“We want to give people the opportunity to have a design rug that is not only beautiful, but is hand-crafted responsibly from sustainable materials. It doesn’t need to break the bank but it needs to give you joy.”
– Larissa Immonen, Founders’ daughter & CEO of Finarte
Finarte is the leading design house for Finnish rugs. The family-owned company has grown out of love . Now a lifelong commitment in two-generations, Finarte carries on the same ethos with the same passion as over thirty years ago. The company began production in Europe, with its own factory in Portugal, until the early 90s, when Eija was invited to design for a rug manufacturer in India. This early collaboration grew into a life-long exchange of ideas and inspiration — to the point where these selfsame rug makers are now Finarte’s main production partners.
Today, led by the founders’ daughter Larissa Immonen, Finarte continues to produce rugs that reflect a careful balance of heritage and creativity, tradition and modernity, innovative design and reusable materials, east and west, a balance that can be seen in the textures, colors, shapes and forms found throughout their product lines.
We were fortunate enough to connect with Larissa Immonen, founders’ daughter & CEO of Finarte. Despite being a strong visual and ethical leader, Larissa is very down-to-earth and relatable. Her passion and love for her work is inspiring!
Olson House (OH): We love the saying used throughout the Finarte website “This is our warp and this is our weft.” Is there a story behind how this phrase came to be?
Larissa: To be honest, it was a great idea of our website developer (Taqi, who is also from the US). We immediately loved the phrase because it really shows how we feel about rugs and Finarte: it’s thorough dedication to what we do and what my parents started in mid-80’s; it’s respect towards handicraft and skills; as well as something magical and poetic that you can find only in handcrafted items.
OH: Personally, how does it feel to be a part of such a strong heritage and why did you choose to make it your career too?
Larissa: It wasn’t an obvious choice to start with (I dreamt about saving the world through more traditional means like development aid and the UN), but when I realized this company gives me the opportunity to do the same AND to carry on my parents work, it was suddenly a very clear choice. The design aspect is also very important, especially in the light of renewing (while preserving) our traditional “rag rug”.
OH: Did you travel with your parents to India at a young age? What is challenging and, in turn, impactful about working with a different culture?
Larissa: My first trip to India was when I was 7 years old. Funny enough, I don’t remember it being very shocking – merely very intriguing. I remember I loved the smell of my parents suitcase when they came back from India from their work trips – that unique blend of spices was something magical and yet familiar.
During my teenage years I decided I want to do an exchange year in India. One year led to another and I ended completing my high school there. In hindsight, it was probably one of the most impactful decisions. The understanding of the culture I gathered during those years is something priceless. I think that has also helped me – a rather young woman – to navigate in the business world there.
And of course, whenever I go to India it feels like a second home, but still so much unexplored.
OH: How has the company changed and grown since it’s start in 1985?
Larissa: I think the greatest change is working with more designers. The focus and the foundations have always been, and hopefully will always be, my mothers (Eija Rasinmäki) designs. However, working with new designers has given a profound add-on to our collection over years, making us the leading design house for cotton rugs in the Nordics. The process and ideology has stayed the same over years – working with sustainable materials to create handwoven, unique and yet affordable rugs to everyone.
OH: How does Finarte choose designers? Are these designers in-house or work on a contract basis? What styles do you look for when hiring designers?
Larissa: We have found many of our deisgners with good luck and coincidence. When we love someones work, we would get in touch and start the process but some are just meetings at the right time and place. They all work on a contract basis and most of them have their own production and/or design companies that might not have anything to do with rugs. That’s also what we love – someone who can look in and think out of the box. On the other, we love to support and work with designers that have the rare skill of great weaving.
OH: If you could sum up the company’s work and values in just a couple sentences, what would you say?
Larissa: We want to give people the opportunity to have a design rug that is not only beautiful, but is hand-crafted responsibly from sustainable materials. It doesn’t need to break the bank but it needs to give you joy.
OH: Are you always rotating rugs in and out of your personal home?
Larissa: Yes, always! We have a lot of sample pieces that I would test at home, in addition to some “heirloom” pieces from my mothers weaving mill in Finland.
OH: What is your advice on choosing a rug for one’s own space?
Larissa: You choose your rug – that is my first advice. Trust your gut on the colors, patterns and visual properties, but think your needs when it comes to practicality. A rug that makes you smile is the best form.