Tunto Lighting bridges traditional Finnish crafts with modern design and the latest in LED control tech. We caught up with founder and chief designer, Mikko Kärkkäinen.
From large public spaces to intimate private retreats, Tunto has brought enchanting lighting to the many. Founder and Chief Designer, Mikko Kärkkäinen, develops all the products himself. And his small, select team of esteemed carpenters handmake everything in their principal workshop in Järvenpää, Finland. From the Ballon to the iconic Swan Series, all Tunto luminaires are inspired by art forms found in nearby nature.
Tunto in English is ‘Feeling’. Mikko explains his design philosophy;
‘For me, the product needs to have a soul whether it is embodied in the beauty of the material or the shape. Tunto is about minimalistic and detailed design; touchable and sensible. When something touches you, it evokes a feeling. That is why Tunto is such a good word to describe our design philosophy.’
Famed for its forested, lakeside-residing artistic community (that dates to the Finnish National Romantic era that saw residents like Jean Sibelius create timeless artistic expressions of what constitutes ‘Finnishness’) – you could say that Järvenpää itself is reflected in Mikko’s work.
You see, light and wood are sacred resources in Mikko’s homeland. They’re elements that are synonymous with the country’s unique geology and culture. Children, from a young age, learn foresting skills that have been passed down through the generations. I ask Mikko if he consciously honors these through his work;
‘Wood is a natural material for Finnish people and many Finnish design objects ultimately derive from woodcarving knife skills. It is in our DNA and keeps us near nature. I am also a carpenter, so wood was an obvious choice as the main material in the products I design.’
Tunto’s modernistic sculptural designs can be physically transformed to complement different rooms, spaces, and atmospheres. Whether illuminating the offices of mobile gaming giants or creating all the right homely feels in contemporary hotel/co-working spaces, Mikko can magically blend the high-tech elements of LED lighting with the warmth of wood.
‘My passion for visual arts shows [especially] in the Ballon series’ design concept. I wanted to combine materials and organic forms, to change the concept of a light product. Ballon is the result of the know-how and skills that our company has; the light source is a natural part of the product – I did not want to hide it. Also, electrical parts can be beautiful. The production of this product family was challenging to establish. Instead of having certain parts made by suppliers, we brought almost every step of the production process into our own workshop and built our own tools and machines for it.’
This is testimony to the fact that Mikko and his team are keen to embrace the new – to marry tradition with innovation. They’re proven experts not only in carpentry and lighting design but also in the adoption of advanced LED tech and wireless control systems. I ask Mikko how easy it has been to incorporate wireless control into his products;
‘I remember when I first met Timo Pakkala [Casambi founder]. I was so enthusiastic about Casambi’s solution! Tunto was among the first lighting companies to use Casambi and I was presenting it also with my lighting collection all over Europe. The work Casambi has done in the field of wireless lighting control is truly meritorious. I think it was rather effortless to include the Casambi system in our products. Today, there are so many possibilities, techniques, and materials designers and professionals in the lighting field can use. It gives us plenty of options when it comes to using wireless control systems.’
Tunto has lit some fantastic spaces to breath-taking effect – Supercell’s Wood City to name but one. Mikko explains his approach to such a project, and his starting point when embarking on a unique installation design like this one;
‘My thoughts were: I want to be a part of it! I saw it as a challenge, a process, and was thrilled by it. First, you need to understand what the customer wants, and then together define the project roles with everyone involved. I had the chance to work with true professionals and I think my role was to provide solutions in a variety of situations across boundaries and areas of responsibility. Every product and each light were customized for this project. You need to be determined, focused, and ready to collaborate. There were so many incredible professionals involved: Supercell’s installation was a great project!’
Wireless lighting control contributes to project execution on this scale as it enables the clients to use Tunto lights seamlessly and in a variety of different ways via the Casambi App.
But it doesn’t stop there. Take the Tunto EnOcean wireless switch. For starters… it’s beautiful. And as their site states, it embodies the design language of fine jewelry. But it also brings a cool edge to wireless switch design – which is particularly exciting for the consumer market. Over the last decade, Mikko and his team have internalized wireless control systems and user interfaces in anticipation of such tech one day being taken for granted by consumers.
When I ask Mikko what’s next for Tunto, his answer again reflects his company’s design philosophy;
‘We have built our company step by step and project by project to be able to provide problem-solving services to our customers and partners. At this very moment, Tunto is involved in some very interesting and challenging projects. As for new lights to come; these will most certainly be high-standard quality products with soul and, not to forget, feeling… Tunto.’