What began as a "pillow project" (the Finnish translation of Projektityyny) with delectable velvet cushions and marshmallow-esque gingham iterations, has since padded out to include luscious patchwork quilts and a rainbow-strong collection of lust-worthy linens (now stocked in a handpicked edit of retailers including Liberty London, Anthropologie, Harvey Nichols et al).
Sounds cushy, but getting the brand off the ground took some bolstering. A lone parent with a stressful full-time role in fashion, Nora Nilsson began building Projektityyny in the evenings after her children had gone to bed. Her Finnish propensity for great design, a little guesswork and a move to Dorset aligned and saw her through, ultimately allowing Nilsson to make Projektityyny a full-time commitment.
Working from her barn (formerly an art gallery and studio) in West Dorset, Nilsson relishes quiet, appreciates imperfection (and uniqueness) and stands firm in the belief that a country walk need not be carried out in sensible shoes…
Finland; the Nordic countries
Type of Brand:
Where did you grow up? How did this place shape or inform you?
I am from Finland and, although I've lived most of my life in the UK, it is the homeland that
shapes me the most - its deep, close connection with nature and the seasons, especially the forest and the sea. My childhood spent at the summerhouse, the never-ending light, the never-ending darkness, the freedom, quality of living, family - it shaped me and my aesthetic too.
Finland also exposed me to great design from an early age; world-famous design houses are part of your everyday life. I grew up wearing Marimekko every day and sitting on Alvar Aalto chairs at nursery, using everyday objects like Fiskars scissors without realising how important all these things have been in the history of design.
Good design is prevalent in Finland, and people are happy to pay for it. "Buy once, use for a lifetime" is a motto I learned from an early age. It's one that has really struck a chord with me and one that I will carry with me forever.
How does the name Projektityyny connect with your brand?
It means "pillow project". That is how it all started. However, we've (I say "we" when it's really just me) come a long way since in quite a short time and we are now probably most known for our patchwork quilts and, more recently, table linen.
Define Projektityyny's aesthetic…
I always find this question so hard as it comes so naturally to me. To explain your own art is very difficult. I would say there's a strong link to traditional crafts - such as handloom weaving, patchworking and embroidery - but it's all done in a very contemporary way, so it sits just as beautifully in modern homes as it does in the more traditional ones. My choice of colour and pattern does that; it brings in the modern, playful element. I combine unusual colours simply because I love them, not for commercial reasons.
Our patchwork quilts look modern not vintage, and our hand-loomed, recycled cushions have modern, bold patterns. I also only work with natural, sustainable materials - gorgeous linens or recycled cotton - which adds even more textural depth to the product; everything is very tactile. Most of our product is handmade and I love wabi-sabi - the appreciation of imperfection and uniqueness.
Where is your studio and what does it look like?
I work from a barn on a farm. It used to be an art gallery and studio for a local painter and I am very lucky to be working in such a lovely environment. We converted the other half of the building into a small holiday let and it has been so lovely to have people visit us from all over the world.
What songs do you have on repeat in your studio?
I don't! We lead quite a busy lifestyle despite living in the country - and life with three children is very noisy - so any time I have just to be and think on my own, I really love peace and quiet!
Tell us about your creative process…
I suppose at the very beginning I started almost with a blank canvas - and a lot of guessing. I now understand the capabilities and also the limitations of what I, and the factory, can do so the design process is a lot more focused. These days, I'm much more confident in developing concepts that at first glance look uncommercial - if I love it, I have to develop it.
I keep a book of swatches and all my inspiration sources are filed - these are constantly evolving. The factory also sends me regular updates of the kind of new techniques they can do, so sometimes new ideas stem from that.
You strive to create textiles that last. Tell us about some of the textile traditions applied to Projektityyny products…
Most of our cushions are made by hand on a handloom, meaning each will be slightly different depending on the weaver. You can see and feel the knots connecting the yarns and I love the uniqueness and texture this brings. We use a lot of cotton waste from the fashion industry to create our cushions, too.
Patchwork quilts are an age-old tradition in many cultures across the world - they're typically made from scraps of old but often meaningful materials (like someone's old shirt or dress). It's a slow craft that was often used to celebrate important life events such as births, marriages and deaths. They also get passed down generations - and I really hope ours will stand the test of time too.
Shop your own line. What are three of your favourite pieces?
What role has social media played in your brand's growth?
A huge role to be honest. We're a small brand that only consists of one person, so social media is a totally invaluable tool. It's such a wonderful and quick way to connect with your customers. I can do most of my marketing myself from anywhere in the world on my mobile.
You made the move from London to Dorset a while back. What was the impetus for the change? Are you a devout countryside dweller now?
I had been dreaming about a slower pace of life for some time. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love London and I'm definitely still the odd one out on country walks (wearing totally impractical shoes, usually), but I was a lone parent with a stressful full-time role in fashion, so attempting to build something of my own in the evenings after the children had gone to bed just became rather exhausting.
I had never really thought about moving seriously. I simply didn't see how things could change until I met my current partner, who lived in Dorset when we met. When I became pregnant with our little daughter just over three years ago, it was the perfect time to take stock and change - spending maternity leave in Dorset felt like the next, natural step.
Is travel a source of inspiration?
Always; everything is a source of inspiration. I get ideas all the time and note the things I see.
Where is your favourite place in the world and why?
To choose only one is difficult, but currently, I would opt for our summerhouse by a lake in Finland. Due to COVID-19, I haven't been able to go this year. We have never missed a summer before, so that has been hard. I have never ever experienced the same level of peace and quiet anywhere. It's simply stunning.
Destinations on you'd like to visit…
Japan and Peru; both places would no doubt be hugely influential to me.
What are you reading right now?
I am a really bad reader because I start so many books and if they don't grab me within the first few pages, I very rarely give them another go. I've found some that I really enjoy reading, but I keep mixing between them. Currently, I'm in the middle of I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite, The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair and The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, also by Kassia St Clair.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Don't compare yourself to others. Always buy the best quality you can afford. Stay true to yourself.
What advice would you give to other small homewares brands?
Be very grateful to be doing what you love; it's what we all strive for. Give it your everything. You reap what you sew. If you stay true, it will be seen and felt. If it's not really you, that will be seen and felt too. Follow your instincts. Don't compare your success to anyone else's.
Nora's Pocket Guide to Dorset:
DRINK: Square and Compass in Worth Matravers.