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Joanna Laajisto: «As interior designer I slow down the pace of everyday life»

In the era of social media, design often made of visual tricks and is consumed fast. This leads to nothing, according to Finnish interior designer Joanna Laajisto. Who considers interior design a tool to create «places where people can feel good and slow down the fast pace of life».

LEGGI joanna laajisto interior designer IN ITALIANO
Download here the PDF of the article published on DCasa, la Repubblica (Italian only)

Finnish interior designer Joanna Laajisto has a girlish face, and a spontaneous look and smile. One wonders how it is possible that such a young woman (she is 41 years old) can sign interiors full of such mature elegance. There is no style error, nor a naïve concession to current trends. nor – worse – any Instagram-induced designer trick (the contrasts of marked colors or the corners with hyperbolic geometries: the ones that go viral on social media). Everything in the world of Joanna Laajisto, breathes out balance, moderation, thoughtful choices.

Joanna Laajisto interior designer

Passion for sport and design

Joanna Laajisto has just won the interior designer award of the year in Finland but in a previous life she was a professional snowboarder. It was actually following her sport that she ended up in the United States, where she graduated in Interior Design. «After graduation I worked for five years for a huge architectural firm in California, designing office interiors», she explains. «Eight years ago I went back to Finland and opened my own office». Joanna Laajisto interior designer thinks

The courage to do it yourself

It’s not easy to leave a huge studio to start your adventure from scratch. And it’s even more of an achievement to have a portfolio like hers in just eight years.


Because Helsinki is full of her projects: with the Wild Herb Café (cement and very high ceilings, plants hanging from the ceiling), the Bier Bar (oil-colored enamel walls, antique wood paneling). or the Jackie (local inspired by an Italian disco 50s), just to name a few. But Johanna Laajisto also left her mark in Germany (with the Cecil fashion label shop in Oberhausen) and in Paris (with the Coutume Café). Her talent has also been noticed by Vitra: her Retail Showroom for the cult furniture brand
opened a few months ago at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, also in Germany.

Minna Parikka boutique, Helsinki

Domestic or commercial interiors? This is what Joanna Laajisto interior designer

«When I was studying (at the Interior Design School of Southern California), I decided to specialize in commercial spaces. I am convinced that interiors are an intimate issue and that there are fewer openings for designers to be creative doing residential projects. When you design the interiors of a house, the spirit of the person who lives it in should take over». Joanna Laajisto interior designer

Joanna Laajisto, interior designer

In the retail sector, on the other hand, the interior designer can be as creative as she wants.

How much? 

«Since digital technologies have arrived, the retail world has changed dramatically. And the matter is particularly complex when it comes to stores. To convince a person to go into a physical space rather than purchasing online you need to offer much more than just function. The store must welcome, make people feel at home, cuddle, embrace or excite. Building an immediately perceptible experience in the atmosphere of space. For this reason, interior design has never mattered as much as it does today in the retail areana» Says Joanna Laajisto interior designer

Creating an experience is what everyone wants to do. So how can one brand stand out from the pack? And do so thanks to interior design?

«True. But the most common mistake is to go for a furniture or decoration make over. Changing sofas, tapestries or inserting some cool items does not pay off. A space is alive and lasts over time if it is conceived as a whole. Starting with the atmosphere of the environment to continue with what surrounds it (claddings, window frames). and with the structure, the position of the walls, the flow of movements, the glimpses that accompany the look. Without forgetting the service that is proposed. This too must be part of the design project».

Finnish institute, Paris

But is not a marketing task to conceive the experience of a retail space?

«It is. But the client’s brief must be understood and discussed critically. And to do this, the interior designer must grasp the values of the brand, the aspirations, the quality of the products and the customer’s feeling.

We call it service design: using questionnaires, open discussions
with consumers, comparisons and on-site visits, we dive into the imagination of those who will use the environments. and we try to enrich their meaning». Says Joanna Laajisto interior designer

So what do people want from a store today?

«They no longer want stores but showrooms. Places where they can receive advice from qualified professionals, try the products in intimate environments. For fashion brands, the physical space is now the extension of the online experience. You buy when you have time to “surf”, but you choose the click and collect to try the items in the store and finish the purchase
in the store. This is why the digital experience must create a dialogue with the physical environment. More and more, our research says, also to avoid referrals of products, a choice that is considered anti-ecological».

Does it also work for Italian consumers?

«Consumer sentiment, in terms of retail, is global. The difference is no longer between a Finn, an Italian or an American, but among the experiences offered by high-end and high-street brands».

Michel Restaurant, Helsinki

This seems to be an American, process oriented way of working..

«I learned it in California, where I spent five years in a large architectural firm that designed offices. They had a huge budget, off limits here in Europe. It allowed me to compare myself with very sophisticated materials and processes and appreciate the impact on the result
the final. In my work, however, intuition counts very much. Especially when I work on a pre-existing space. I tend to spend hours in it alone, to catch its soul. Once the essential elements are captured, I know I have to keep them».

Why did you decide to train outside Findland that has a long design tradition?

«I used to find Finland a bit boring when I was young. For this reason, when I could move to the US, thanks to my career as a professional snowboarder, I emigrated to California. I came back when I was expecting the first child. In Northern Europe it is easier to unite
family and career. And now I see the centrality of Finland in contemporary design».

In which way?

«In terms of design, Finland is booming. The values of the Nordic style are important in a historical moment in which the role of the interior designer is to slow down the rhythm of everyday life. Since the arrival of social media, design has become like fast food. To be consumed (often only online) and forgotten. It is a consumerism that leaves a bad taste in the mouth because we are all aware of the ecological issues. Nordic design stems from functional ethics and attention to sustainability. It rejects decoration as an end in itself for a purity of the sign and an authenticity of the material. And, in this sense, it is an answer that reflects contemporary feeling». This is what Joanna Laajisto interior designer thinks

All photos by Mikko Ryhänen. Cover picture: Wild Herb Café

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