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Home Design with Kevin Sharkey

Finding Inspiration in Finnish and Modern Design

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Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen was critical to the success of the Michigan-based design school Cranbrook. His students included the Eamses', Florence Knoll and Harry Bertoia. So it is no surprise that his 1930s house, built on the campus, has some fine design elements. I particularly love the idea of painting or gold leafing the ceiling; here it is done so well in a magnificent gold.


It has me thinking that this could work for a recessed ceiling in my living room. It would add a bit of architectural detailing that seems modern and polished and give the space a more finished look.


another view

Also, check out the unique use of wall covering, the living room's fireplace and bookcase. Love it! And, is that a rug covering the bench? Clever.


Finally, here's a great example of a mid-century modern color palette from a Marcel Breuer designed home. Though originally created for an architectural exhibition in the 1950s, the space's color combination of blue, ivory and orange still feels fresh and classic. I am looking forward to accessorizing my sofa with some color, perhaps in the pillows and maybe some soft orange and hints of blue.

I love the color combination of blue, ivory and orange

I love the color combination of blue, ivory and orange

*Photo Credit: The World of Interiors, images 1-3 from November 2009 issue, image 4 from September 2009 issue.

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Comments (5)

  • I like the recessed gold ceiling idea - again unusual but could provide a nice warmth. The walls of the Breuer look like there's a material (grass cloth/wood?) in places. Have you though about using any materials on the walls other than paint?

  • We had grass cloth on the walls of our entry way in my childhood home. It does lend a certain elegance, warmth and intrigue to a spaces, especially to a modernist one.

  • Beautiful Art Nouveau style, love the gold ceiling so elegant.

  • did you know that eliel saarinen also designed rya rugs (wall carpets)? you can see one here:

    rya is a scandinavian version of persian rugs, more rugged and certainly warmer, in earlier days used as protection against harsh climate, evolving from noblity bedding to lower class begging to wall tapestry. today there hardly is a finnish home that hasn't one rya either on the wall, or in storage.

    history tells that in finland a rya was given to couple as a wedding gift, rya would be used as a prayer rug during seremony and later on as tapestry to remind of the wedding, and would be passed down as family heirloom. older ones do sell for quite a bit of money today.

    today artisans and crafters make their own, either from kits sold at, or according to their own design.

    why don't you design one for yourself and have it made to order? or write an article on the subject for living?

    (ps. i'm in no way affiliated with the companies, just wish that finnish design and traditions would get the recognition they deserve)

  • If I had a dollar for every time I came to! Incredible read.

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