Nice place you have here! Can you tell us a bit more about where we are exactly?
Well, we are in Tellakaranta Konepajahalli, one of Helsinki’s old shipyard buildings. It was constructed in 1916 and was used for the manufacture of ship parts until the early 2000s, when the shipbuilding company closed it. I moved in last fall after the building had been renovated, and I absolutely love it here! I really like that this old building has been kept pretty much how it used to be and still has the feel of the old shipyard days. The atmosphere here is perfect for taking pictures of the products I sell online. I could not have dreamed of a better place for my showroom!
Where does the name ‘Roomage’ come from?
‘Roomage’ comes from my favorite band Descendents. They have a lot of songs that end in ‘-age’. I have always been a big fan of the band and I thought it would be fun to use this in the name of my store. ‘Roomage’ also refers to the store itself: as I just explained, the store is located in an old building – an old space. Another word for space is room and a synonym for old is age and combining the two makes Roomage. Of course, I also sell vintage/old furniture, so this is also reflected in the word ‘age’. Later, I found out that ‘to rummage’ means to dig for something and garage sales are sometimes even called ‘rummage sales’, which is actually a nice description of what I do with my business.
As your favorite band played a part in naming your shop, you must really be into music! Can you tell me a bit about that?
Music has always been a part of my life and I started playing in bands when I was 16. I used to watch MTV and play records with my brothers, which made me develop a taste for a certain type of music and bands. There is a big chance I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t listened to the music I was listening to. I guess it all has to do with trying to be a little bit different than the rest. Back in the day, we were all looking for those new, cool bands and it was a lot harder to do back then than it is nowadays. So it’s quite similar to the way I look for the goods I sell. But I play music the whole day long, whether it is in my home, my car, or my store. It’s a really big thing for me. Punkrock always was and still is all about individuality and I guess that’s something I take as a life goal. My band Sur-rur has been playing for 20 years, though right now we are on a small break. We still exist because we never wanted to push it too much. We always played just for fun, and as long as people listen to our music and we enjoy making it, we will keep it up.
So Kimmo, can you tell us a bit about your passion for vintage goods?
I had never really thought about this before I started the store. I have been asked this question a few times now, so I had to dig deep into my memories to find out where this fascination comes from. The first memories of old things I had a connection with are from the late 80s/early 90s, when my mom decided to sell some of our old stuff on a local flea market in Vaasa. That must have been the first time and I was immediately interested and intrigued by all these cool, old things. When I started studying, I would go to flea markets to decorate my room and I even bought my clothes there. I was able to find rare pieces of furniture and unique pieces of clothing, so I could be just a little bit different than the rest.
I guess you are just born with this interest. I have been buying and collecting used stuff since long before I started Roomage. On holidays, we always tried to visit the cool flea markets and we would always come home with some vintage pieces. So before Roomage, we would buy old furniture and stuff to decorate our home and we still do that – but now, having this store, I can always put items in there, too. I’m always on the lookout for new ‘old stuff’.
How does one get into buying and selling old vintage interior products?
It’s a tricky business and there is not really a school to learn it. You just have to be creative. Before the internet, the only thing you could do is browse the markets and visit collectors or private sellers. Now you can find connections just by being online, but you really need to find the right people and some you find online and others you need to meet in person. So yes, it got easier in a way, but also harder because there is so much out there, it’s sometimes hard to filter. So browsing the web is one thing, but visiting markets and garage sales is still a big part of the job.
Do you find all of your furniture in Finland?
I actually go all-over the place to find items for my store: 75 percent I get from abroad, and the rest is from Finland. Finland is such a small country that I have to go to Central and Eastern Europe a lot to find the things that you can’t get here in Finland. But I do get into my car and visit my contacts here in Finland, too, to find some good stuff.
Who are your customers and how do you approach them? Or how do they approach you? What kind of projects do you take on?
Of course I had to make a plan on how to make this work. When I started, I wrote a business plan in which I estimated my target group to be my age plus/minus 10 years, so young adults between the ages of 25 and 45 from Helsinki. But it turns out that my customers are people of all ages and from all over the country. I have also done some projects looking for special items for hotels, bars, and restaurants. Most clients approach me. I like to use social media to promote the products I sell in the store, which has been working really well. Sometimes, things got sold from a photo on Instagram before they even hit the store. So people usually approach me after I post on Instagram and Facebook.
What are you looking for in the products that you sell in your store?
It’s a funny thing, I just trust my instinct. The golden rule I have is that if I would put it in my home, I will take it to my shop. So the store really feels like a second home to me. I try to find better and nicer stuff, items that the other stores don’t have. I’m looking for those unique things that people have never seen before. The items do need to be old and rare, but ultimately, the feeling is probably what is most important. All the products I have in my store fit my idea of what Roomage means to me perfectly.
The environment is a big issue nowadays. How do you approach this?
It is a big issue for me and I don’t say this as a marketing pitch, to preach to people that they should buy second hand. Most of my ideas on this topic come from my childhood; my parents bought good quality design furniture from e.g. Artek. And not because we were rich, but because they wanted something nice and durable – and most of the furniture is still in my parents’ house and in good shape. I know that in the past, products were built to last, so if you treat them right, you can enjoy them for a long time. Repairing is definitely something people should be reminded of, especially the younger generation that buys cheap furniture that they will replace when they break it. If you have or find an old piece of vintage furniture, it is always worth reupholstering or repairing it and making it look brand new again. When I’m decorating my apartment, I want to find that special sofa or those special chairs that will serve me for years to come. I simply don’t understand that people buy things just because they are cheap. If you have to buy a new sofa every few years, it is not cheap! So that’s what I’m trying to do: to find those nice vintage design pieces for people who love them too, and I will do the searching for them. And after all these years, I can say that I have become a pro at it.
What was your favorite piece you owned and/or sold?
I’m way past regretting selling things I was really proud to have. The world is full of nice stuff and there will always be things that come and go. And if it really is an exceptionally nice item and it would fit my home, then I might take it for myself. I do have to say that it’s mainly my wife who wants to keep things. But usually, they will be put up for sale anyway, it’s quite easy once you’ve found the right mindset. This job isn’t for people who get connected to their goods. And yes, sometimes items do make a stop in our home; from movie spotlights to a Danish design chair. But I guess the most memorable piece must be the telescopic Triplex 3m reach wall lamp from Sweden that was very rare and in mint condition.
I see both design and industrial design items in your store. Do these go hand in hand and why or how?
Sure, I believe there are similarities between old industrial items and design items. The industrial stuff that was made in the ‘50-’70s is made from certain materials that are now coming back in modern design items. I remember travelling in the USA with my wife somewhere in the early 2000s. We visited some flea markets, where we found these industrial lamps that we had never seen before. As the years went by, you suddenly saw them everywhere. I started off with industrial items only, but have adapted to the demands of the Finnish market by moving a little more towards design items. I try to sell a good mix of both.
Are there trends within this market or is it all timeless design?
Yes, like with everything else, there are trends. At the moment, the trend seems to be going more towards the Italian ‘60-’70s, with a lot of glass, brass, and copper – and rather colorful, compared to the very plain and clean Scandinavian design that has been very popular for the last couple of years. So the trend right now is a bit more playful and more colors, more cozy and a little less hospital-look.
Do you see a lot of changes? How do you keep up with trends and where are they going?
I don’t want to stress out too much about trends, but of course I do also get my inspiration from Instagram, movies, etc. But I would still like to buy and sell the stuff that I like. In my opinion, that’s how everybody should decorate their home, so your home will reflect the owner(s)!
What is your dog’s name and does she always come with you?
Her name is Mila. She is always with us, either in my store or in my wife’s office, she is the best dog to have around. She is a really nice, loving dog that loves all people. Mila is part of Roomage.