Terhi Pölkki's namesake shoe brand turns ten this summer. Wood, leather and hand-stitched details are hallmarks of her designs, which often feature chunky heels and playful textures. The brand’s second decade kicks off in a new, brick-and-mortar store in the old Jugend-style quarter of Helsinki’s CBD. We visited the boutique, where Pölkki painted the roof in her favorite color.
You've just moved into the new space, congratulations! What does having a brick-and-mortar store mean to you?
My brand will be ten years old next summer, and I felt the need to find my own space that embodies my brand and looks like me. A brick-and-mortar location feels right at the moment. I still believe in brick-and-mortar retail and social encounters so I wanted a space that could showcase the variety of shoes on display at any given time. In our shop, shoes play the main role and change according to the seasonal collections. The atmosphere of the store needs to be able to change with the shoes. I wanted the space to allow for this and not take up attention or require renovations as the collections change.
You've renovated the original space. How did you come up with the concept?
A space has a huge impact on brand presentation. This space is a former art gallery and that inspires me. The thick, stocky shelves were the first thing I knew I wanted in here. I'd seen similar ones in Berlin, New York and Paris. The sturdy bench in the middle of the store reminded me of a gallery and it matched the heel of my wooden shoes perfectly. Sitting on it, I can admire my shoes!
My design has its basis in making shoes that are free of heavy metals and chrome. I don't use chemicals in my shoes that are toxic to the skin or the environment. So, the starting point for this store’s interior design was to stay in line with the brand's ideology of sustainability. Local, top quality and natural are what I value. I have some lovely Finnish elements and small business products here. Only the lamp is a French complement.
What creates the atmosphere of this space?
Clarity and order. Although I love colors, I want the space to be clear. I also like plants, they give a homely feel. And here you can change the style by changing the pairs of shoes on the shelf. Colorful doesn't mean chaotic. But ultimately, what makes this space is that green ceiling.
Tell us about the gorgeous ceiling!
At first I considered a powder ceiling, but then my favorite color green won out. We have a lot of green in our home; my clothes are green – I love green more than anything. Green also has a calming effect, it feels good now. The worlds started to click together.
Agatha was an easy choice for the ceiling, but the shade of the wall was surprisingly difficult to decide – even harder than deciding the colors for a shoe collection! When designing shoe colors, I think about the whole – shoes are not separate from the rest of a person's clothing, but should work as part of a person's style. So color decisions are not easy. That's why I was excited to see how the entire package would look in this particular space, both in natural light, and with this particular lighting. The shoes themselves also reflect light and color in different ways and look different against different shades. But once the decision was made, everything fell into place – the shelves, the bench, the materials of my shoes.
Agatha was an easy choice for the ceiling, but the shade of the wall was surprisingly difficult to decide – even harder than deciding the colors for a shoe collection! When designing shoe colors, I think about the whole – shoes are not separate from the rest of a person's clothing, but should work as part of a person's style.
What kind of decorator are you?
I'm a colorful decorator. Although sometimes I can get annoyed by how many colors we have in our home, I'm not at all a black and white minimalist when it comes to interior design. And like here, I also have a lot of Finnish design in my home – Anno, Lapuan Kankurit, Johanna Gullichsen, Hakola. Lately, I've been inspired to buy ceramics and works by local artists for my home. I now notice that our home is a kind of Finnish-design home, as if the circle is closing.
What is your favorite material?
No surprises, it's wood. Wood is a living, ecological and antibacterial material. And all the things you can do with it! I think of wood universally, not just as a material used in shoes, I think of dining tables, chairs, the forest, the history of wood... wood is my material.
If Terhi Pölkki was a landscape, what landscape would she be?
A rural landscape. I'm from South Ostrobothnia, but I've spent six years abroad – I studied in London, travelled around China and Brazil and have exhibited shoes in New York and Shanghai. Especially now when I don't get to travel, I realise that travel wasn't an end in itself, but the source of inspiration from other elements, cultures and brands. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, my landscape is starting to look more and more like a forest and rural landscape. Once the whirl and rush are gone, I find that what remains is the most familiar landscape of all.