Finnish designer Elina Ulvio - a profile

Back in April 2015 Design daily stopped by the arresting Aalto University stand at Salone Satellite, the young designers platform at Salone del Mobile. The long thin stand consisted of just 14 chairs designed by the university's second year MA students. All were in the same shade of neon blue aircraft plywood with black metal square section frames - each one a completely different expression of what a chair can be. The scene was was definitely a standout moment of that year's Satellite, combining pure geometric forms and the incredible simplicity of that wonderful colour that according to a Dezeen article was styled "on a rare pigment favoured by Cennino Cennini, the 15th century painter and author of Il Libro dell' Arte, a handbook for early Renaissance art". Like Yves Klein Blue this paint colour seems to have the remarkable ability to transform anything but it was the variety of shapes and solutions that made the exhibition particularly special.

 Aalto University's second year MA students exhibition at the Greenhouse space at Stockholm Furniture Fair 2015. Elina Ulvio's design 'KIISKI' top left. Photograph August Eriksson.

Aalto University's second year MA students exhibition at the Greenhouse space at Stockholm Furniture Fair 2015. Elina Ulvio's design 'KIISKI' top left. Photograph August Eriksson.

Recently Design daily received a press release on the latest work by young Finnish designer Elina Ulvio who was one of the fourteen MA students who exhibited at that particular Aalto University show. Since 2015 she has been named in Wallpaper magazine's list of Next Big Things and launched an extensive collection of furniture pieces called LSD. Her work is an exciting personal expression of geometric interplay where fine intersecting lines and moveable parts are often in evidence. The LSD collection includes a couple of earlier designs such as the 'Kuu' reversible table and jaw-dropping 'Gravity' light sculpture from 2015 but ostensibly consists of several new designs ranging from lighting to storage and what I would consider a totally new but exciting accessories category - the wall mirror that turns into a tray.

 Objects from Elina Ulvio's  LSD  collection showing her 'Kuu' reversible table and 'Gravity' light sculpture. Photograph by Annikki Valomieli.

Objects from Elina Ulvio's LSD collection showing her 'Kuu' reversible table and 'Gravity' light sculpture. Photograph by Annikki Valomieli.

Taking the strong lines of her 'KIISKI' easy chair from 2014, Ulvio developed the 'Kuu' tables a series of tables with a reversible top (black or mirror) on a steel frame. Like many of Ulvio's designs the tables have an element of flexibility and compactness. While the 'Kuu' tables (Finnish for Moon) fold flat and act as both table and mirror, the 'Kuu' chairs stack, her 'Kajo' shelves (Finnish for Dawn) are also a source of light to highlight the objects which are placed upon its shelves. The shape of the shelving is simple yet clever, offering fine proportions and strength.

 The palm tree is optional but the 'Kajo' shelving comes with an integrated LED light to illuminate objects and promote healthy plant growth should you wish to engage in some indoor horticulture. Photograph by Annikki Valomieli.

The palm tree is optional but the 'Kajo' shelving comes with an integrated LED light to illuminate objects and promote healthy plant growth should you wish to engage in some indoor horticulture. Photograph by Annikki Valomieli.

Another of Ulvio's earlier designs, the 'Kuu' chair, is a stackable, three legged design in solid birch wood. Elemental, like much of her work, the 'Kuu' chair is chunkier than her work in steel, more like her recent 'Woodi' firewood storage but exhibits the same delicate control of intersecting lines.

 'Kuu' chairs (2015) from the  LSD  collection. Photograph by Annikki Valomieli.

'Kuu' chairs (2015) from the LSD collection. Photograph by Annikki Valomieli.

Design daily is totally smitten by Ulvio's 'Lampi' wall mirrors that can be reconfigured into trays. How the idea came to Ulvio I have no idea but the concept really works. Beautiful when hung flat against the wall, the form when converted into a tray acts as a space definer for objects that are placed within its plywood framework.

 'Lampi' wall mirrors that turn into trays (2016).

'Lampi' wall mirrors that turn into trays (2016).

Like a graphic version of a bell jar or cloche, the traditional glass dome for collectors and more recently decorators, when used as a tray 'Lampi' has the capacity to bring disparate objects together or frame other objects in the background. 'Lampi' is the Finnish word for pond.

 Elina Ulvio's 'Lampi' showing their dual purpose functionality.

Elina Ulvio's 'Lampi' showing their dual purpose functionality.

Working the same design language to completely different ends Ulvio's 'Kuu' pendants combine LED, black stained plywood and acrylic to create light, open sculptural forms that are as much about graphic impact as they are about light.

 Elina Ulvio's 'Kuu' pendants (2016) use formed plywood and acrylic to create fascinating variations on circles and ovals.

Elina Ulvio's 'Kuu' pendants (2016) use formed plywood and acrylic to create fascinating variations on circles and ovals.

In complete contrast to the visual lightness of many of her designs Ulvio's 'Gravity' light sculpture is based around a massive concrete cone. From this solidity sprouts a fine arc of spring steel culminating in solid glass sphere that reflects a perfectly inverted image of everything surrounding it. Beautifully finished with brass detailing, the light references iconic forms by Castiglioni and more recent ones like Marc Sadler's 'Twiggy', while creating something totally unique. 

 The 'Gravity' light sculpture by Elina Ulvio 2015. Made from concrete, glass, brass and spring steel, the object combines an audacious form with time-honoured materials.

The 'Gravity' light sculpture by Elina Ulvio 2015. Made from concrete, glass, brass and spring steel, the object combines an audacious form with time-honoured materials.

Ulvio's 'Point' outdoor table and chair are an extension of her earlier 'Kuu' wooden chair design but while following the same three legged, circular seated form 'Point' is released from the necessary chunkiness of a wooden frame. The result is a superfine frame of steel with a perforated metal seat. Despite its fine lines and minimalistic appearance it looks like it might be relatively comfortable.

 The 'Point' chair is a stackable outdoor design in perforated sheet steel and solid steel bar. The double back rest provides a poetic look and a possible improvement on the ergonomics of minimalistic steel designs.

The 'Point' chair is a stackable outdoor design in perforated sheet steel and solid steel bar. The double back rest provides a poetic look and a possible improvement on the ergonomics of minimalistic steel designs.

Ulvio's 'Woodi' design has been very well received since being released in early 2016 with features in design blogs such as Leibal, Design Milk and John & Douglas. Designed in collaboration with Hanna Särökaari the storage unit doubles as either firewood or book / magazine storage in the form of an off-kilter framework or window.

 The 'Woodi' is a rack for firewood or books by Elina Ulvio (2016) in black stained solid birch. Photograph: Karin Ulvio.

The 'Woodi' is a rack for firewood or books by Elina Ulvio (2016) in black stained solid birch. Photograph: Karin Ulvio.

While many of Ulvio's designs rely on her skillful manipulation of line, the 'Divide' coffee table relies purely on overlapping layers of circular smoked glass and their relationship to a T-junction of oak. The lower shelf adds a certain practicality while the increased density of its colour adds depth to the overall design. 'Divide' provides a simple but effective flat-pack solution while retaining a clever interplay of shapes.

 Ulvio's 'Divide' table is a flatpack design with demountable oak base that incorporates two discs of smoked glass. Circles and crosses are a strong feature in Ulvio's work.

Ulvio's 'Divide' table is a flatpack design with demountable oak base that incorporates two discs of smoked glass. Circles and crosses are a strong feature in Ulvio's work.

In 2013 Ulvio won the main prize at Habitare Design Competition. She was selected to Talentshop 2015, an exhibition concept introducing the rising stars of the Finnish design scene. As mentioned at the start of this post, Ulvio was part of Wallpaper* magazines' Next Big Thing selection in 2016 and she is a member of Luomo collective which was awarded at Muoto 2016, the annual design gala celebrating significant Finnish design.

For more on the work of Elina Ulvio check out her website here. You can also purchase several of her designs such as the 'Kajo' shelves and 'Kuu' pendants from Finnish manufacturer Nordic Hysteria here. Her outdoor chair and table collection 'Point' are available from Danish company OK Design here.