A bathrobe and towels hanging on a wooden wall in a sauna light sauna environment.

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.

A man with round glasses in a white shirt standing in front of stacked firewood.
Sami Ruotsalainen, designer at Marimekko.

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.

A hand over a sketch of a green and white pattern taped on a piece of paper.

“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 interior of a sauna with two towels lying on the benches.
The colourful Marimekko print for BASTUA inspired by wood carvings covers cushions and towels, among other things.

The nature of an IKEA and Marimekko collaboration

Imagine 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.
An outdoor kitchen top with trays with rhubarb leaf prints, a bag, a glass pitcher, a lemon and rhubarbs.
Original prints and patterns from Marimekko grace items like trays, towels, and bags in the BASTUA collaboration with IKEA. 
A mirror with a wooden frame hanging on a wall covered with wooden slats.
The birch frame of the BASTUA mirror, designed by Mikael Axelsson, draws from the shape and feel of hand-carved wood.
A glass pitcher with water and a poppy flower standing outside in the sun on a concrete wall.
For the BASTUA glassware, IKEA designer Henrik Preutz also pulled from Sami Ruotsalainen's print while nodding to ripples on water under rays of sunshine.

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”.

A man with a moustache in a white shirt standing outside in front of a rock.
Mikael Axelsson, IKEA designer.

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.

A black and white sketch showing a side table.
IKEA designer Mikael Axelsson's sketches for the BASTUA side table.
A wooden side table with a vase filled white and yellow flowers.
The BASTUA side table, designed with a high edge to keep things in place.

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.