different designers. Then the idea arose that it would be nice to do things together.
During Helsinki’s year as the World Design Capital in 2012, we introduced the prototypes of the Lavitta collection. The international press took notice of them, and retailers started asking for our furniture. Through that, we were asked to design for the Danish brand Woud. As the sum of many coincidences, Poiat has grown into a company with other people involved as well.”
What kinds of spaces do you design?
Timo: “We want to do things with piety, and in residential projects, it is possible to focus on quality and details. Multi-space offices are not our thing – if we design offices, they are also home-like. We just cannot do hasty large projects that lack character. With regard to stores, Turo and Johanna Gullichsen, for example, have been customers who share our values.”
Antti Rouhunkoski: “We boldly tell customers that we will listen to them, but our customer orientation does not mean that we will implement all wishes. The final style solution is ours, but fits the customer’s lifestyle. Just like in a top restaurant, the element of surprise and richness in experience are important.”
What are Poiat’s values?
Timo: “We want to make lasting solutions and things that leave a mark. The material and quality must be such that the era in which it was made is not necessarily noticeable. We are not in a rush. Even the name of the company comes from the commitment of working like, some day, this business will have a successor.”
Antti: “If a small company wants to do things with piety, development work takes time. The companies doing things differently and slowly always thrive in the design world. I believe that there is still a place for this as a counterforce to excessive efficiency and need for renewal.”
“We want to make lasting solutions and things that leave a mark.”
How does one recognize your handiwork?
Timo: “We want to create spaces with character and where it is nice to be. Coziness comes from the basics.”
Antti: “Minimalism is often associated with bleak white surfaces, but minimalism in architecture is based on the basic rules of architectural modellings. Richness comes from genuine materials that feel like something.”
What do you do together, what separately?
Timo: “We have aimed to do the draft phase together, and then one of us leads the project. The more eyes and thoughts there are at the start, the better. It is great that there are now others involved, too. Perhaps difference has united us as designers: it is fun to work with a partner who supplements your own shortcomings.”
Antti: “Timo is incredibly good at sketching in 3D, which is not my strong suit. I often bring more ideas and material, and Timo drives the idea forward by drawing. The intention is that, going forward, Timo will have greater responsibility for products and I will continue developing the space side of things.”
What are you currently working on?
Timo: “We are making furniture also for others, something we have not done in a long time, this time for an American company. In fall 2018, we launched the new Bastone collection together with master carpenter Antrei Hartikainen, and we have been developing metal furniture and mirrors in the spirit of Poiat.
Products by Poiat
• Interior architects Timo Mikkonen and Antti Rouhunkoski established the Poiat studio in 2012. They design both spaces and furniture.
• The furniture production has since been separated into its own company, Poiat Products. Its CEO is Timo’s spouse Jenni Mikkonen.
• The Lavitta product family made the studio known and has been an international success. For example, the Karolinska University Hospital recently ordered 350 chairs.
Text: Taina Ahtela Photos: Poiat
The interview was published originally in Avotakka magazine's issue 4/18.