It’s a long way from home, but Helsinki has a particular allure for design lovers. Some of the most classic of brands hail from this northern European outpost – Artek, Marimekko, Iittala. And a visit offers the opportunity to see designs from greats such as Alvar Aalto, Tapio Wirkkala and Maija Isola in their natural habitat.
When you do go, put Klaus K hotel on your hit list. It’s located centrally; just a few minutes walk from the design district. As in all Design Hotels, the rooms are quality and a little bit quirky. Including themed rooms – an art suite featuring a mural by Finnish cartoonist Katja Tukiainen, a movie room (cleverly turning the absence of windows into an asset), an urban nature room and a tiny Mini-themed room.
The overall design is based on interior design agency Stylt Trampoli’s interpretation of the Kalevala, a 19th Century work of poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot. Visual themes and symbols from the epic are seen through the hotel, from a bird’s nest light above the reception desk to an all-seeing eye artwork along the staircase.
The newest feature of the hotel, however, is the Livingroom. It came about through a unique competition dreamt up by general manager and owner Marc Skvorc. The open Facebook competition, which was part of the Helsinki World Design Capital 2013 official program, invited anyone to ‘be a designer for a day’ and re-think Klaus K’s lobby and bar areas.
The winning concept by Jukka Juhola treated the public spaces as an extension of the home, a comfortable Livingroom for either relaxing or working. After being selected, the concept was then developed in conjunction with Swedish interior design agency Stylt Trampoli, who did the original hotel design in 2005.
It works. It’s cosy (a must in the Nordic Finnish climate), with various seating arrangements catering for groups or single travellers and a pleasant, warm balance of antique and modern styling. The bar area –unlike your typical hotel bar – has become a destination for savvy locals who meet there for cocktails, to play pool, or try the bar menu.
Whether you stay there or just visit, Klaus K is a definite to-do in Helsinki.
Klaus K is a member of Design Hotels
Nicky Lobo travelled to Helsinki courtesy of Finnair and Unique Tourism Collection