Marimekko Unikko by Maija Isola, 1964

marimekko unikko wallpaper by maija isola 1964One after another I keep learning about amazing women textile designers in postwar America and Europe. Today: Maija Isola, who designed textiles for Marimekko. She created “Unikko” in 1964. It was an immediate hit. It defined, and still defines, the Marimekko look. And, it’s still in production. In fact, online at the Marimekko store you can still buy the Unikko design in all sorts of products — including  wallpaper, upholstery-width fabric, shower curtains, towels, placements, sheet sets, teapots, teacups — even socks and umbrellas!  Marimekko also continues to sell a number of Isola’s other original designs. Hey, I have no problem buying from designers today, but… heck… so much of today’s modern designs seems completely derivative … so why not buy the originals?  Read on for more about Maiji Isola…

maija isola of marimekko

Maija Isola (1927–2001) designed her first printed textiles in 1949 for Printex Oy, Marimekko’s predecessor. She worked as head designer of Marimekko’s interior fabrics until 1987. She also had an illustrious career as a … tremendously versatile and bold visual artist. She interpreted the events of her era from her own unique perspective and foresaw future trends. Her body of work includes over 500 prints – a brilliant selection of patterns representing different themes and techniques. She drew inspiration from traditional folk art, modern visual art, nature and her countless trips around the world. In 1970, Maija Isola wrote to her daughter from Paris: “Bon soir children. I’m having a wonderful time these days. I’ve started working. Once again, I feel as if I’ll never find the time to do even a fraction of all the things I want to do. – – I had a huge floral still-life of sorts spread out wet on the floor, waiting to be rolled up … paints in yoghurt pots, and newspaper everywhere, and flowers in vases on the floorboards. I bought those to paint from on Pentecost. Large deep-red roses, small and fragrant, curiously furry pink roses, yellow, orange and white poppies, cowslips in various shades of purple, black tulips and tiny carmine flowers whose name I don’t know.”

What a wonderful woman. I know FOR A FACT that this look was a huge influence on me, when I first started to pay real attention to interior design around 1970. The shag carpet in the first bedroom I designed for myself in our 1971 California split level = Unikko knock off, for sure. Kisses to you in heaven, Maija.

Link to buy Marimekko Unikko products: Always Mod, Everything Marimekko

Images and biographical text: Copyright © 2004 Marimekko Corporation, Puusepänkatu 4, 00880 Helsinki, Finland. All rights reserved.

  1. Robert says:

    I’ve been nuts about Unikko since I was a little kid.
    I keep telling myself that one of these days I can afford a couple bolts of it to make curtains.
    The ready-made ones are way out of my price range, unfortunately..

  2. drex says:

    About 14 yrs ago, I came upon a plethora of Marimekko fabrics while thrifting. All for under $10. Many, many yards – all vintage, all marked Isola.This led me to explore the amazing world of Marimekko and Maija. I’ve held on to them for years, trying to figure out how to incorporate them into my house. I can’t let go.

  3. sonya says:

    i have a few marimekko items. a purse with a few little bags and some kitchen stuff mostly.

    however, last year i splurged and i got the iconic 60s’ tent dress in the unikko pattern.
    the best $150 i ever spent. it’s stunning.

  4. joyce's jane says:

    I have been putting off posting pictures, mostly because I want to declutter before I do, but I have renewed enthusiasm now to show off those sheets! I think I paid a dollar for the 4pc set. The Goddess of enormous flowers and vintage fabric is my Patron Saint. She is with me ALWAys!

  5. Melissa says:

    Last year Avon sold a Marimekko Unikko tote bag as a benefit for their breast cancer crusade. I love mine, it’s so happy and cheerful!
    A set of sheets would be unbelievably awesome.

  6. joyce's jane says:

    I have a set of the pink and red poppy sheets from the thrift store! in perfect condition, cotton, Wow! I love them even more, if thats possible. I had giant pink flower wallpaper in my girlhood bedroom, circa 1972.

    1. pam kueber says:

      super lucky you, joyce’s jane! tee hee, i nabbed a peanuts gang pillow case at the last estate sale i went to. so wish there had been a complete set – but i’ll take whatever the retro decorating gods send my way!

  7. Maryanna says:

    I too am a HUGE Marimekko fan. I just finished making some drapes out of Unikko blue for our guest room…there’s still a long way to go in that room (new floors and paint) but I’m so looking forward to a colorful and vibrant room for our guests! 🙂

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