Pappa Sven's Nordic haven in Cooks Hill

When you first think of Scandinavian design, there are the typical images: sparseness, minimalism, natural textures and colours like whites and greys, plus functionality. The ‘I’ word (IKEA) may even spring to mind. 

But step inside the gorgeous lifestyle design and homewares shop, Pappa Sven, in Cooks Hill, and you will be hit with myriad bright colours, pops of patterns and, above all, a feeling of fun. 

Owner Libby Helinski opened her store in Parry Street in 2014. Since then, a relocation to the corner of Union and Bull streets in 2016 has occurred and faithful lovers of Nordic design have increased. 

“We’ve always said we are a Nordic store, not a Scandi store,” Libby says.

“We stock well-made, authentic designs, which use really good products and materials. The things we sell are made to last. It’s not fast fashion, we’re not following trends.”

The store has brands that represent the best of Nordic functionality and beauty, such as Fjallraven’s outdoor backpacks, Kahler vases, Kauniste cushions and more. 

The main brand in store is the iconic Marimekko – a well-loved Finnish home furnishings, textiles and fashion company founded in 1951. Its bold stripes, large flower prints and bright fabrics catch your eye at every turn. The designs create a feeling of joy and light. 

But for those of us whose interior decorating direction could at best be described as eclectic, how do you incorporate one of these striking objects into your home without it becoming just another random piece in the puzzle?

In addition to the store, the Pappa Sven Summer Cabin in Cooks Hill, is available for short-term rental. It is styled using furnishings from the store, giving novice decorators some great ideas of how to add Nordic touches to their home. You can see more images and the products used online at Pappa Sven. 

Libby recommends the best place to start is in the lounge room with a cushion or two. And don’t worry about them co-ordinating. Anything from the Marimekko range is designed to complement each other, even if at first you don’t think they belong together. 

“They’re so easy to change the look of your room without it being a huge expense. And later you can add some blankets.”

If you want to provide some ‘pop’ to your living room, try stretching some fabric over canvas for an affordable artwork, or simply hang it from a coat hanger and place on the wall. Another fun idea is to create a bean bag – a fairly simple sewing job – and you’ve got a fun burst of colour for the kids (big and small) to lounge in. 

The next area you could think about introducing the Nordic style is to the dining table. Many of the pieces come in black and white and this keeps colour matching really easy. 

“A Kahler vase and the Normann Heima candle holder together are a beautiful centrepiece,” Libby suggests. The vases would also work well on a mantlepiece or sideboard, with or without flowers. 

When it comes to crockery, Libby says it’s time to break the matchy-matchy rules. 

“You don’t come in here and buy an entire dinner set that’s exactly the same. You might get a plate for your birthday, and then get cups from a different collection and the idea is to mix it in together. Everything then works.”

Being around the designs over time will give you more confidence to play around with patterns and colour, but, above all, the goal is to enjoy having them in your home.

“Marimekko’s aim is to design products that bring joy to everyday life,” Libby says.  “I love the fact that they’re special. You can just buy a cup – it’s so beautiful to have and to use. And everything is functional. Nothing is there for display. They have a functionality, plus they make everyday life feel nice.”

If the bright colours are too much of a leap, the delicate Kahler Urbania tealight house candle holders will add a warm glow to any room, or the simple striped Pappalina rugs could be introduced into your bathroom or kitchen.

All products are made from natural fibres, emphasising a focus on wholesomeness and honesty. But the bottom line is that these are products for everyday use. They are durable and robust and are made to be part of a family home that is lived in.