Once a place where maids and farmhands gathered for mealtime, the former servants’ hall of the Erkylä manor has been tastefully converted into an office space for Sinituote, a renowned Finnish manufacturer and marketer of home care products. Located in Hyvinkää, Southern Finland, the atmospheric office was designed by Joanna Laajisto.
THE SIGN AT THE DOOR indicates we are stepping into the headquarters of the Finnish Sinituote, but you might very well think you’ve strayed into someone’s cozy Nordic-style home. The large log-walled room has an irresistibly inviting corner sofa, and next to it, a full-size kitchen. On the other side of the room is a long, sturdy dining table big enough to seat a large group.
The headquarters of Sinituote is a far cry from the cubicle mazes of impersonal office blocks. Instead, Sinituote operates in a log house built in the 1840s, which originally served as the servants’ hall of the Erkylä manor. Before the latest alterations, the building has had several earlier incarnations over the years, such as a village shop, farm canteen, and most recently summer residences.
In 2020, Sinituote came to the conclusion that its office premises could no longer meet the needs of its growing number of employees. The solution was found close by – in the former servant's hall building nearby, where the company already had a showroom.
The building had enough rooms for the dozen or so employees working at Sinituote’s Erkylä office. In addition to the permanent employees, the premises needed attractive spaces for customer meetings and workshops, as well as workstations for visiting employees from the company’s Helsinki office and Akaa and Kokemäki factories.
Sinituote’s next move was to hire Studio Joanna Laajisto, a Helsinki-based design agency with an impressive track record in giving old environments a new lease of life as modern, functional facilities, such as the Runo Hotel in Porvoo.
The founder of the design studio, Joanna Laajisto, wanted the office to strike a balance between the needs of the historic building with those of modern office premises.
“In all our solutions, we wanted to respect the old building and its layout. We used traditional materials and techniques so that the old log house could breathe and have a lifespan of hundreds of years more. However, we wanted to avoid turning it into a museum – it had to be a functional workspace in tune with today’s needs. So the interior design is a harmonious combination of the old milieu and modern, nimble Nordic solutions.”
During the design process, the world was still in chaos due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which also underscored the need to rethink what is really needed from workspaces and what is most important.
“Before the pandemic, we tended to have a more functionalist approach to our offices,” says Sinituote CEO Johanna Hamro-Drotz. “But our experience during the pandemic taught us that the office is a really important shared space for us. It’s where we meet each other and our customers, exchange ideas, and have informal conversations that are important for the whole business. That’s why we put a lot of effort into ensuring that these new facilities were as pleasant as possible.”
“Before the pandemic, we tended to have a more functionalist approach to our offices, but our experience during the coronavirus pandemic taught us that the office is a really important shared space for us.”
As the large and inviting communal space shows, the focus on creating a comfortable, attractive environment clearly paid off. The employees have coffee together a couple of times a day, eat lunch at the same table, and once a day grab their broomsticks for some exercises – Sinituote’s own products, of course. A bonus is the lake right next to the building, perfect for taking an after-work dip together in the summer.
“The pandemic made remote working a permanent feature of working life, which is why people now need some extra incentive to come to the office. Having a work environment, and especially communal areas, where people feel good plays an important role here. I’m convinced that office design will focus on this more and more in the coming years,” Laajisto says.
The other rooms of the office dial down the initial impression of being in a country home. The old building is undoubtedly home-like in its proportions and has a rustic feel, but otherwise, the rooms are clearly furnished for work. Instead of a large open-plan office space, each room is occupied by only one or two employees.
Thanks to the renovations, the office rooms have a very different feel from the dimly lit rooms that the manor servants would have spent their days in all those years ago. In addition to good lighting, the rooms have been enlivened with subtle light-toned paper wallpapering and beige and white office furniture.
Despite these modern touches, however, the building’s history is still very much present in the interiors. The original paneled windows are still in place, as are the wood-burning stoves in the corners of the rooms. And in the hallway, there is a shop counter and cash register from the days when the building served as a village shop.
In furnishing the premises, Laajisto placed a heavy emphasis on eco-friendly choices and Finnish and Nordic brands that share Sinituote’s ethical values. Accordingly, alongside Adea, Nikari, Roots Living, Tikau, Lundia, and several other Finnish companies, there are stylish Scandinavian designs from Le Klint, Warm Nordic, and GUBI, among others. The furniture and other design items were supplied by Finnish Design Shop’s Contract Sales department.
A further local touch was added to the interior in the form of Laajisto’s own creations. These include a long wooden table, which was made by a local carpenter. The wood for this and the other items designed by Laajisto was sourced from Erkylä’s own forests.
Text: Anna-Kaisa Huusko Images: Niclas Mäkelä