How sauna takes shape in IKEA and Marimekko's BASTUA
Towels, cushions, tables and more tell tales of the sauna lifestyle in BASTUA, an IKEA and Marimekko collaboration meant to inspire quiet moments in the everyday. Be it in form or function, the relaxing Nordic pastime is woven in throughout the collection. We spoke to designers Sami Ruotsalainen at Marimekko and Mikael Axelsson at IKEA to learn just how.
A rustic sauna cabin nestled in the Finnish countryside was once the site of joyful childhood memories for Marimekko designer Sami Ruotsalainen. It belonged to his grandparents, and the memory of it sits steady at the heart of Sami’s connection to sauna culture until this day.
“Sauna has a very strong meaning in my family”, says Sami, further noting that every family tends to have access to a sauna in Finland, whether private or public. “It’s a place to relax and enjoy in. When you’re in the sauna, you’re all there in the same way, all equal. With family or friends, or people you don’t even know”.
That bare, relaxing feeling is what Sami and the rest of the team at IKEA and Marimekko hope to encourage with BASTUA, a collection of everyday objects designed with sauna in mind.
I’ve always loved the feeling of wood when it’s cut with an axe – the shape of it.
For Sami, the sauna that naturally came to mind was the one his grandparents once had. And, more specifically, the organic feel of the soft, curved cuts of the carved grey log walls in it.
“I’ve always loved the feeling of wood when it’s cut with an axe – the shape of it. It’s not machine-made solid wood, but hand carved, and it creates this really beautiful rhythm”, Sami shares. “I wanted to create the same feeling for BASTUA”.
A long-time specialist in ceramics and glassware at Marimekko, Sami then embarked on his first-ever pattern making adventure in the collaboration with IKEA.
“When I started to sketch the pattern, it started to remind me of mountain and lake landscapes as well”, Sami recounts. “But when I started to draw it, it didn’t feel natural”.
To recreate the feeling of carved wood, Sami instead took to cutting all the simple shapes of the pattern from one piece of paper by hand.
“It’s subtle and based mostly on the rhythm I felt in my fingers when I touched the wood”, Sami explains. “It’s not too rough, just this minimalistic feeling. And when you add the colours, it really comes to life.”
Light blue and orange for a summer sunset feeling. Light blue and green, for the lakes and greenery of a forest. Like small pieces of the landscape that you can see from the window of a Finnish lake sauna.
“It’s not just about the physical space, but the overall wellbeing and joy you feel from sauna. It would be lovely to share it with others through this collection.”
The nature of an IKEA and Marimekko collaborationImagine a traditional wood-fired sauna in the stillness of Finnish nature on a bright summer evening. It’s surrounded by lush greenery, perhaps most notably a bunch of big, green rhubarb leaves spreading wide from edible pink stems. Some chopped wood sits on the porch of the quaint little building, while inside, steam rises from hot stones freshly poured over with water, filling the wood-decked room. Look out through the window, and you might still catch the ripples from a cooling dip slowly spreading across the lake nearby.
It's a scene drawn heavily on in BASTUA, with much of the soothing imagery captured in the collection by design. There are the eye-catching prints, of course, like Sami’s organic wood shapes, or Marimekko designer Maija Louekari’s majestic rhubarb printed on the BASTUA shower curtain, among other things.
But the elements of sauna are also found in more subtle forms in BASTUA.
“With everything we learned from Marimekko about sauna culture, we wanted the collection to give a sense of being close to nature the way traditional saunas are, even if you don’t have one”, IKEA designer Mikael Axelsson explains. “So, we looked at different ways to bring that nature into the collection”.
He notes a clear example, which he further credits the close collaboration between Marimekko pattern designers and IKEA product designers for.
“Sami’s pattern brought the feeling of chopped wood to print, which is really what inspired the carved shapes in the birch frame of the mirror and the rack, as well as the glassware”.
Bringing sauna and its surroundings to life at home with BASTUA
Mikael himself worked closely with the wood products of the collection, keeping them bare and natural in colour while playing with form and function.
“To decide on the products for BASTUA, we mapped out the activities before, during, and after sauna”, Mikael explains, noting that all the products in the collection serve a purpose to that end.
“The before and during is a lot about having the right environment and things for sauna, like the rack for hanging things, the robe and towels for use. The after is more about relaxation, eating snacks, having drinks”.
We looked at different ways to bring that nature into the collection.
Among the after-sauna items: a scented candle – with rhubarb notes, of course – a rice paper lantern for cosy lighting, and a simple, small side table. The latter was designed by Mikael with a high edge to keep things in place and hold the BASTUA print trays on top – perfect for snacks and drinks.
But the birch veneer table is also a nod to what IKEA and Marimekko have shared long before BASTUA.
“Nordic furniture design has always been characterised by clean lines and simple constructions that focus on function. The BASTUA side table is my take on this heritage”, says Mikael.
The BASTUA collection by IKEA and Marimekko will be launched in IKEA stores in March 2023.