Valhalla takes the soul on a journey
At first glance, it may be a little difficult to understand what links the Estonian lifestyle brand Valhalla Living to the last resting place of the Viking warriors, but perhaps those tough men would not mind resting in an aesthetically beautiful environment.
The logo of Valhalla – two feathers – which decorate a grey shipping container, can be found both by locals and, ever more frequently, by tourists in the carpark behind the market of Balti Jaam (Tallinn railway station). About a year ago, there was a somewhat crazy situation on the city streets as this 5 × 12 m shipping container was transported through the traffic to the market, so that Valhalla Living could open their showroom in it.
Terje Talpsepp, the founder and designer of Valhalla Living, always seeks contact with nature in everyday life, but park gardens behind a window or plants on a balcony were not enough for her. "I have never wanted to live in an apartment or in a place where there is no direct contact with the earth, the air, the trees or the grass. That's why, already a decade ago, I decided to build a 60-square-metre container, from which I could step out straight into the yard," she recalls. The new home of Terje and her container was old industrial land in Suur-Sõjamäe, a genuine industrial romance between cable reels and buckthorn bushes. These contradictions fit well with Terje's own nature – she is both a flower child and a practicing entrepreneur. She has also combined economics, business management and photography in her education.
Terje describes Valhalla Living as a parallel universe, where nothing is as it seems at first glance. "In our brand's story, Valhalla is a place where everyday routine steps aside and gives way to inspiration. This is a place where natural patterns live," says Terje, who also talks about northern lights of the soul and white unicorns with a sparkle in her eyes.
Although Nordic design is often characterised by the word "crisp" next to minimalism and purity, Valhalla Living's products are more likely to be warm and homely. Creations are based on Terje's own photographs taken on her morning walks in the forests and on the shores of Estonia, as well as meaningful moments from trips to different places in the world – from Alaska to Bali. "There are never similar moments in nature – everything is in constant motion," says Terje. The grassy coastal meadows, swirling pine tops or palm leaves swinging in the sun contribute to Valhalla Living's products in their static state, but the movement can still be perceived. The Coastland pattern on the cover of the magazine is from a special collection dedicated to EV100. It depicts the greying sky, deep-green-coloured straws, cold western winds, an evening filling with the deep scent of the earth and the sea. It is a pattern depicting the earth, where the meeting of sky and sea turns to wind and the foaming waves and the reed become heavenly flowers. The Coastland pattern sings about the beauty of nature in the language of the coastal people. "Believe it or not, I remember exactly where and when a specific photo has been taken," says Terje.
Terje often likes to take pictures early in the morning. "When people are still asleep, nature lives. It is a privilege to take notice and observe it. There are so many ideas that come to life in my head," she adds.
Over the course of a couple of years, the list of Valhalla Living's products has grown fairly long; aromatherapy candles were the first products, but soon home textiles, fashion accessories and ceramics were added, then wood products, marble accessories, and even furniture and lighting.
Terje Talpsepp is Valhalla Living's soul and creative engine, but such a varied range of products require thorough technical knowledge. Permanent cooperation has evolved over time with product designers Elmet Treier and Martin Saare. Elmet deals with the wood products and Martin helps to generate all the technical drawings and models. Valhalla Living itself does not produce anything. Production is done by various small businesses that produce products to which Valhalla Living's brand name is applied. "Considering all this, I am very happy to say that we have a lot of loyal customers, which is in some ways a mark of our quality," says Terje.
Essential oil candles, from which Valhalla Living started, have enjoyed great popularity so far, but various home textiles, such as aprons, oven gloves and tablecloths used in the kitchen, and cushion covers for the living room, have also gained more and more popularity. People have also quickly embraced the most recent, few-months-old product line, which includes Valhalla Living carrier bags, cosmetic bags and silk scarves.
As Terje is wearing a summer dress with a green and white leaf motif, I ask if maybe this is also an example of Valhalla Living's new product line or at least a sample of it. It turns out however, that the dress originates off the high street, but fashion ideas are also considered a new addition the Valhalla Living family. "Indeed, dresses are something that people ask about. Who knows, maybe Valhalla will become a fashion brand in a year or so," Terje discloses and says that the legendary Finnish company Marimekko is an example demonstrating the dream. "I am fascinated by a similar kind of thinking, in which life, home and people, although each has individuality, are viewed as a whole," she adds.
The Nordic lifestyle also includes valuing the environment and a green way of thinking. Wooden products, which were born out of collaboration with designer Elmet Treier, were mostly made from wood remnants and became geometric oak wood coasters and vases or bowls. The collection also has a wooden knife, which is good for spreading butter on bread.
Marble candle holders and stands, of which the latter can also be used as cutting boards, are also the result of a major desire to save material. "I visited a production facility of a kitchen counter manufacturing company and realised how big their material loss was. As a fan of natural patterns, I had a "Eureka!" moment when I noticed the uniqueness of each marble piece," remembers Terje. She also notes that Valhalla Living's products are generally easy to maintain, they do not lose their appearance and do not require chemicals for maintenance.
Although it is officially a store, the large shipping container, with its large windows, has not lost its homely atmosphere. Tables and hammocks are out on the summer terrace, and if you are lucky you can make yourself at home and sit snugly under a custom-made blanket. You can enjoy some coffee and chocolate yourself or buy some as a gift. There is even an antique piano at the store, the sound of which takes you on a journey to the parallel universe of Valhalla.
Article was published in Nordica´s in-flight magazine Time Flies (summer-autumn 2018).