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.
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?
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
Text: Anna Varakas Images: Sameli Rantanen
This story was originally published in Asun magazine's issue 35.