Villa Koivikko designed by Aarne Ervi represents 1950s architecture at its best

Interior designer Petra Majantie restored a detached house designed by Aarne Ervi in Espoo, Finland. Even though Villa Koivikko was completed in 1958, its extremely innovative use of space and living-room decor that reflects the past still manage to impress 60 years later.

Villa Koivikko by Aarne Ervi in Finland
Villa Koivikko represents 1950s architecture at its best. It has a functional layout that consists of two sections: spacious lounge area and more private kitchen as well as bedrooms.

THE YEAR WAS 1958. When architect Aarne Ervi visited Villa Koivikko, a private home he had just designed, he took a photo of the sofa set in the living room. The room was furnished with three armchairs featuring a dark upholstery, a more light-colored sofa and a low teak table. There was a lamp designed by Lisa Johansson-Pape in front of the adjacent window and an open fireplace in the background.

What were Ervi’s thoughts at the time? Did he think that this was the most beautiful view in the newly completed home?

Villa Koivikko by Aarne Ervi in Finland
The Helsinki-based Punavuoren Puuhevonen was an important partner during the restoration project. It was responsible for all the carpentry and did an excellent job with it. The shelves in the hallway are original.
Villa Koivikko by Aarne Ervi
The furniture in the sofa set is original. A round coffee table by Artek replaced the original coffee table made of teak. The sculptural piece of art on the wall is by Jussi Niva.
Villa Koivikko by Aarne Ervi
The old 1950s architecture still provides a cozy framework for the interior, which was created with a few carefully selected materials.
Villa Koivikko by Aarne Ervi
The floor lamp designed by Paavo Tynell was part of Villa Koivikko’s original interior. The armchairs have been reupholstered. The Moroccan rug in front of the bookshelf is from Artek.
Villa Koivikko by Aarne Ervi
The far-reaching views from end to end make the space awe inspiring. The building’s surface area is about 200 m².

Interior designer Petra Majantie is sitting in one of the armchairs in the living room of Villa Koivikko. The chair is in its original place chosen by Ervi, but it is now upholstered with light-gray wool fabric by Kvadrat.

Majantie has been in charge of the restoration of Villa Koivikko’s main building for the past seven years. She thinks back on her first visit to the building on a cold day in February when the sight made her “jaw drop” of amazement and admiration.

“Extremely airy and delicate, and of course a really amazing place architecturally. I immediately got the feeling that this is a true gem! It was love at first sight.”

Villa Koivikko by Aarne Ervi
The dining chairs are from Artek and designed by Hellevi Ojanen. The fireplace wall features an impressive cobalt-blue tiling.
Arabia Valencia serving plate
The new interior follows the broad outlines created by Ervi. The small items consist of original objects and new acquisitions. The Valencia serving plate is from the Finnish company Arabia.
Vintage A330 Aalto pendant
The brass vintage A330 pendant hanging above the dining table in the kitchen was designed by Alvar Aalto. The flooring is linoleum.
Kitchen in the Villa Koivikko
The short pulls on the cabinets are original. The long pulls are made according to the old model but just in a different size.
Iittala Kartio pitcher
The old kitchen cabinets were refurbished. Some of the cabinets are made according to the old model and hide integrated household appliances. The Kartio pitcher is from Iittala.

Aarne Ervi (1910–1977) was one of the best-known architects in Finland. He designed several industrial buildings, but also private houses and summer villas with fixed interiors and furniture. His style was characterized by the use of wooden panels as well as skylights and clerestory windows.

The exterior of Villa Koivikko’s main building is protected by the Finnish Heritage Agency. Everything in the exterior was preserved and restored, but Majantie gave herself full freedom to design the interior. Before making any decisions, Majantie took her time to carefully examine old photographs and interview previous residents of the house.

The old 1950s architecture still provides a cozy framework for the interior.

“I wanted to give the house a harmonious overall look. It was important to get the interior look as if it had always been this way. I selected solutions and materials that go well with the architecture of the time, even though they had never been used here.”

The changes made by Majantie are subtle and practical. For example, the kitchen was made more functional when its look was updated. In Ervi’s original solution, there was no connection between the dining and work area.

“That was the way back then. The kitchen was thought as the domain of the servants. Kitchen activities were to remain hidden, but now hiding them didn’t even cross my mind.”

Bedroom in Villa Koivikko, Finland
The sliding doors are new but inspired by the originals. The lamp on the desk is designed by Lisa Johansson-Pape.
Bedroom in Villa Koivikko
The handsome headboard has been crafted according to Ervi’s designs. It allowed hiding the sockets and the cords of the table lamps designed by Paavo Tynell.
Bathroom in Villa Koivikko
Interior architect Petra Majantie was responsible for the restoration and new interior of Villa Koivikko. It is now functional as well as timelessly beautiful.
Brass faucet
The faucets, showers and other metal details used in the bathroom interior are copper.
Bathroom in Villa Koivikko
The fireplace wall inspired the shape of the wall tiles. The bathroom has a matte mosaic-tile floor. The faucets are by Vola.

Majantie harmonized the color palette of the interior. The ceiling, doors and door casings were painted white, and a greenish gray tone was selected for the walls and skirtings. Majantie replaced the birch parquet in the living room, which was not the original flooring, with dark parquet.

The decision was made after a comparison with the living room’s original concrete-gray linoleum flooring. However, since the same tone was no longer available, Majantie ended up choosing a new iroko parquet.

“Somehow linoleum felt too ordinary compared with elements such as the fireplace, paneling, dark wood and teak.”

The new interior follows the broad outlines created by Aarne Ervi.

Majantie modernized the wet rooms completely. Apart from the wall tiles, there was no definite information available on the materials selected by Ervi. The elongated tiles on the living-room fireplace gave the inspiration for the new look. For the tones, Majantie selected the same greenish gray as for the other wall surfaces and the plastic braids on the pillars. Now the house features completely new building service technology.

Villa Koivikko exterior
The area in front of the main entrance is covered with stately slate stones. In the spirit of the 1950s, there is climbing vine around the door. The new white-concrete slabs on the terrace were made according to the old model.
OOPEAA Villa Koivikko
The external structures were renovated in collaboration with architectural studio OOPEAA. Ervi’s work was treated with care and respect.
Punavuoren Puuhevonen Villa Koivikko
The wooden structures were refurbished by Punavuoren Puuhevonen.
Villa Koivikko in Finland
The windows and terrace offer a view of the green sloping plot and the lake.

For Majantie, the project was the most laborious of her career. She gave it all she had, so that Villa Koivikko could be restored to its former glory. In Ervi’s architecture, Majantie particularly admires the placement of windows and the carefully selected views they provide – not to mention the layout.

“Nowadays, new buildings are quite enormous, but there’s no unnecessary space in Villa Koivikko,” comments Majantie. “This place lacks the traditional signs of wealth. To me, that makes this place really cozy and functional. And beautiful.”

Get inspired

Kartio pitcher
Boomerang chair
9602 floor lamp
Valencia serving plate
Hand towel
Nesting table 88
A330S pendant
Pedal bin

See also:

Architecture books at Finnish Design Shop >
• Tikkurila Church is a meeting place open to everyone >

Text: Anna Varakas Images: Sameli Rantanen

This story was originally published in Asun magazine's issue 35.

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