My design classic: Kaj Franck’s Teema tableware

My design classic has to be the Teema tableware designed by Finnish design master Kaj Franck for Iittala. Although the range was designed way back in 1952, it retains a timelessness and enduring modernity that is true of all design classics. Franck designed the range from three pure forms, the circle, the square and the rectangle.

The tableware delivers incredible function; there are square and rectangular serving plates that are far more space efficient than round plates, great for squeezing more food onto a family table. The round plates have high rims, which, if you have kids, mean you have less gravy slopping onto your tablecloth. The range is highly durable, doesn’t chip, is dishwasher-proof, freezer-proof, oven-proof and can bear all sorts of rough handling that hasn’t been invented yet. Everything stacks really well; there is little movement as the individual pieces sit so tightly together.

And yet for all of its functionality and minimal lines, it has a playfulness that expresses itself not only through square and round formats, but through colour. As Franck said about his Teema design, “Colour is the only decoration.” There’s a mix and match invitation to the purchaser that works whether you pair square, black dishes with blue-grey bowls or burnt-orange mugs. Colours are restricted to certain ranges and are cleverly refreshed through limited-edition releases from the Iittala archive.

Support of the Finnish design tradition is ingrained within Finnish day-to-day living. Visit any Finnish home and you’d be hard pressed not to discover at least one piece of Teema tableware. It is a design that is wonderfully democratic; you’re as likely to see Teema in hospitals and schools as you would in a Helsinki architect’s house.

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