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Down East Fish House
Meat Packing District Design Weekend

Written by Julia Sirmons
Photographed by Amy Davidson




Meterologists be damned; it’s official: Finland is hot.

The proclamation has been officially endorsed by Vice, the too-hip-to-be-cool media conglomerate, which placed copies of their official guide to Helsinki all over an exhibit by Finnish design group Valvomo at the Down East Fish House (located at 402 W. 13th St.) during the Meatpacking District’s Design Week.

Valvomo is a collaborative endeavor launched by seven designers and architects in Helsinki in 1993. According to their press release, the scope of Valvomo’s works includes not only the interior design pieces on display the Fish House exhibit, but also private and public architectural projects all over Europe.

The release summarizes Valvomo’s design philosophy as a harmonious union of whimsy and functionality, noting that “ [t]he often humorous and always innovative design has frequently emanated variations of existing themes and schools. Usability and the deployment of the latest technologies often serve as a launching pad for design.”This manifesto was perfectly reflected in the Meatpacking District exposition, here the pieces displayed a quirky yet refined aesthetic and a design sensibility keenly attuned to the needs of modern urban living.

The Soundwave Swell and Oka Hanging Coatracks

In this respect, the creative minds behind Valvomo have hit the proverbial form-meets function nail on the head. Taken as a whole, the pieces on display looked like they all belonged in the super-mod apartment you wish you had. The individual pieces, however, suggested stylish and practical solutions for urbanites living in more cramped, less-than-glam domiciles.

This sensibility was immediately apparent upon entering the exhibition space, where the Soundwave Swell was on display. A square, slate grey wall hanging with the texture of an abstract egg carton, The Soundwave Swell is perfect for blocking out the sounds of your next-door-neighbor’s late night escapades. In front of the Swell were the Oka hanging coat racks, beautiful pieces resembling simple, modernist interpretations of white birch trees. Hanging from the ceiling, they take up none of a miniscule one-bedroom’s precious floor space.

Nearby was the collection of Glowblow lights, expandable pillow-like globes made of white rip-stop nylon. Another fun and useful fixture for confined living quarters, the Glowblow inflates when lit and deflates when turned off. Around the corner, modernist cousins of the beanbag chair, shaped like abstract lotus flowers, offered an updated alternative to comfy, movable furniture for groovy, intimate gatherings.

Upstairs, more classically elegant and modern design pieces were on display. Of particular note was the Planar easy chair, a square shaped confection in a fabulous shade of leafy green. The sides of its cubic construction had been cut out at an angle, leaving comfortable armrests and beautiful geometric detail. Nearby, a transparent acrylic ghetto blaster hung on the wall, offering all proud technophiles the opportunity to show the whole world their Nokia music phones. The whimsical attitude continued in the adjacent room, where a giant wooden swing hung from the ceiling and colorful street fashions by Finnish label CTRL were displayed on the walls.

The whimsical vibe of Valvomo’s hip-yet-practical designs was clearly both inspiring and infectious. On their way out, many visitors surreptitiously slipped copies of the Vice Guide to Helsinki in their pockets, dreaming of a land with gravlax on every plate and a Globlow lamp in every home.

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