Hanni Koroma created the interior design of Espa, a newly opened restaurant in Helsinki, combining Finnish wood types with a market square feel and warm, cozy atmosphere.
RESTAURANT ESPA OPENED in a rebuilt Renaissance Revival style building next to the Helsinki Market Square in October 2019. Designed by Interior Architect, Hanni Koroma, the premises bring together several types of wood, high-quality Finnish design and the unpretentious feel of a Finnish marketplace.
We met Koroma at the Espa restaurant, where she explained the elements that create a cozy restaurant on Pohjoisesplanadi in Helsinki city center.
Would you tell us about the interior you designed for Espa? What kinds of themes are highlighted?
“I wanted to bring a strong Finnish feel and the atmosphere and sense of space of the Market Square to the interior design. Since we Finns are a forest people, it felt very natural to use a range of wood types in this setting.
In the interior decor, and in the bespoke and other furniture, we used spruce, oak, birch, elm and pine – all in perfect harmony. I love combining different wood types. It is a very challenging, but fascinating, approach to design.
The restaurant has large windows and we wanted to take advantage of the outstanding view of the Market Square. Even the deepest nook has a view of ships in the harbor, and the blinking of the Suomenlinna lighthouse as evening falls. In Espa, every table is a window table.”
“I wanted to bring a strong Finnish feel and the atmosphere and sense of space of the Market Square to the interior design.”
The interior design includes products and work by a range of Finnish creatives, right?
“Yes, I particularly wanted to use products by young Finnish designers. Some of the tables are paired with Akademia chairs designed by Kaksikko for Nikari, the flowers are set in ceramic vases designed by Saija Halko for Lokal, and the pendant lights are the creation of Jukka Jokinen and Heikki Konu.
There is also a magnificent, solid wood dining table with benches, designed by Mattila & Merz. A gull relief by Matti Pikkujämsä and photographs of Helsinki by Katja Hagelstam are displayed on the walls. The tables are set with Suomi dishware by Timo Sarpaneva.”
The restaurant is located next to the market square. How does this location influence the restaurant's interior decor?
“To continue the character of the street and Market Square, I created a similar space and color scale inside the restaurant. The main attraction in the restaurant hall is the batten and shingle reliefs by Kari Siikanen, which reprise the stone paving theme outside. After the project had begun, I visited the Petäjävesi church, a UNESCO heritage site, and was inspired by its shingle roofing. Siikanen originally planned to install battens only, but was so inspired after seeing the restaurant that he decided to make shingles as well!
The market square atmosphere is also reprised by the woven basket stands for the cutlery, commissioned from rattan artisan Kari Hannola. A wonderful connection emerged during our cooperation: decades ago, prior to going blind, Hannola had worked as a waiter at the Havis Amanda restaurant on the same premises.”
What makes you particularly satisfied with this venue?
“To me, it's important that almost everything in the restaurant is Finnish. I am also delighted by the fact that, despite its strongly Finnish character, the restaurant has a very new look, not seeking to repeat received ideas on Finnish aesthetics. We created a venue that is quite unique.”
Have you had dinner at Espa?
“Yes I have, several times! My favorite dish from the current menu is the shared pike-perch filled with lemon-fennel salad, accompanied by rosemary potatoes.
The restaurant's atmosphere is best as evening falls. The lighting has been fine-tuned for different seasons and close attention has been paid to the acoustics: this is a great place to spend an evening listening to good music, while enjoying wonderful company and food.”
Espa, Pohjoisesplanadi 17, Helsinki
• Products designed by Hanni Koroma >
• Design Stories: In Hanni Koroma’s kitchen, aesthetics come first >
Text: Hanna-Katariina Mononen Photos: Katja Hagelstam, Anton Sucksdorff and Johanna Myllymäki