Marimekko transforms "real Milanese institution" into flower-clad cafe


Jumbo poppies synonymous with Marimekko cover the floor of Bar Unikko, a pink-hued pop-up cafe created as a Milan design week pit stop to mark the print’s 60th anniversary.

Named after Unikko, the recognisable poppy pattern designed by Maija Isola in 1964, the cafe is a pop-up project at Bar Stoppani in Milan.

Bar Unikko interior
Bar Unikko is a collaboration between Marimekko and Apartamento magazine

Marimekko purposefully left the interior layout of the cafe, which is a collaboration with interior design magazine Apartamento, largely untouched to create a contrast between the Finnish brand’s design language and traditional Italian eateries.

“The idea was to really acknowledge where we are and find a real Milanese institution,” creative director Rebekka Bay told Dezeen at the cafe. “If that hadn’t been our intent, then we could have just taken on an empty space.”

Marimekko cafe awning
The cafe features poppy-clad awning

Bar Unikko is positioned on a corner site with a large pink and orange awning emblazoned with oversized poppies, which also feature on table umbrellas that create a striking landmark when approaching the cafe.

“We’ve really taken the pattern out of its normal context and let it come to life in a whole new way,” added Bay, who described the contrast between Marimekko motifs and the existing bar interior as “refreshing”.

“In the Nordics, we’re obsessed with cleanliness, systems and functionality,” she continued. “Whereas here, it’s dramatic and complex.”

Marimekko patterned espresso cups
Oiva espresso cups were designed specifically for Bar Unikko

Spread across a single room, the interior kept its existing dark blue accents, burl wood panels, circular tables and a large bar positioned in front of mirrors.

A neon poppy was placed above one of the tables, which were topped with gold Verner Panton Flowerpot lamps.

The brand also added its signature pattern to the floor, characterised by poppies finished in two shades of pink, and a blue and yellow curtain at the back of the space.

Marimekko crockery
All of the crockery is Marimekko-branded

Other than these bold features, Bay explained that the Marimekko touches are found in the “little things”.

Floral crockery, coasters, napkins and matches appear throughout Bar Unniko, which also includes Oiva – a collection of petite patterned espresso cups designed specifically for the takeover.

“At first glance, you’re walking into a Milanese bar, and it doesn’t actually look like we’ve done much – but then the more you immerse yourself you start noticing these things,” said Bay.

Framed black and white photographs of the late Marimekko founder Armi Ratia were mounted to the walls as a nod to the brand’s history.

Throughout the day, the changing light alters the pink glow that illuminates the interior while a shifting soundtrack signals the transition from morning to afternoon to evening.

Customer at Bar Unikko in Milan
Bar Unikko is a day-to-night cafe

Bay explained that communal gathering is at the heart of Marimekko, which is why the brand chose to create a day-to-night cafe to celebrate 60 years of its well-known print.

“Our founder famously said, I think at the beginning of Marimekko, that the brand could’ve been anything,” reflected the creative director. “Our mission is not only to bring joy to people’s lives but to bring people together.”

Other highlights from this year’s edition of Milan design week include Faye Toogood’s Rude Arts Club exhibition, furniture made from reused skyscraper formwork and an inflatable gaming chair from IKEA.

The photography is by Sean Davidson.

Bar Unikko is open from 15 to 21 April 2024 at Bar Stoppani, Via Antonio Stoppani 15, 20129, Milan. See our Milan design week 2024 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.



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