Vintage Finnish Find Gets a Marimekko Makeover

AlwaysMod owner Ben Horn and his wife Lisa Goodman recently acquired a beautiful wooden table and set of matching chairs, which they were delighted to find had been made in Finland. Their friend Bette Hammel was downsizing and reluctantly could not keep the set that her late husband Dick had bought back in the 1960’s. Though the bones of the pieces have the clean, timeless lines that Finnish design is known for, the set needed a little TLC to bring it back to life and into the 21st century. Lisa chose the cheerful Marimekko Pieni Unikko fabric to give the chairs the upbeat feel she wanted to achieve in her office, where the final product would be displayed. Lisa works as a council member in Minneapolis City Hall, a historic building that dates back to 1881 and still boasts its original five-story rotunda and stunning stained glass windows. It’s a new home that architectural journalist Hammel was happy to see the set go to; after all, where better to honor this special set than at a building with equally rich history? Take a look at the process of upholstering the chairs as well as some before and after shots of the Finnish furniture.

Here’s the Made in Finland tag found on the table and a “before” shot of the complete set.

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One chair was left here at AlwaysMod so that employee Kara could try her hand at upholstering, and the rest were sent off to be updated by Lisa’s co-worker Patrick.

First, Kara laid the cushion flat on Lisa’s fabric of choice and measured 3-1/2″ around the seat’s border. This gave more than enough wiggle room to reach around the height of the cushion, but not too much excess that would later lead to unwanted bunching.


Next, she used her pencil markings as a guide to cut out the shape using Fiskar’s scissors (also a Finnish-found brand.)


Next, Kara placed the cushion in the center of the cutout and started by pulling the four edges of the fabric as taut as possible, simultaneously stapling them to the seat’s backing. This way, the fabric will be securely locked into place when she tackles the tricky curved corners.

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In order to staple the corners, Kara folded the fabric over and over onto itself, creating a pleat-like pattern. This method helps eliminate any kinks or bubbles that would show on the front-side. Cutting the fabric out in the exact shape of the cushion earlier helped this step go more smoothly, but it still required some playing with before she was happy with the result.

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Almost done!


After she secured the fabric all the way around, it was time to flip it over and see how it turned out. Kara was happy with her first attempt at upholstering and rightfully so, because it turned out beautiful!


Here’s the before and after shot of the first chair upholstered by Kara.


The fabric Lisa chose couldn’t suit the seat any better. The bubbly shape of Maija Isola’s 1964 Unikko poppies perfectly complement the curved arms and clean lines of the design. I was eager to see how it would all look together, set up in its new home at City Hall.

It was my first time going inside the Municipal Building, and I was immediately taken aback by the beautiful architecture from floor to ceiling.

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Gorgeous, right? Like the remodeled chairs, the building has stunning, structured lines with colorful, artistic details.


Finally; the finished product, situated in Lisa’s third-floor office. You may notice that Patrick polished all the wood pieces and added a glass top to protect the table’s surface. Being at least half a century old, the set was not in perfect condition when Lisa acquired it, but a little wood oil and elbow grease went a long way. Restored, this antique gem’s character can be appreciated for many more years to come.


The chairs brighten up the neutral tones of the walls and floors and play up the colorful contents of her bookshelf. I loved how she used a bowl of tennis balls as a centerpiece; its unconventional, creative and really makes the lime green stems of the poppies pop.


The table and chairs create a little sitting nook in Lisa’s office, making the space multi-functional. Separate from her work area, it’s the perfect spot to gather for a face-to-face meeting or take a coffee break with co-workers.fulloffice-710

What do you think of this Marimekko makeover? Have you flipped any vintage furniture in the past? We’d love to hear from you below!

5 Comments on "Vintage Finnish Find Gets a Marimekko Makeover"

  1. I have fond memories of this table playing countless cribbage games with my Dad, Dick Hammel. It’s great to see the piece all spiffed up for new use in a public place!

    • Susan,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s nice to hear how fondly you reflect on the table and the time spent with your father playing card games on it. It’s a lovely set and I think it will continue to be enjoyed for many more years to come!


  2. I have liked this article a lot. Articles with photo illustration is always easy to read and understand. I would definitely try this steps to give a quick renovation to my old study chair. Thanks Megan

    • Philip,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the article. If you do end up renovating your study chair, we’d love to see some before and after shots. Thanks for commenting and take care!


  3. Ralph M. Oldaker | November 20, 2014 at 6:44 am | Reply

    Wonderful article!

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