Iittala - 140 years of design history

Iittala has become synonymous with the Scandinavian home and is now one of the biggest names in the design world. Over the past 140 years, they have given us more than one design classic that we still love today. Design classics, which are with us through all moments in life, no matter how big or small. Welcome to Iittala's world.

Inspiration

12 April 2021
Essence red wine glass from Iittala.

THE BEGINNING OF 140 YEARS OF DESIGN

The origins of Iittala began to take shape as early as 1881 in the Finnish village of the same name. At the time, Iittala was a glassworks that produced blown, pressed and polished glass in continental patterns. Today, Iittala is a natural part of the Scandinavian home, whether it is through the Essence wine glasses, Kastehelmi candleholders or Teema plates, they all bring something special to our homes and our lives.

Alvar Aalto Limited Edition vase with single sprig.

It was in the 1930s, in connection with the rise of functionalism in the design world, that Iittala's great breakthrough came. With legendary designers such as Alvar Aalto, Aino Aalto and Kaj Franck at the helm, Iittala adopted a design philosophy that pushed boundaries, giving people both beauty and function. This design philosophy gave birth to the now iconic Aalto vase in 1936, as well as a series of design classics that stand for simple, functional design and solid craftsmanship.

Alvar Aalto vases in amethyst with dried flowers, part of the anniversary collection from Iittala.

THE CRAFTMANSHIP BEHIND YOUR IITTALA FAVOURITE

The process behind Iittala's glass objects is far from simple. The fantastic craftsmanship that takes place within Iittala's walls goes through several steps and numerous hands before this natural material becomes the design pieces that follow us through life. Your favourite design piece is heated, cast, shaped and cut before it is transformed into a vase, a glass, or a Birds by Toikka sculpture. The glass is not painted, instead the colour is mixed directly with the molten glass which is then blown and shaped by the glass blower.

Alvar Aalto vase in recycled glass from Iittala at Nordic Nest.

It is a craft that requires precision and with a glance inside Iittala's almost mysterious factory, we see the well-rehearsed choreography that is needed to master a material that does not give way easily. Just one Alvar Aalto vase requires the skill of seven craftsmen and the objects produced here range between some 80-year-old favourites to new, future classics. Iittala believes that people have the right to expect their objects to last a lifetime, an ideology that is clearly visible in the timeless lines that characterize Iittala's design language.

Alvar Aalto vase from Iittala in recycled glass against a background of broken glass at Nordic Nest.

THE NEW IITTALA

Although the classics may crowd on the shelves at Iittala, there is also a range of modern design that embraces Iittala's heritage and carries it through, carefully and innovatively into the future. Essence by Alfredo Häberli, Nappula by Matti Klenell and Raami by Jasper Morrison – all take Iittala's design philosophy further into the future.

Iittala's Essence series, here with red wine glass and plate, is one of the brand's most popular series.

Essence

If Swedish Grace is Sweden’s most famous tableware collection in Scandinavia, then Essence is the most iconic glassware. One of Iittala's most beloved collections was designed in 2001 by Alfredo Häberli with the intention of creating a collection that contained as few glasses as possible. What was probably a gamble for Iittala back then, has become a collection that can be found in homes all over the world. In 2021 Iittala introduced serving dishes into this famous collection. Bearing the Essence logo, these dishes bring an extra element to this classic range.

Nappula candlesticks in stainless steel from Iittala with candles from Ester & Erik.

Nappula & Lempi

When Iittala asked about creating a candlestick that did not necessarily have to be made of glass, it was still glass that inspired Matti Klenell in the design of the Nappula series. The simple, rounded shape of Nappula is inspired by tools found in the glass studio when working with molten glass. It was the same tool that had been used to create the unique, rounded feet on a table in the glass museum in Nuutajärvi, Finland. Klenell took this form as inspiration and created the Nappula series. Nappula also means bud in Finnish.

Quote by designer Matti Klenell about timeless design and how he believes it is objects with strong artistic expression that live the longest.
Nappula pot in beige from Iittala with green pot plant.

- The key to timeless design is a well thought out and high-quality piece and that has a strong character all its own. We often think of something timeless as something restrained and discreet that does not make a statement, but I think the contrary is true. It is the pieces with a strong artistic expression that have the greatest chance of living and remaining over a long period of time. Most important, however, is that it is of high quality and that it ages beautifully, says Klenell in an interview with us.

Matti Klenell is also the designer behind the immensely popular glass series Lempi.

- Many years ago, my father blew a glass with a large cup on a low foot, which I liked very much. It was at my parent’s home and was used both every day and for parties. One of the qualities I enjoyed the most was that you were always tempted to pour a little too much, which made our family gatherings rather lively. This generous quality was something I tried to transfer to Lempi and I think I succeeded quite well actually, says Klenell and of course we agree.

Coffee cup, small plate & cutting board from the Raami series from Iittala.

Raami

In 2019, Iittala launched a new series in collaboration with designer Jasper Morrison. Raami is a future Iittala classic. The name Raami means frame in Finnish and the series does just that, framing those occasions in your home, both small and large. The discreet design with slightly rounded edges feel inviting and secure. This elegant series brings Iittala’s legacy further into the modern home.

Kastehelmi plates, cake holders and candleholders from Iittala are perfect gifts for all of life's big occasions.

IITTALA THROUGH THE GENERATIONS

Iittala’s role in Scandinavian design history is significant. During their 140-year history the glassworks in southern Finland has helped to shape the meaning of functional, Scandinavian design that stands the test of time. This year’s anniversary is being celebrated with a deep dive into Iittala’s archive for a collection where old and new coexist, as if to prove that good design does not have an expiration date. Iittala do not only have their own story to tell but they also play a major role in the stories we tell when a design classic is handed down and finds a new home, over and over again.

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