Renovation turned a dark and dreary house into a cozy and spacious home for a family with children

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.

A dining room with a huge window
The house is furnished with a creative combination of contemporary design items and vintage finds. The Tense lamp is from New Works.

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.

A staircase with tiled details
The house, built on a hill on three levels, is accessed via the first floor. Ilona made the entrance more spacious by dismantling the wall of cabinets covering the impressive staircase in the hallway and replacing it with a tiled countertop and bench.
A dining room with a green table and vintage chairs
The second-floor section on the side of the street consists of a single large space.
Two vintage chairs next to a dining table
At the other end of the building, next to the kitchen, there is a large, elliptical dining table that Steelydesign built based on Ilona’s designs. The chairs are old, but reupholstered.
A sliding door and a view to the kitchen
A sliding door hides the spacious kitchen waiting for renovation.

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.

A view to a living room
The corridor connecting the pool section and main building overlooks the living room and vast staircase.
A lliving room with design furniture.
Even though the furnishing is still in progress, the rooms do not feel incomplete. The Adea sofa, brought from the previous home, is accompanied by a modular sofa upholstered in honey-yellow fabric. In the background, there is a Rialto lounge chair and an Åre sofa by Ornäs – a design dream come true. The paper-yarn rug on the floor is Willow by Woodnotes.
A yellow sofa and a wall lamp
Sunshine gives the soft-toned living room a warm, honeyed shade.

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.”

A exterior of a black brick house with an atrium yard
In the middle of the U-shaped building, there is a sheltered atrium, with a swimming pool as well as bathroom and maintenance facilities on one side.
Towels hanging and an indoor pool
The sauna section was made more functional, with the walls renovated and furniture replaced. The flooring was kept as is, as it continues to the side of the pool. The towels are by Lapuan Kankurit, and the fabric basket is by Johanna Gullichsen.
A tiled fireplace next to swimming pool indoors.
The swimming pool is in active use. The impressive tiled wall features one of the four fireplaces in the house.

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.”

A detail of a chair next to a desk.
Some of the paneled walls are original and some are new. The level of craftsmanship is so high that it is impossible to tell the difference. The flooring was supposed to be replaced, but since the old parquet refused to be removed, it was only sanded and painted.
A room view with a desk and a bed
Some of the numerous living rooms in the house were turned into bedrooms using intermediate walls. The Siro+ chair is from Woodnotes.
A detail of a bed with a headboard.
The master bedroom is located in a dim space on the first floor of the building. The AJ reading lights are Arne Jacobsen’s classics by Louis Poulsen.
A view of the bedroom with a sisal carpet.
The sisal carpet and abundance of textiles give the room a soft look and pleasant acoustics. The headboard and frame of the plush bed were upholstered in the Nereus fabric by Johanna Gullichsen. The poster is made by Ilona.

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.

Get inspired

Siro+ chair
Johanna Gullichsen
Nereus cushion
New Works
Kizu lamp
EM77 vacuum jug
Chair 611
New Works
Tense pendant
Lapuan Kankurit
Jäkälä towel
9602 floor lamp

See also:

Asun Homes Vol 5 bookazine >

Text: Ulla Koskinen Photos: Sameli Rantanen

This story was originally published in the Asun magazine’s issue 42.

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