Late Night Shopping at Design District Helsinki
Riitta Kokkonen March 3, 2016

Six times a year, all design enthusiasts in the city have a chance to shop til they drop until late hours of the evening. Late Night Shopping events are arranged by Design District Helsinki, a cluster of creative businesses located in the heart of the city that is full of fascinating attractions for fans of design.

This year the concept of the Late Night Shopping event was slightly renewed and each of the six annual events now have a special theme. The first event of the year on February 11th was dedicated to Art and Antiques, with a focus on art galleries and antique shops, as well as other businesses with a special interest in this theme.

Another new addition to the events are the free-of-charge guided walking tours in Finnish, arranged by Happy Guide Helsinki, which offer an easy way to tour around the district and visit the participating shops with a professional guide and a group of other design fans.

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I jumped at the chance to join the tour a couple of weeks ago to spend a fun evening with like-minded design enthusiasts while browsing the lively design area of our city,  and also to hear the latest news from the District!

Our two-hour walking tour started with the meeting of our guide in front of the Design Museum. There were about 15 of us ready to embark on a design adventure despite the slightly rainy weather. And really what’s a little rain! Besides, although the Design District comprises 25 streets, the distances aren’t very long and it didn’t take us more than 10 minutes to walk from one place to another.

We had altogether five spots to cover during our tour – two design shops, a design gallery/cafe, a design hotel and a restaurant. I was excited to hear we would be starting with the recently opened restaurant Hello Darling, located in a courtyard just off Iso Roobertinkatu.

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In celebration of the Late Night Shopping evening, the restaurant displayed artist Carolina Grunér’s art on its walls, and we were greeted by the artist herself who was happy to give us a few minutes and tell us about her work. The abstract, pastel toned paintings seemed to match perfectly to the cool and cosy Punavuori eatery which serves worldly style food with a neighborhood feel. From a design point of view, I really loved the intimate interior and especially the modern, minimal ceiling lights.

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Our next destination was the familiar design gallery/shop/cafe Lokal on Annankatu which, if you have been following our blog, we happened to feature just last month! You can read more about the current exhibition Valoa! Light! in the earlier post here. After being treated with a delicious, refreshing healthy welcome drink, we had a chance to take a little look around at the selection of design items available and were very lucky to  meet one of Finland’s most renowned textile artists Maija Lavonen, whose work is displayed at the Valoa! exhibition. Such an honor to hear her talk about the inspirations and influences behind her work!

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Next we popped inside another newcomer in the Design District family, Raw North boutique run by jewelry designer Noora Ojala and jewelry artist Soili Rautanen. Raw North stocks design pieces from jewellery to graphic prints and glass art, and besides their own collections, the designers sell also some beautiful pieces by other carefully chosen designers. All items come from small collections giving you a chance to make some rare, unique finds, and there’s also a possibility to place an order for custom-made pieces. The backroom of  the little shop hides also a work space for the two jewellery designers, which was super intriguing to take a peek at!

Popping up in the Raw North boutique just for the evening, Amanda Kääriäinen from Vintage Style Events Hki gave us also a short introduction on their wide variety of services including selling and renting out antique, design and vintage items. So if any of you is planning for instance a lovely vintage style wedding in the future, here’s an idea how to find some great items for your wedding decor!

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Our next stop was Klaus K, a contemporary design hotel located in the centre of the city, worth visiting even if you’re not staying as a guest! The hotel building itself on the Bulevardi street was built in 1912 and designed by Lars Sonck, one of the most important architects of the national-romantic movement. The interior throughout the hotel has been inspired by the Finnish national epic Kalevala and the myths of the Kalevala can be found in many surprising details.The massive reception desk of Klaus K is for instance shaped like an egg depicting a bird’s nest, and hotel’s guests are guided on each floor to their rooms by animals depicted in Kalevala’s adventures.

However, we took a look at one of the hotel’s special rooms, an art suite created by well-known Finnish contemporary artist and cartoonist Katja Tukiainen. She’s well-known for her instantly recognizable work with expressive style, joyful colors (often pink!) and sweet cartoony figures. Staying in a hotel room as special as this, would propably make even a Helsinkian feel like taking a vacation in one’s own city. There’s an idea!

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The last spot on our tour of the evening was a shop out of this world. Literally! Stepping inside Alnilam felt like taking an adventure into the universe and travelling through years of astronomy. Old-style globes, medieval astronomical instruments, hourglasses, notebooks with patinated leather covers, as well as modern maps, decoration items and even something for those of us captivated by the world of Star Wars… And there’s a touch of steampunk flair to be found aswell – just take a look at those hot air balloons for instance!

Alnilam also displays and sells astronomical images by Finnish Oulu-based photographer J-P Metsävainio whose striking astronomical photographs have been captured in the light-polluted downtown of Oulu. Amazing images!

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The next Late Night Shopping evening takes place on April 14th with a theme Fashion and Jewellery. Stay updated on the upcoming events by following Late Night Shopping on Facebook, and find information on the next guided Late Night Shopping walking tours on the page of Happy Guide Helsinki.

All photos: Riitta Kokkonen