The furniture company creates beautifully simple designs using Finnish pine and works with local craftspeople and factories in Finland
Photography courtesy of Vaarnii featuring the Kolmio Dining Table and Bench
Words by Joe Lloyd
Finland is Europe’s most forested country. And the forest plays a huge role in the Finnish imagination. Farmers used to pray to Tapio and Mielikki, god and goddess of the woods. Riddling goblins lived in the undergrowth, and sacred bear spirits roamed the wooded wilderness.
Many of the region’s characteristic objects and buildings — skies, saunas, its timber churches and log houses — make use of the abundance of wood. Wood has placed an outsize role in the country’s furniture design heritage. Today, over three-quarters of the country’s land area is covered by forest. And it’s getting bigger, with the rate of growth exceeding that of felling.
One young Finnish studio seeks to the most of this incredible natural resource. Vaarnii was launched in 2021 by Antti Hirvonen and Miklu Silvanto. ‘Our purpose,’ says the brand, ‘is to make striking yet simple objects that will endure for generations, and in doing so begin a new era of furniture-making.’
Photography courtesy of Vaarnii featuring the Dining Table Round and Chairs
Vaarnii aspires to take furniture-making back to essentials: simple objects created from natural materials, made to serve people’s needs rather than as assorts to their life. The name Vaarnii is a fusion of vaarna, the Finnish word for dowel, and saarni, the Finnish word for ash tree. It thus combines the natural with the manmade, the material with the functionality.
Each of Vaarnii’s collections begins with a single natural material, chosen for its Finnishness and plentiful availability. The brand uses wood from sustainably managed wild forests. The first collection, launched during London Design Festival 2021, used Scots pine, the coniferous tree that comprises around half of Finland’s forests.
It features pieces by a range of celebrated international practitioners, but all the designs were produced by Finnish workshops and manufacturers. There is a deep-seated lounge chair by Max Lamb, a sturdy bench by Kwangho Lee, an elemental coffee table by Soft Baroque and circular trays by Livia Lauber.
Photography courtesy of Vaarnii featuring the Alter Mirror
Denmark’s Fredrik Paulsen, himself a devotee to pine, has produced the brand’s first dining chair. More recently, Vaarnii has begun producing the mid-century Swedish designer Hans-Agne Jakobsson’s Hans pendant lamps in pine veneer, adding an organic warmth to a classic design.
Despite their varied creators, Vaarnii’s items bear the unmistakable hallmark of Finnish design, combining the minimalism of its Scandinavian neighbours with a softness and smoothness, taking off the edge. They also showcase pine’s distinctive, often exuberant grain.
Vaarnii’s use of pine represents a quiet upheaval in the sort of wood that is used in design furniture. Pine has often been neglected because of its softness, regarded as a low-quality wood not suitable for durable items. Much of it becomes paper pulp or cellulose.
Photography courtesy of Vaarnii featuring the Osa Outdoor Series
The wild pine used by Vaarnii is denser and harder than its cultivated brethren. ‘Pine,’ Vaarnii says, ‘is substantial, characterful, full of natural pattern and colour and, if grown correctly, it is strong… There is a primitiveness, a raw beauty, a reassuring strength, generosity of scale and warmth to this architecture and object culture that we want to return to and celebrate again.’
Vaarnii has started this celebration in fine style.
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