1960s rowhouse with charming small eccentricities

There are homes where people live for a long time. Despite eccentricities – or perhaps because of them – they have a pleasant atmosphere.

1960's rowhouse

The secret of comfort in a low apartment is light, which streams in not only through the skylights, but also from both sides of the apartment. Artek’s dining table for eight is great for doing homework and art and entertaining friends. The PH5 lamps are by Louis Poulsen.

The residents:

A designer couple who ended up in the fields of communications and banking. The home is a rowhouse in Espoo, Finland, designed by architect Jaakko Laapotti and built in 1963. The two-story apartment is 165 square meters in size.

1960's rowhouse

This arrangement that recreates the colors of the Mediterranean includes Iittala’s Kartio jug and ceramics from Provence. The collection of paintings is a mix of inherited works of modernism and contemporary art made by friends.

THERE ARE HOMES people won’t leave no matter what. Many of the original residents are still living in rowhouses designed by architect Jaakko Laapotti in the 1960s – much to the chagrin of today’s families who would love to get their hands on them. The first owners of this apartment, too, lived here from their peak years to their tennis-filled retirement. The current residents have been living here for more than a decade.

1960's rowhouse

The counters run on both sides of the dining table. Cooking is done here in high heels not only during parties, as the high counter that was intended to be temporary has not been replaced with a lower one. The lamp is a Caravaggio by Lightyears.

The floor plan of the apartment is not quite ordinary. There is a special reason for it: the first residents wanted to have a dance floor instead of the kitchen at the heart of the apartment. The idea apparently came from a dancing instructor who charmed the constructor family with dancing lessons.

The first residents wanted to have a dance floor at the heart of the apartment.

Fitting a dance floor into a 165-square foot family apartment then caused a small chain reaction. The kitchen had to be moved to where the architect had drawn a bedroom. The only place then left for the bedroom was the farthest corner at the end of the hall. It was separated from the rest of the space with a row of clothes closets.

1960's rowhouse

The interior design of the apartment is a collection of vintage and newer furniture gathered over the years from around the world. The neutral shades of the furniture allow for playfulness with the textiles. Marimekko’s cushions bring a suitable lightness to everyday life. The huge Monstera plant was bought online and is now enjoying the bright atmosphere of the house.

1960's rowhouse

Classics like Vitra’s Lounge Chair live side by side with lesser known design furniture. The work of photographic art was a gift from artist Jordi Colomer, at whose apartment the family stayed in Spain. Alvar Aalto’s 907B club table was a part of grandmother’s inheritance.

The house’s combinations of materials are not the most ordinary, either. The material chosen for the living room floor back in the day wasn’t parquet, but wenge, which can stand the tapping of shoes. This choice rocked the budget, and as a result, only cost-efficient latex paint was used on the plywood ceiling. In the neighboring apartments, ceilings were covered at least with extravagant lathing, as was customary at the time.

1960's rowhouse

The worn-out sideboard was added in during a move from Barcelona. Seletti’s Monkey Lamp stands in astonishment in the shade of cherry blossoms. The flower vase is a jug from Marimekko’s Socks rolled down series.

1960's rowhouse

The residents appreciate the apartment being clearly divided into the main floor and the smaller basement. There is enough room upstairs to make the spaces feel wide. As was typical for the times, the downstairs rooms are lower spaces for hobbies and crafts. There is also a teenager’s room in the basement.

Over the years, the floor has proven to be worth the investment. The mistress’ pride and joy has been enjoyed and looked after. When the floor was threatened by a circular saw during plumbing renovations, the determined answer to the housing cooperative was “over my dead body.”

In the end, the floor was only touched by a grinder and a varnish brush. Along with the change of owners that took place at the time of plumbing renovations, the current residents renovated both the kitchen and the bathroom. The parquet is in excellent condition and stays that way.

1960's rowhouse

The glazed living room balcony with its transparent roof make the whole apartment feel spacious.

Jaakko Laapotti – the architect behind the houses

ONE OF THE PHENOMENA of residential construction in the 1960’s, besides the concrete suburbs, were the black-and-white rowhouse communities. Rowhouses designed by architect Jaakko Laapotti (1931-2017) that are located in places like Etelä-Haaga in Helsinki and Tontunmäki and Haukilahti in Espoo have become iconic. The special features of these apartments include pleasant atrium yards around which the indoor spaces have been built, also known as second living rooms. The facades of Laapotti’s single and two-story apartments are full of rhythm and diversity.

Laapotti had a long career at the Helsinki University of Technology, where he worked as a professor of housing design at the Department of Architecture from 1975 to 1994. Starting from his student days, he had a joint agency with his wife Kaarina Laapotti. Its designs include the famous constructivist central church of Kouvola (1977) and the office building at Fabianinkatu 10 in Helsinki (1977).

Laapotti also collaborated with his other architect colleagues. The conference hotel Rosendahl (1973) in Pyynikki, Tampere, a representative of the progressive architecture of its time, was designed in collaboration with Martti Kukkonen. The church of Lauritsala (1969) that utilized latest concrete techniques was designed by Laapotti together with architect Toivo Korhonen. The Finnish Heritage Agency has designated the controversial concrete church and parish center as one of Finland’s nationally significant constructed cultural environments.

Text: Miina Karske Images: Riitta Sourander

The story was originally published in Avotakka.

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