Margaret Travers Nordman was the first woman in Finland to find full employment in the furniture business and to craft a lifelong career within the field, with her main body of work at the department store Stockmann.
Nordman studied at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture from 1918 to 1921 and was the ninth person to graduate as a furniture designer – the furniture study department was founded in 1915 and was headed by Max Frelander until 1928. Two other women, Sigrid Strandberg and Aili Wartiovaara, had previously graduated but pursued other careers.
Nordman started out freelancing and working at Arttu Brummer’s (husband of Eva Anttila and Eva Brummer) interior decoration firm. Interior decorators and furniture designers had trouble finding steady income at the time but the department store Stockmann would be the first to hire full time designers.
Stockmann’s (1862-) furniture design department in Helsinki was created in 1919 when it bought The Kerava Carpenter Factory (Keravan Puusepäntehdas − Kervo Snickerifabrik 1908-1985). The furniture designer Harry Röneholm ran the furniture company in the early years and he was followed by Werner West and then Olof Ottelin.
Nordman was hired as one of the lead designers at the company in 1928 and would spend 35 years at Stockmann’s furniture department up until her retirement in 1963. Initially she designed traditional furniture but in the 1930s Stockmann started modernising its designs in a functional and modernist fashion. Nordman was instrumental in that development and conducted study visits to Italy, England and France for new impressions. She also visited the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, that had a great impact on the architectural styles functionalism and international style in the Nordics. Some of her most recognized furniture ranges are named Anna, Atlantic and Elvi.
The work at Stockmann varied from the design of furniture to complete interiors in Finland and the Finnish contribution at the world fairs in New York and Paris in the late 1930s. One of her biggest works was the design of sections within Stockmann’s department store in central Helsinki that opened in 1930. Much of the work was however labeled as designed by the furniture department, and not the individual designers, and Nordman has therefore enjoyed little recognition.
Margaret never married, nor had children.
- Margaret Travers Nordman
- Won the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design’s award in 1920, 1927 and 1936.
- Designed a dish drying rack in the 1920s, a similar design was popularised by Maiju Gebhard in the 1940s.