Back to School – FIN 270 Modern and Contemporary Finnish Architecture and Design at the University of Toronto 


I love to learn. While I may have left formal post-secondary education more than two decades ago, I have continued to be a lifelong learner both formally and informally. The University of Toronto’s Finnish Studies elective courses have always been on my learning wish list since both my parents emigrated from Finland to Canada as well as most of my family were born and continue to live in Finland. When I read about the Finnish Studies and the Embassy of Finland to Canada’s brand new course in Modern and Contemporary Finnish Architecture and Design, I knew I had to enroll. I grew up surrounded by Finnish design and on a construction site too. I believe both inspired my love of architecture, design and photography. I work professionally full time, I decided to audit the course by creatively using three vacation days to attend this class to learn more. My first class completed and I am very excited about the lectures and guest speakers including a few who will travel from Finland for this course that celebrates Finland’s 100th anniversary of Independence. Finland is a young nation but it has made an amazing impact through its architecture and design in both Finland and around the world. Look forward to all my learnings and sharing my insights in the weeks ahead. Join me on the journey. Tervetuloa.

FIN 270 Modern and Contemporary Finnish Architecture and Design at the University of Toronto 

I love everything Finnish and I love to always be learning. This autumn I am creatively using three vacation days and heading back to school. The University of Toronto Finnish Studies Program in partnership with the Embassy of Finland to Canada are introducing a brand new course – FIN 270 Modern and Contemporary Finnish Architecture and Design to celebrate Finland’s 100th year of Independence. Finnish Architecture and Design is well known throughout the world and is forefront in Finland’s identity. The course will welcome guest lecturers from Finland which is very exciting. Since I don’t need an undergraduate credit, I decided to audit the course which means all the joys of learning without the stresses of studying, assignments and exams. If you love design and architecture or everything Finnish, definitely consider joining this course or one of the other courses offered by the Finnish Studies program. I am very excited to learn more about Finnish Architecture and Design and hope to share some of my findings and insights along the way. 

Discovering Finnish Design in Toronto and Beyond 

I have always loved Finnish design and have been surrounded by its beauty my entire life since my family originates from the lovely country of Finland. I love how much of the inspiration ties back to the lakes, nature, Finnish folklore, the Kalevala and nordic simplicity. Finnish design is truly timeless design.

Since I was a child, The Finnish Place has been my resource in Toronto for all things Finnish. First located on Yonge Street in the heart of downtown North York and now a bit farther north at Yonge and John Street in the lovely community of Thornhill. They have a great selection of items made by Aarikka, Arabia, iittala, Kalevala Koru and Marimekko as well as other Finnish brands.

I have always loved the vase designed by the famous Finnish Architect Alvar Altao. It reminds me of the Finnish lakes and the Finns love their time spent by the lake at their mökki – the Finnish term for summer house and definitely not to be confused with a Muskoka summer house. I own two smaller versions of this vase but definitely hope to add a larger one to my collection in the near future. 

Happy to discover on my recent visit that one of my favourite pieces – Kastehelmi tealight candle holders – have returned to Canada and are available again at The Finnish Place. I love lighting these on dark winter evenings as my own form of hygge.

The beautiful Marimekko prints always bring happiness. I own a few of the prints as pillow covers and also have used fabric stapled to a board to create a colourful kitchen print. The Finnish Place has an extensive selection of fabric as well as clothing and accessories in these fun and colourful prints.

You don’t need to be Finnish to add some beautiful Finnish design elements to your home and luckily you don’t need a voyage to the land of the midnight sun either. Always visit The Finnish Place website to make sure they aren’t travelling back home to Finland for new items for the store. If you are not in the Toronto area or may prefer to shop online, these are two websites that specialize in Finnish brands  – Finnish Design Shop and FinnStyle. However to really experience Finnish design, definitely plan a holiday to Finland and immerse yourself from the moment you step off the plane. 

This year Finland celebrates 100 years of independence and design has been in the forefront of its identity since 1917. May this be the year you are inspired to explore, discover and hopefully fall in love with Finnish design. 

The Helsinki Scarf by Balmuir 

There is a hint of autumn in the air today which has me reaching for one of my favourite pieces. The Helsinki Scarf by Balmuir is quite simply the best scarf and shawl ever. I found this brand completely by chance strolling through the accessories section at Stockmann Department Store when in Helsinki a few years ago. As soon as I discovered it, I had to have one to bring back home to Canada. While a bit of a splurge, when you live in a climate with four seasons a cashmere item is a must have. I use mine all the time in winter and a bit in the other seasons too. Worth absolutely every euro I paid for it. I bought mine in a blue shade called midnight as blue always reminds me of Finland. I look forward to investing in a black one when I return to Finland again and hopefully one day they will have my perfect shade of pink too. If you find yourself in Helsinki, definitely drop by Balmuir’s brand new store in Downtown Helsinki at Pohjoisesplanadi 25-27 or visit Stockmann’s to discover this beautiful Finnish brand yourself. A beautiful present for you or someone special to you. 

A spring table in bloom 

I love all things Finnish. My entire life I have been surrounded by Finnish design at home including many beautiful iittala pieces. I absolutely adore every one of these timeless beauties. This year, iittala is re-thinking the table setting and asking their Instagram followers to share their table reset. Sunny spring days will be in bloom soon so I created this spring table setting with a few of my iittala, Arabia and Marimekko treasured pieces. A fresh take on my spring table.  

My love of hygge 

Tonight we spring forward which always makes me happy. While this winter was bearable by Canadian standards, the dark days are always a challenge for me and I definitely tend to favour cocooning at home over the winter months. 

Long before hygge became the popular lifestyle trend it is today, I learned about the concept after seeing Sharmi Albrechtsen on House Hunters International when she embarked on a move from the USA to Denmark. Sharmi was also featured on the Oprah Life Class on Gratitude that I attended in Toronto. Sharmi’s introduction to happiness and the Danish way of life definitely intrigued me to learn more. 

Hygge – pronounced ‘hoo-guh’ – is the art of creating intimacy, fellowship and coziness in the smallest everyday moments. With my Finnish roots, hygge and this way of living appealed to me. I essentially fell in love with this Danish way of life which seemed like a perfect fit for the cold and dark winter months in Canada. In the spring of 2015, I travelled to Finland to see my family and loved being surrounded by their simplistic way of life. This is something I am definitely trying to incorporate back home in Canada. I purchased these beautiful iittala candle holders to help me perfectly capture the coziness of hygge at home. Every time I light them, they are a perfect reminder to savour what is important in life – time with family and friends, to take time to just be and to enjoy the simple joys of living.