Elävä Finmar / Living Finmar

A few weeks back I went along to the first screening of the short film ‘Living Finmar’ by Michael Krzyzanowski and Dan Fontanelli of Geswerk Films, part of the Geffrye Museum’s Mid-Century afternoon. I had already been introduced to the film by searching through Vimeo (as I regularly do) to find some great short films.

‘Living Finmar’ is the story of Finmar Ltd (circa 1948-1965), the first major importer of mid-century design into the UK. It’s the story of one man’s vision of a new way of life, Paul Von Stemann, and his personal relationships with some of the greatest designers of the twentieth century. Alvar Aalto, Hans Wegner, Borge Morgensen, Hans Schleger, to mention a few, were all close friends. The DVD will be available from Skandium in the near future.

Finmar was a company which moved us fully out of the doldrums of post-War life, casting aside the heavy, ornate furniture which we had been used to and introducing us to the world of Danish and Finnish design, with their light pieces, elegantly simple lines and practical proportions these designs shaped our homes, offices and public spaces over the coming years leading us to where we are today.

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In a world of dark brown post-War utility, sombre veneers and rationing, the Finmar showrooms were an explosive revelation in modernism. An original and radical concept for contemporary living. A temple built for a new and sophisticated age in interior design. They instantly became the focal point of architects, artists and designers across the capital and beyond. Their fusion of Scandinavian furniture’s and Italian decorative arts a never before seen vision. The Kingley Street gallery (seen below) explored not only new design but also new and experimental ways of displaying it. Chairs hung from the walls, a sea of Le Klint pleated paper lanterns setting a backdrop for Jacobsen, Wegner and Mogensen. 

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Within the displays at the Geffrye museum, and hidden away in storage, are some great examples of Finmar pieces… the lounge chair with storage under the seating (seen below) and the TV chest, on wheels. There were many examples of Finmar pieces on the market and these often sell at auction for far more than their modern versions, so look out for the Finmar stamp and expect to pay more when picking something up on eBay.

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Related links:

Geswerk Films: Finmar
Richard Hollis, designer of Finmar collateral
DesignAddict directory of Finmar for sale

Daniel

Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started ateliertally.com as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

6 Comments

  • Rod Scott says:

    Hello. I’m interested to know if there was a Finmar shop in Edinburgh (or even Glasgow) in the late 1940’s.

  • Daniel says:

    I’m not sure actually Rod. In the film there was no mention of that but perhaps there was. If you find out I’d love to know.

  • Roy Bevan says:

    I have just found you on the net & watched the film on Finmar. Just for information :- My father was works manager (from being an upholsterer), at the Finmar works in Harlow from 1955 till the late 60’s. I still have/use many pieces of furniture from the company. I have met Paul Steeman & Borg Mogensen on several occasions. I have several of the magazines that Finmar produced & would be happy to copy them to you. Regards Roy Bevan.

  • Daniel says:

    Hi Roy. That’s such great news that you found me via the blog post. I love the internet for connecting people. I am really interested in Finmar, there is very little around. If you are able to make copies, I’d really love to see them. Would you be able to email them to daniel@ateliertally.com?

  • Solange says:

    Dear Daniel and Roy,

    What a very interesting article and what a great connection with the past to, Roy. My husband is related to Emily Pankhurst and I love to have that connection in the family (even though is not my direct family).

    As an art historian, I am starting to do some research on Finmar–I am interested in modern English architecture and furniture design. Roy, I would also love to see some of the exciting material you have. If you don’t mind sharing with me, my email address is solange.gulizzi@gmail.com

    Many thanks and all the best to you both,
    Solange

  • Daniel says:

    That’s really interesting Solange. Glad that you commented. It sounds like Finmar is a good place to be looking. I’d also recommend contacting the directors of the film as they met with all of the people and have some interesting stories to tell.

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