Minna Kemell-Kutvonen’s Helsinki

The creative director of cult global Finnish brand Marimekko oversees everything from its distinctive printed furnishing fabrics and tableware to clothing and fashion accessories

 Minna Kemell-Kutvonen at Café Engel
 Minna Kemell-Kutvonen at Café Engel | Image: Jonas Lundqvist

I wake up early on Saturday morning to take our miniature schnauzer, Nappi, meaning Button, for a walk in the countryside surrounding our home – a beautiful area close to Isojärvi lake. I enjoy the fresh air and come home to make breakfast for the family. We’ll have Finnish oat porridge with fresh lingonberries, blueberries or redcurrants from the garden or forest – which the children, Lotta, 13, and the twins, Oona and Joona, 16, like to pick – and bread rolls I’ve baked.

We moved to Mäntsälä because my husband Pekka’s hobby is hunting, and because I have good childhood memories of visiting my grandparents in the countryside and wanted to let my children experience something different from city life. I need to feel physically removed from work after the week; I have to organise my thoughts, and sometimes it helps to look at and listen to nature. However, I travel a lot and often feel as if I spend more time in New York than Helsinki; so, when I get the chance, I’ll have a Helsinki day.

My husband will take the children off skiing in Lahti and I drive to the city, where I’ll visit the Marimekko store. I’ll mingle, listen to people and see what they are buying. I also like to go to my friend Samu-Jussi Koski’s store, Samuji, where he sells a great mix of fashion.

Lunch is usually at my favourite café by the cathedral, Café Engel [pictured], in a lovely 18th-century building. They do great soups as well as afternoon coffee, and as it’s near the university, it’s great for people watching. Then I’ll walk through Helsinki’s market square, Kauppatori, which sells flowers, fruits and handicrafts, and on to the Artek interiors store and the Design Forum Shop, which promotes Finnish craft. Sometimes I’ll buy a few things, but I’m more of a heavy observer than a heavy shopper these days.


While I’m in town, I tend to visit a few contemporary art galleries – either Helsinki Contemporary, which holds exhibitions by the likes of Finnish painter Anna Retulainen, or Galerie Forsblom. I’m interested in abstract and graphic art, and would love to find the time to pursue my own painting. It’s one of my ambitions for the future. Just outside Helsinki is the lovely Espoo Museum of Modern Art, in a 1960s building designed by Aarno Ruusuvuori – it’s a really interesting location, and I often drive out there before coming back to the city for dinner with my architect sister, Leena. We’ll eat at Ateljé Finne, which serves traditional Finnish food; it’s quite simple, but done in an original way. Our dinners are usually long – when we get together we have the world to put right.

If it’s not too late by the time I get home, Pekka, the kids and I will all sit and talk about our day. Maybe we’ll have a sauna together, although this really needs two or three hours to heat up and for you to get that proper relaxed sauna feeling, so we may save it for Sunday.

Sunday is about the children. We go to Porvoo, on the shore – one of Finland’s oldest towns – to visit a newly converted arts centre there called the Art Factory, where you can try out new skills and crafts or play music. My girls play the cello and violin in the Musica Orchestra of Mäntsälä, and I’ll have a coffee and traditional cinnamon cake in town at Café Fanny before heading back to the centre to hear them play. These concerts really are a huge highlight for me – they’re so inspiring.

We’ll eat dinner at the restaurant in the Art Factory, Bistro Sinne, which uses local ingredients, and then head home for a sauna. The children enjoy it too – we love to spend time as a family. The weeks are so busy, this is the absolute purpose of our weekends.


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