The wonderful Villa Ekkulla combines the best aspects of 70s interior design

What will be the end result when an interior architect is given the task of updating a 1970s villa – and free rein? In this case it's timeless, softly soothing and uniquely beautiful interior design. We visited Villa Ekkulla on Kimitoön in Southwest Finland and learned how the interior was created.

Artek  Aalto armchair 400 "Tank", zebra fabric
Artek’s Tank armchairs, already designed in 1936, fit seamlessly into the interior. They are house owner Anna Helminen’s favorites – and the only thing that was not compromised on: “I pictured myself sitting in it with my morning coffee, watching the horses in the field nearby.”

VILLA EKKULLA is a piece of authentic 1970s architecture on Kimitoön in Southwest Finland. After decades of use, the house, which was in need of a refresh, awoke to a new era thanks to the renovation and interior design by the Finnish Design Shop Studio. The original spirit is still preserved, and now Ekkulla’s valuable wooden surfaces are combined with timeless design treasures and a carefully selected color palette.

Design Stories interviewed Villa Ekkulla’s owner Anna Helminen and Finnish Design Shop Studio’s interior architect Maija Rasila. We heard how the unique 1970s villa was subtly updated to meet today’s needs.

The Shaggy wool rug by HAY invites you to meet in the living room. The asymmetric Akari 16A pendant lamp is a classic by Isamu Noguchi.

Anna Helminen, in what condition was Villa Ekkulla when you bought it?
“The house was in its original condition, which was the best thing about it. My attention was first drawn to the large living room windows, the wall panels with a beautiful patina, and the mosaic parquet. The best thing about the house is that is was built well and using high-quality materials.”

How did you end up contacting the Finnish Design Shop Studio?
“I had worked with Maija Rasila previously so I already knew her. I trusted that we have a shared vision, so I was confident in giving her a free rein in terms of the design. My only wish was that I could have Artek’s Tank armchairs in the living room.

We kept a lot of what was original in the entire house, only redoing the kitchen and bathrooms entirely. The project went well from beginning to end and almost within schedule. All in all, it took about six months. It was great you could be transported into the 1970s atmosphere when visiting the house during the renovation.”

Artek  Aalto armchair 400 "Tank", zebra fabric
The horizontal lines, typical of the period, was maintained in the living room’s long, fixed window sill that hides the electric radiators behind it. The original mosaic parquet was sanded.
Oluce's gold colored Atollo table lamp was designed in 1977. The Cork Family stool is from Vitra and also doubles as an easily movable side table.

How did having an expert help the renovation?
“It was all completed in one go. The dining room chairs by Vitra were the greatest surprise, I didn’t see them coming. Yet they fit in perfectly with the rest, and bring lightness and contrast. The result is classic in a modern way, yet cozy and representative of its era.”

“The result is classic in a modern way, yet cozy and representative of its era.”

Can you recommend the interior design service to others?
“I can warmly recommend Maija and everyone else who works at the Finnish Design Shop Studio! They really gave their everything and were as enthusiastic about the project as I was. The result was perfect, and I couldn’t be happier. Everything was done professionally but with a relaxed approach.”

A brass faucet in the kitchen
The cabinets in the completely renovated kitchen are elm. The brass faucet harmonizes beautifully with the dark green marble countertop.
Vitra  Wire Chair DKR, chrome
Vitra’s Wire Chairs bring an edge to the interior and they were a pleasant surprise for Anna. The Multi-Lite lamp was designed in 1972 and is now manufactured by GUBI.
Örsjö  Visir wall lamp, hardwired, brass
The timeless design of Alvar Aalto's dining table fits well with the interior. The Visir wall lamp in the kitchen is by Örsjö.

MAIJA RASILA, what was the project like from the viewpoint of an interior architect?
“Really exciting and inspiring! The villa had loads of potential and beautiful original elements, but generally the interior needed clarity and a more functional floor plan. You could sense the atmosphere there, you just had to let it out.

As the renovation progressed, the spaces became clearer and fresher thanks to painting the walls, sanding of the mosaic parquet, and the partial wet dashing of the fireplace that was made of three materials. We also knocked down one intermediate wall to build the kitchen using elm. The furniture was also completely redesigned around a few old treasures found in the house.”

“We shared the same vision about an interior that was inspired by the 70s but with a fresher look.”

What were the greatest challenges in the job?
“On the whole, the project progressed really well. Anna and I shared the same vision about an interior that was inspired by the 70s but with a fresher look. Anna had complete confidence in our choices – so there was no problems in that department. No structural surprises occurred during the renovation that would have required, for example, replacing the original surface materials. And this was great, because the fantastic mosaic parquet and the original wall paneling were the life and soul of the place!”

Magniberg  Pure Poplin pillowcase, italian blue
Magniberg's blue Pure Poplin pillowcases and &Tradition's Untitled throw electrify the bedroom's color palette. The Dyyni rug is from Finarte.
Cover Story  Interior paint, 3,6 L, 007 ZADIE - cream
Both bedrooms were painted with interior paint by Cover Story. This creamy white shade is called Zadie. The bed is an original furniture of the house, the Eclisse wall lamp is by Artemide.

On what did you base your choice of items and colors for the villa?
“We sought a soft and natural 70s atmosphere, punctuated with strong points of color and natural materials. The villa is located in a beautiful natural setting, and you can follow the sun from the house throughout the day – that was one of our goals, to bring more daylight into the house.

“The timeless Finnish classics, delicate modern design and carefully selected vintage treasures create a layered feel in the space.”

To preserve the atmosphere, we definitely wanted to keep the original surface materials, but the abundant use of wood called for some colors for balance. The light creamy and cool green paints by Cover Story provided a suitable contrast to the wood.

The timeless Finnish classics, sharp metal tones, delicate modern design and carefully selected vintage treasures create a layered feel in the space. The furniture was chosen not only for its style and feel, but also comfort – as this is a place where you come to relax.”

Wästberg  w153 Ile table lamp, poppy red
The second bedroom got a cool greenish Virginia tone on its walls. Inga Sempé’s poppy red w153 Ile table lamp acts as an effective splash of color.

Is Villa Ekkulla somehow different from other projects by the Finnish Design Shop Studio?
“Our projects focus on furniture, and we assist our customers in solving various interior design problems on the basis of the product range we have in the online store. However, in this cooperation, reaching a successful conclusion required a more comprehensive approach, also involving surface materials and fixed furniture.”

• Read also: Finnish Design Shop Studio offers professional help with decorating your home >

How would you describe the end result?
“What we definitely succeeded best in was the atmosphere! We aimed to something that respects the original period, a solution that combines the 1970s, iconic design pieces, vintage furniture and modern freshness. I think we reached a good mix – the result doesn’t look like it was entirely planned in one go, more like it was always part of the house. And this in fact was our main objective.”

Anna Helminen and Lotta Petronella
Inspired by Villa Ekkulla, Anna Helminen (left) and Lotta Petronella developed the Kärlek product collection.

Villa Ekkulla also inspired the scented Kärlek collection, on sale in the Finnish Design Shop’s showroom in Turku. Anna, how did you get the idea for this?
“My idea was to create a distinctive fragrance that could be used in various spaces and homes. I was in contact with artist and moviemaker Lotta Petronella, who had previously created a variety of energetic room fragrances. Lotta asked Anna Karhu-Cormier to workshop with her to find a fragrance that fitted the villa. We used essential oils for the fragrance, basing on sandalwood, various citrus fruit and a dash of cardamom.

Later Lotta and I decided to create together the Kärlek collection. Its deep unisex fragrance can liven and freshen up spaces, the mind and the body. We added wild rose flower essence to balance the result, creating something new.”

The Kärlek collection consists of a fragrant oil, hand soap, and soon also a room fragrance and candle. The designers’ idea was to create a classy collection that can also be used in hotels.

Lotta Petronella, can you tell us a little more about flower essences?
“I have familiarized myself with flower therapy and made my own flower essences for works of art. I use them to create archives of plants, places and situations. According to flower therapy, each plant has its own healing vibrational energy. Flower essence is an energetic extract in which the vibration of the plant is extracted into the water with the help of the sun. For me, it’s an encounter with the essence of a flower.

We use wild rose essence in the Kärlek fragrance. Wild rose is like love, it opens the heart connection and balances the mood.”

Get inspired

Aalto 400 armchair
Atollo table lamp
Dyyni rug
Akari 16A pendant lamp
Wire Chair DKR
Cover Story
Virginia interior paint
Eclisse lamp
Pure Poplin pillowcase

It is possible to rent Villa Ekkulla for accommodation and photo shoots all year round. The house is also available as a residence for artists and other people in the creative field.

See also:

New arrivals at Finnish Design Shop >
Follow Villa Ekkulla on Instagram >

Text: Mikko Vaija Images: Karoliina Jääskeläinen

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