The seating bench inside a sauna is lit up by sunlight.

IKEA and Marimekko drawing on Nordic traditions to inspire a sauna moment

What brings two iconic Nordic brands together, and what will they, in turn, bring to the many? We asked Rebekka at Marimekko, and Henrik at IKEA, and found the answers somewhere between Nordic design heritage, creating a better everyday, and a Finnish sauna.

Nordic design is often appreciated for being practical and simple, with materials that call to mind the nature covering much of the region’s sparsely populated lands. But there’s also joy and playfulness in the Nordic design tradition. Not least where Finnish design house Marimekko is concerned.

Known for bold original prints and colours, Marimekko designs have made everything from runway shows and streetwear to pops of colour in the home. For an upcoming collection, Marimekko and IKEA join forces to create objects that inspire moments of joy and relaxation in everyday life.

“Marimekko and IKEA have always been concerned with bringing beauty and design to accessible objects – and addressing people’s wellbeing through them”, says Rebekka Bay, Creative Director at Marimekko. “With this collaboration, we’re doing exactly that.”

Where IKEA brings a diverse portfolio and home furnishing expertise, Marimekko brings a deep knowledge in the art of printmaking dating back to its foundation in 1951. Knowledge used to develop brand new, unique prints seen for the first time in this collection.

“In design, I always try to strive for this balance of two known and one unknown. Here, the two known are the brands, and the unknown would be the new prints”, says Rebekka.

A woman sitting on a chair in the middle of a room
Rebekka Bay, Creative Director at Marimekko.

In design, I always try to strive for this balance of two known and one unknown.

Drawing from a common heritage

There’s a very clear architectural, timeless quality to Marimekko’s designs.

A portrait of a man in a black shirt and jacket.
Henrik Most, Range & Design Leader at IKEA.
Though only Finnish sauna culture enjoys UNESCO Cultural Heritage status, sauna and winter bathing – often, but not always, in combination – have been on the rise across the Nordic countries in recent years.  
“People have become more aware of how they live their lives, more conscious of their health and wellbeing”, Henrik says about the trend. “We were inspired by Finnish sauna culture for the collection, but it won’t require a sauna or snow to be enjoyed”.

Bringing sauna culture to everyday objects

Having been immersed in sauna culture more in recent years with more time spent in Finland, Rebekka believes there’s a lot in it to be inspired by beyond the act itself. 
“Sauna culture is not just about the actual sauna. It’s about a timeout for reflection and wellbeing”, she says. “When we started mapping out the sauna experience, it became evident that the rituals around it are as important as the experience itself. If sauna is seeking solitude and meditation, then the before and after is absolutely something more collaborative and more of a celebration.”
Speaking of solitude, meditation, and wellbeing might paint a picture of something minimal and austere. And having found that aesthetic in various bath cultures around the world, the collection started out in a more serious direction.
“But where you start is often not where you finish in the design process”, Rebekka says. “What is beautiful about this collaboration – and I think this is very much due to Henrik – is that we haven’t been scared of changing directions. It’s allowed for the collection to evolve from something that feels more serious, or more considered, to something that will feel more playful, joyful, and inclusive.”
The collection will feature new, unique prints from Marimekko. Can you tell us more about them?
“They’re sort of abstract translations of some of the elements in and around the sauna. But for print to be relevant in everyday life, you need to offset it with calm, so in the collection you’ll see that as well.”
What do you hope for the collection to inspire?
“I really hope it all inspires people to set up that “sauna moment” even if you don’t have access to a sauna. To stop for a minute and sit back for a timeout to reflect and take care of yourself, your friends, or your family”, says Rebekka.
The collaboration between IKEA and Marimekko will be in stores in March 2023.