Timo Niskanen was very, very fed up. It was around 2013, and for a few years he had been spending plenty of time, money and effort travelling around the world, introducing his light designs to various manufacturers. Many of them were interested and collaborations were on the cards, but nothing seemed to be actually leading anywhere.
He started to ponder over the option of just doing it himself instead.
“I figured that that way I wouldn’t need to compromise on anything,” he recalls, “and also, my designs wouldn’t just be collecting dust as prototypes on some company chief’s table.”
Whilst working as a woodwork teacher in a local school, Niskanen continued developing his range of lights on the side. He set himself a deadline: by interior, design and furniture fair Habitare’s opening date in 2014, he would have to have enough ideas and products to launch his collection.
“The development continued for about one-and-a-half years,” Niskanen tells. “I see Habitare 2014 as the moment my company was born.”
The company, known as Himmee, has since become a regular visitor to not only Habitare, but also to a lot of other events across the globe. These days, Niskanen travels on his own terms.
Production is part of the image
Niskanen and his business partner and wife, Hanna Valli, regularly visit design and interior architecture events around Europe and sometimes beyond. Himmee has some resellers here and there in Europe, and its webshop ships all over the world.
To some extent, Himmee’s internationalisation is hindered by country-specific electricity regulations. For example, in the US and Japan the regulations differ from those in Europe, meaning that Himmee would need to manufacture products targeted specifically at those markets.
However, Niskanen believes that Himmee appeals to audiences pretty much anywhere in the world – at least judging by how popular Nordic and Scandinavian design has grown in the past years.
“The clean-cut, democratic, classy and easy-to-approach style seems to be really popular,” he notes. “In today’s world, the manufacturing process is a big part of the product, too, and customers expect sustainable and transparent supply chains. All of our production happens as near as possible and most of our subcontractors are Finnish, and we aim to be as fair as possible in all respects.”
For the coming years, Himmee’s goal is to open the door to the European market properly. This year, the online store was opened in French and German, and new resellers are being sought, as are other partners for collaborations. Himmee has worked with many interior designers, and its products have been ordered for entire hotels.
Double function: on and off
It’s no accident that Niskanen ended up working with light. He’s fascinated by the double job that lights and lamps have: not only do they need to serve their purpose as a source of light when they’re switched on, they also need to look stylish when they’re off.
“For a designer, lights are interesting instruments to work with,” he notes. “They are not only functional objects but also pieces of design, and they have a huge impact on the atmosphere.”
Speaking of atmosphere, Himmee has also created an unplugged version. Its candle holder, Himmee Unplugged, carries the typical Himmee style and is meant to remind people that sometimes it’s good to switch off completely.
“Fire can be a soothing element,” Niskanen says. “At least I enjoy calming down in the evening just with the light of a candle.”
Being Finnish, Niskanen thinks, is one of the reasons he has grown fond of light, as the country offers such extremes of it. Although Himmee’s business booms when the sun is down, the entrepreneur’s personal favourite time of year isn’t mid-winter.
“I really enjoy spring, when winter begins to fade and we get longer, lighter days.”