The Lunchtime Tourist

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July 7, 2003 // UPDATED 10:57 am - April 30, 2007
By: Linda S. Koutsky
Linda S. Koutsky

FinnStyle

115 Washington Ave. N.

Do well-designed products really influence the quality of our lives? Have you ever noticed how using a nice expensive pen actually improves your handwriting? The answer is, at least to design aficionados, "yes!"

Ben Horn, the owner of FinnStyle, was a foreign exchange student in Finland and became enamored with the simplicity, elegance and use of natural materials in Scandinavian product design. Upon returning to Minnesota he launched a web site to make Finnish products more available in the United States.

After several successful online years, Horn opened FinnStyle's showroom last December. The exposed brick walls and high ceilings make the storefront look like a gallery filled with furniture, lighting, cooking utensils, gifts and what's considered to be America's largest display of iittala glass.

FinnStyle carries products from many established and up-and-coming designers:

iittala

This internationally known company is more than 100 years old. While they continuously design new products, some of their best-sellers pieces date from the 1930s. In Finland, you can visit their museum of glass. Here, look for the colorful birds by Oiva Toikka, one of Finland's most revered glass artists.

Marimekko

The bold and colorful designs of Marimekko are instantly recognizable. Established in 1951, the company rose to international prominence in the late 1960s with their brightly colored floral patterns and abstract designs.

Today they have 25 retail stores in Finland and more than 700 stores around the world carry their products. Goldstein Museum of Design at the University of Minnesota (244 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave., St. Paul) has a significant collection of Marimekko pieces.

Artek

Finland's acclaimed architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) founded Artek with his wife (also an architect) in 1935 in order to manufacture high-quality products with natural materials. Aalto is known for his revolutionary technique for bending and laminating birch on his bent wood furniture.

His curvy Savoy vase remains one of Finland's top exports (pictured).

FinnStyle is the only shop in the United States dedicated exclusively to Finnish design. While in the store, be sure to check out the mini flat screen DVD running documentaries on design and glassblowing. For more information on the store and their gift registry, visit www.finnstyle.com.

LUNCH TIP: Pop into Runyon's next door for their famous spicy chicken wings.

Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.