Named World Design Capital of 2012 by an international congress of designers, Helsinki, Finland, deserves some recognition, especially where contemporary styling is concerned. It is, after all, the creative centre of a country that has spawned names such as Marimekko and Alvar Aalto. And it continues to be lauded for design that, despite being non-showy and minimalist, is eye-catching and elegant.
Viva Design (Albertinkatu 12, tel: 50 562 3200; vivadesign.fi) is filled with all sorts of goodies, such as a handcrafted cream rug with a sprawling red pattern (Euro42/HK$425) and a silvery tray with geometric highlights (Euro37).
For more sharp products, head to Aero (Yrjonkatu 8, tel: 358 9 680 2185; www.aerodesignfurniture.fi), which stocks the quirky, slightly elongated Pirkka chair. In white and cream or beige and black, the chair is spiky and dramatic. Its polar opposite is the chunky Domus (each priced on application). Both chairs were designed by legendary Finnish craftsman Ilmari Tapiovaara.
Keeping things stylish in the kitchen is Eiring (Hogbergsgatan 19, tel: 358 967 3132; eiring.fi), which sells high-quality gear such as ceramic knives with brightly coloured handles (from Euro5) and a tiny garlic grater (Euro2.76).
Another place destined to brighten up meal times is the Iittala outlet, Arabia (Hameentie 135, tel: 0204 39 3507; iittalaoutlet.fi). This has nothing to do with the Middle East: Arabia is a historic suburb of Helsinki filled with factories. The outlet has updated an Aalto glass tray by creating a cute mini version (below; Euro19.35) in cobalt blue. Its Teema bowls (bottom; Euro11.80) are also delightful.
At Tikaushare (Vuorimiehenkatu 10, tel: 4096 08283; tikaushare.org) the emphasis is less on reworked traditional design and more on sustainability. Take, for example, the hand-woven rug, part of a fair-trade range (from Euro8.24).
Martela (Takkatie 1, tel: 010 34550; www.martela.com) has plenty of simple and versatile designs to ensure Finnish homes never look less than chic. The grip table (price on application) in veneered birch and laminate is ideal for a flat or studio.
Accessories are a highlight at Aarikka (Pohjoisesplanadi 27, tel: 358 9 652 277; www.aarikka.com), where the flamboyant Ruustinna candle holder (Euro13.37) in black, white or red, challenges the national fondness for minimalism.