Now that the extensive renovation project is almost complete, the atrium house built in the 1970s no longer resembles a haunted house but provides an attractive home for a family with children. The goal was to restore the original atmosphere of the brick house.
THE BUILDING IS THE SAME, yet very different. When looking at images preceding the renovation, it is almost impossible to fathom that they are of the same place. However, going through the pictures taken a few years back makes it evident that creating the current, natural look for the atrium house built in the 1970s has required a clear vision and lots and lots of work.
At first, interior architect Ilona Lähde was not particularly interested in the large house that had already been on the market for quite some time. When Ilona’s husband showed her the sales advertisement for the house, Ilona thought that the interior had been given a wrong kind of look in past renovations and changing it to meet their taste would be too big of a project. She also thought that the house looked a bit too imposing on the outside. However, Ilona’s husband was persistent and finally persuaded her to attend an open house.
“I have a vivid recollection of climbing the stairs and getting a really strong, good feeling about the house. At that point, I was able to ignore all the ‘noise’ and see the potential,” describes Ilona.
Ilona and her husband had no reservations about renovating the about 500-square-meter brick house, once designed by the municipal architect of the city of Tampere and built on a hill, into a new home for their family. However, before making the final decision to buy, they carefully assessed the condition of the house and determined the extent of maintenance and repair it required. Ilona and her husband took their time reviewing the existing information on the house and dug up the details that were still missing.
At the time of the sale, the house, which had also been used for corporate hospitality, featured a lavish interior created with art and period furniture.
“The floor plan was a bit unusual, since despite the large surface area, there were only two bedrooms,” says Ilona. There were a total of three living rooms, each furnished in a different way. There were also two dining rooms.
There were a total of three living rooms in the huge house, but only two bedrooms.
“We don’t know all the details of the house’s past yet or what, for example, the kitchen or bathrooms used to look like. The previous owner had carried out an extensive renovation on the house ten years ago. Virtually all the rooms in the house had been remodeled. As strange as it may sound, we made changes to everything that the previous owner had renovated, except for the swimming pool. The idea was not so much to make the interior meet our taste as to give the house a look in line with the time of its construction,” says Ilona.
The couple tried to keep everything original and restore the old whenever possible. Since the building was being renovated for a family with 4 children, the floor plan was changed so that every child got a room of their own.
In addition to the renovation of the surfaces, the building technology was modernized. The plumbing, heating, electrical installations and lighting were replaced, and all the toilet and bathroom facilities and the utility room were renovated in full. The kitchen is waiting for its turn. Much still needs to be done on the outside and in the yard.
“We took on this renovation project to restore the house to its former glory and make it more functional.”
“When making decisions concerning design, I try to pay homage to the original identity of the building. All the rooms are spacious and streamlined, featuring various materials and elements that guided the design. Some of the solutions were cost-efficient, whereas some took a little more investment,” describes Ilona and continues by saying that “In my opinion, reaching a successful result requires balancing the aesthetics, functionality, technical properties and history of the building. We took on this renovation project to restore the house to its former glory and make it more functional.”
Even though the driving force behind the renovation was the restoration of the building’s original atmosphere, the idea was not to just mimic the past, but to create a harmonious whole containing both old and contemporary elements and meeting the needs of the residents.
Although the extensive renovation of the large house is complete, the process of decorating is ongoing.
“When striving for a look exuding the style of the 70s, we could’ve, of course, included more elements typical of the time, but we chose differently, as our intention was not to turn the house into a museum but to a modern home. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about periods or styles, but instead I just bought vintage furniture whenever it seemed like a good fit for our new home. Come to think of it, in addition to contemporary pieces, we have furniture from the 1960s, 70s and 80s.”
Ilona wants the interior to feature both old and new elements and reflect an open-minded attitude. The most important thing about the home is its good atmosphere and functionality, as well as the restorative features of the rooms, enabling relaxation and reinvigoration.
“A good atmosphere means different things in different situations. At home, it means a pleasant soundscape, warmth as well as brightness and versatile lighting. It can also mean beauty or simply feeling good in the place, and sometimes it can mean a nice smell or the sense of privacy. At best, a good atmosphere lifts your spirits and promotes well-being,” sums up Ilona.
Text: Ulla Koskinen Photos: Sameli Rantanen
This story was originally published in the Asun magazine’s issue 42.