Insights / Design
”After having such a tough couple of years, we need some magic in our lives”
On how innovations are taking over the interior trends
14 Sep 2022

Since 2015, trend analyst Susanna Björklund and interior architect Sisse Collander have been the masterminds behind Signals, the official trend exhibition at Habitare interior fair in Helsinki. Together, they’re looking into both mega-trends and societal trends and phenomena and then translating them into visual worlds.

— Susanna starts with the societal background, creates the themes and colour range and then we start working together with Sisse to create the visual world together. We both love colour and crazy mixes of products and going deeper, the duo explain. This year, we show innovations, sustainable products, and concepts and, as always, Signals also showcases a lot of prototypes from young designers and artists. And we are preachers for colour — colourful spaces bring joy to people, according to research. Naturally, the last three years have been crazy and affected people’s lives in many ways, so this year’s themes are related to that.

And what do we see this year?

Susanna: Our first ’world’ is called Magic. After having such a tough couple of years, we need some magic in our lives. And after a standstill, where it seemed like nothing was happening design-wise, there’s going to be more playfulness in design. As the relationship with nature is very important to us and some research shows that we spend about 95% of our time indoors, we wanted to ode nature and designed a Fibonacci pattern for sustainable Bolon flooring. Also, things don’t have to be so rational. As humans, we always try to be rational but I just read some research from a Harvard Business School professor saying that we make our buying decisions 95% based on emotion. We are very good at thinking that we are very rational but in fact, we are not… In Magic, we also see innovations like concrete which is totally natural and sustainable and Grid, a pattern for a stainless steel surface designed by Matti Klenell for Stala, that is around 90% recycled and can be melted again.

Grid by Matti Klenell for Stala in Signals.

Tell us more about the sustainable concrete.

Luonnon Betoni is a natural mix of stones and unburned clay without chemical additives or cement that can be compacted to form floors and walls. It is a low-emission material that could replace concrete in many cases. The surfaces are expressive and include beautiful natural hues of local soil, it’s 100% reusable without high-energy processes and locally produced in Finland using only local materials.

Sisse: In this room, we also look at religion. We now see that we are trying to find ways to believe in different things and, for example, the nature again. Alongside world religions, we’ve also seen many alternative ’religions’ from which people are trying to find guidance. 


Nature as a religion. That’s interesting.

Sisse: Yes, that also has a connection with ancient Finland. Back in the day, we believed in elves, spirits and, for example, Tapio, the master of the forest (one of the major gods of the ancient Finns, Ed’s note). A study has shown that these days, we need to make more and more decisions every day which makes us stressed, and even exhausted. So, it becomes easier when you have someone you can believe in and ask for guidance from. These issues are sometimes hard to explain rationally, but if something gives you comfort — be it Tarot cards, horoscopes, or something else — then it is a good thing. That is also one inspiration for the room — everything doesn’t have to be explained, just enjoyed. 

Susanna: Our next room is called Safety. One thing that has really shaken us during a couple of years is the sense of being safe, for many reasons. So, we now focus on making our homes as a haven where a round-shaped sofa, a lot of textiles, and warm colours give a safe feeling. And when you think of visual trends, there are a lot of details happening here as well. For example, with the energy crisis — when you think of radiators and air heat pumps, they’re usually very ugly. But in Safety, we see one from Mitsubishi and one from Tubes Radiatori which are actually quite beautiful, turning them into beautiful, well-functioning objects as well. There’s a lot of research that beautiful surroundings, art, spaces, and objects that you like actually bring happiness to you. In this room, we also feature the Finnish innovation Shimmering Wood by Structural Colour Studio. It’s a wall made of pieces of wood that PhD researchers from Aalto University have coated wood on wood using nanotechnology, to obtain colour and shimmer. Still a prototype, it has no pigment at all and is 100% recyclable using no toxic but in great harmony with nature. 

Shimmering Wood by Structural Colour Studio.

When you do the trend reporting, do you see a lot of innovation?

Susanna: Yes, more and more. The values are changing and people demand more sustainability which is good. 

Sisse: Also here, at the fair, when we meet architects and professionals, their clients are requesting it, so you cannot really avoid it. For instance, our cottage in the exhibition is treated with Kivipuu. It’s a Finnish innovation, a fossilization system making the wood really grey by the sun and rain affecting it. Yet, the surface keeps moisture away, so it will not rot, and it’s also non-flammable, so it can be used in demanding structures.

Tell us about your last room.

Susanna: It’s called Genuine and here, we show Collaboratio’s Cubile bed that does not have any screws or glue and can be easily mounted like ancient roman beds. It also has an attachable piece that doubles as a table. Interesting products that cannot be either brought physically to Signals or are concepts are also shown as posters. In Genuine, among our posters, we present Olof Hoverfält’s Wardrobe Diary, an open-source method for anyone to calculate how much their clothes cost per wear. If you buy something, that is good quality and wear it for loads of times, the cost per wear becomes cheap. However, the products that stay unused in your wardrobe become very expensive per wear and the same goes for a cheaper product that you only wear once or twice before it becomes waste. Also, when you think of it, we’ve been stuck and glued to our computers for the last couple of years, so now, many of us really feel the need to do things by hand. Handcrafts have been popular for a long time and now, they’re going to be even more so. 

Sisse: Finnish schools are teaching handicrafts at school which is quite a rare thing in the world. A study has shown that when doing something with your hands, part of your brain is relaxing. So, it also becomes almost like a mindfulness thing, that works for both kids and adults.

Susanna: And now all these handmade, rough, homemade-looking products, such as embroideries and appliques, are also getting more popular. And politics can also inspire what happens to the trends. For instance, when you think of the Ukrainian war, there have been a lot of images on social media with Maria Primachenko’s Bird of Peace. We will probably see more of all these ornate things that are linked with Ukrainian culture.

Collaboratio’s Cubile bed.

If we are to remember one final thing from the exhibition, what would you like to point out?

Sisse: I would say joy in the middle of everything, the importance of focusing on the good and the need for beauty in our lives, every day.

Susanna: And also that taste changes slower than trends, so people should really look inside to see what makes them happy in terms of spaces, design, and what sort of homes, rather than think what’s trendy.

Susanna Björklund and Sisse Collander.

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