The Intrepid Shopper


Finland may be best known for timber, shipyards, and the midday moon, but the Finns also have pitch-perfect design sense. After all, they gave us the Tulip table, the St. Louis arch, and some of the best modern glass ever blown. Walking through Helsinki today can make you want to replace everything you own, from kitchen to closet. Here's where to do it.

AERO sells famous Scandinavian home goods, old and new. Beyond the sleek office furniture, look for a teapot by Arne Jacobsen ($300) and miniature copies of famous Scandinavian chairs, such as Eero Aarnio's Ball chair ($270). Then get directions to the store's real treasure a few streets away: the unmarked subterranean showroom. It's packed floor to ceiling with original modern Scandinavian furniture in good condition, like full-sized Egg and Ball chairs. It also houses a collection of Finnish ceramics and glass from 1930 to 1970. And everything here is for sale. At 8 Yrjönkatu; 358-9-680-2185;

ARTEK, whose name is a riff on "art and technology," first opened in 1935. The cofounders include Alvar Aalto, whose Savoy vase is, perhaps, the single most famous piece of 20th-century Finnish design ($90 for clear or white, $865 for ruby red, tinted with 24-karat gold). Other bestsellers at the store include the glasses designed by Aalto's wife, Aino, which won awards at the 1936 Milan Triennale ($10 a pair). The store also carries Woodnotes rugs ($600), tablecloths ($12), and bags ($35-$65), all made of twine made from paper. At 18 Eteläesplanadi; 358-9-6132-5277;

DESIGNOR is the retail arm of Iittala, a group that produces Arabia and Rörstrand china, Hackman cutlery, and Iittala glassware (which includes designs by Mr. and Mrs. Aalto). The Origo collection of plain white and brilliantly striped crockery ($8-$19) is a must—even if the designer, Alfredo Häberli, is Argentinean. Stefan Lindfors—who is a Finn—works as both a sculptor and designer, which explains why his pieces are so decorative and practical: His curvaceous Vinaigrette salad bowl ($124) stands on little feet that stabilize the bowl and collect excess dressing. At 25 Pohjoisesplanadi; 358-2-0439-3501;

LEFT makes custom-designed men's shoes using a laser system that records 15 different measurements of customers' feet. Styles include the New Bond Street, a goat-leather business shoe, and the Westount GTX, a rugged work boot—all of which come with options such as leather or rubber soles and Gore-Tex lining. After customers make their selection, the shoes are made to order in Pomarkku, in western Finland, with the customers' name embossed on the insole. The process takes around three weeks, and shoes cost $160 to $250. The company also has stores in Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Birmingham, England. At 2 Töölönlahdenkatu; 358-9-278-2916;

VUOKKO sells clothes designed by Vuokko Nurmesniemi, one of Finland's most famous designers, who in the 1950s was chief designer for Marimekko, the clothing-and-fabrics company known for its vivid patterns. At Vuokko's store the style is similarly bold. Popular items include her cotton Jättilieri hat ($130) with an extra-wide brim and Helle (hot weather) dress ($230), both in bright red, white, and the best-selling black-and-white stripe. At 27 Pohjoisesplanadi; 358-9-628-444.