Finnish textile designer and Central Saint Martins - Royal College of Art graduate Jonna Saarinen’s work combines influences from Nordic nature and memories of times gone by. Her work is brought together in a range of interior items developed by hand drawing, mark making and screen printing. Since graduating Jonna has launched a homeware label and collaborated with prestigious design institutions. We first discovered Jonna for ourselves whilst she was exhibiting as part of the Artists’ Open House - Dulwich Festival earlier this year, her bright and bold work jumping out to us. Jonna herself is as warm and welcoming as her pieces, so when she agreed to a Home Tour, we couldn’t wait to be let in and see how this is applied to her own spaces.
Jonna lives with her husband in a suburban home in South East London, just a stones throw away from the Crystal Palace Triangle. Elevated above street level, the entrance has an imposing albeit homey feel to it, achieved with organic planting set against the original hard landscaping. This is the first indication towards the properties evolution, which had been left empty for several years and untouched for decades before the couple took it on. “The windows were boarded up and it was like entering a time capsule. We are the second owners of the house, and it had been owned by the same family since it was built in 1926. It has been really important to us to retain the original features of the house.”
The properties hallway is spacious and well balanced, which makes it feel elegant and as though it was designed to make an impression. This has been enhanced by soft hues of blue against solid wooden features. The home has a sense of fun through the playful and special mix of curiosities handpicked by Jonna. “We've sourced most of our furniture and pieces from car boot sales & flea-markets from our travels, I love old things that are a little bonkers to go with all the colour!” This ethos continued into the adjoining rooms; a parlour come library filled with antique and vintage items that wouldn’t be out of place in Babington House, made her own of course with glitzy cocktail accessories and eclectic lighting.
Across from this is the main living space, consisting of a lounge, dining area (made complete with a serving hatch via the larder) and a makeshift sewing station. All of which has a uniquely characterful feel through the use of bold textiles, tropical planting and artisanal objects. The room is entirely colourful and yet it feels coordinated and calm. “I absolutely love working with colour, and bright primary colours make me really happy, so it was clear from the beginning that this was to be a colourful house. Adding colour with things such as cushions and curtains is cheaper than wallpapering (it also takes a lot less time and patience). Another way to quickly change the feel of a room is to get in some lovely colourful plants, I am always on the lookout for bargain plans when I am out and about!” All this is mirrored in the compact, delightful kitchen overlooking the natural back garden.
Upstairs the subtle grandeur of the hallway continues up the stairwell and throughout the landing, with an authentic tapestry dominating one wall alongside precious glassware. Leading onto the bedrooms and bathroom, all of which echo the homes past with patterned wallpapers similar to those found and unavoidably lost during renovations. “We replaced the papers with Finnish and Swedish wallpapers that date back to the 1930s-1960s, the colours have ended up giving each room a bit of theme.” Each bedroom also has an original fireplace set off centre to one corner, which is a particularly sweet nod to the craftsmanship of the time.
An artist in her own right, the final room upstairs is Jonna’s home studio, which merges textiles with music (her better half being in a band), and thus is jam packed with tools and objects for making both. It makes sense that she uses this room as a base for her work, given that they are often pieces that will end up in peoples own homes, which is something Jonna thrives on. “I have several customers who I have known for years now, and they always come back for new designs. It is particularly special when you get to create something for an individual space for a client too, as you can work together with them.” Jonna is also keen to highlight the need for ecological consideration within the textile industry “For me personally it is about choosing materials like these Soil Association approved inks, like Colormaker, linens and other materials that are sustainable, as well as working with European manufacturers that use sustainably sourced materials for my production.” Jonna's work is eye-catching, fun and made even more fabulous by her enchanting energy - Jonna Saarinen.
Words and photography by Joseph Walker