We visited Mikko Hänninen’s studio close to central Helsinki to talk about sustainability, cabinet making and the charm of wood. Mikko Hänninen has nearly two decades of cabinet making under his belt. Year by year, as he accumulated this wealth of knowledge, he started to look at the world of cabinet making, and the world in general, from a different perspective. Today, he lives in an ecovillage a short train ride away from Helsinki and cherishes his love for nature and wood. His values are visible in Kuja Studio, his new project that unites four design and branding professionals to create sustainable and smart solutions for small urban homes—furniture and objects for a more conscious kind of design fanatic.
“I’ve seen a shift in thinking when it comes to consuming,” says Mikko. He is sitting in his studio as we discuss wood, design and sustainability. “People have started to understand and cherish values. It’s not just a hippie thing, and why should it be,” he ponders. Through his designs and meticulously crafted wooden products he wants to influence the way people see furniture. He hopes for an even larger shift in thinking; a subtle revolution in the ways in which we value both the objects around us and their origins. “I want to show people the benefits of supporting their local artisans,” he explains. For him, there is an inherent value in seeking out smaller producers and professionals. When the furniture you buy is locally produced, the supply chain can be vastly more transparent than those of manufacturing giants. Plus, you get to know the people whose furniture you’ll hopefully live with for decades.
It doesn’t get more local than Mikko’s studio, a 20-minute metro ride away from central Helsinki. In this workshop, he turns planks of wood into furniture. Cabinet making is a lifelong passion of his, although it has unfolded in multiple locations and ways. He has been working with wood since 2004 in close to a dozen different companies. Nevertheless, wood still maintains its charm: “With wood, you get the gratification of seeing your handiwork immediately,” he enthuses. “Wood is also extremely malleable. You can turn it into almost anything.” Yet, he doesn’t want to confine himself to only one medium. He regards himself as a non-traditional cabinet maker, constantly fascinated by other materials and processes. “I’ve worked with so many different things that I don’t want to commit myself solely to wood.”
When it comes to the future, he has plenty of exciting things lined up; especially while focusing on smart solutions for urban homes through Kuja Studio. But everything is led by the philosophy that Mikko has been cultivating for more than 15 years: “We want to be extremely transparent in everything we do and respect the materials we work with. We want to show where the products are brought to life and highlight the beauty of the materials.” Luckily, it seems impossible to depart from the essence of conscious cabinet making, even when the road leads to somewhere wholly new.