A colorful home in the center of Helsinki is a mirror of architect Jouni Kaipia’s soul

Jouni Kaipia’s home may be abundant, yet every piece has its designated place and a story to tell. Over the years, his apartment in the Ullanlinna district has come to meet all his needs.

Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
Jouni Kaipia is a Helsinki-based architect and photographic artist, whose aim is to create intimate, small-scale spaces.

ARCHITECT AND PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTIST Jouni Kaipia lives in a rental home along one of the most beautiful rows of early-20th century houses in the Ullanlinna district of Helsinki.

During the 25 years of living there, the building has been refurbished and the apartment become moulded to suit Jouni’s personality and correspond to his needs and lifestyle. It has meant cutting new openings in walls to allow light to flood the space, enhancing both comfort and practical aspects.

The bedroom on the eastern, street-side facing side of the home offers views through the hallway and kitchen all the way to the courtyard in the west. The home is more or less on ground level and makes a great place to observe life on the street.

Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
The low seating group in the living room includes a stripy functionalist-style chair and a zebra-patterned 1930s chair. The bamboo blind sifts natural light and blocks views, and the hanging metal tube extends the lamp over the table.
Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
The round coffee table serves as a backdrop for shifting vignettes. Jouni Kaipia has brought fascinating pieces from his trips to Asia and Africa. Each piece has a special story, history and purpose.

Experiences from travels have become woven into the home.

Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
The white floor marks the lounging area, while yellow indicates a transfer around the large table. The black-and-white artwork behind the functionalist-style chair is by Leonhard Lapin.
Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
Hmong tribal trims from Laos, colour experimentations by Irja Mikkola and a Vietnamese headrest are among the objects displayed in the living room.

While working for an architectural firm during his studies, Jouni Kaipia soon realized he was after something else. He has been a teacher, visiting professor at two universities in the US, and exhibition architect for museums.

During his travels, he has observed old buildings, homes and the way people live in them, first in Japan, then more extensively in Asia: Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. These experiences along with everyday utensils, handicrafts and colours from different countries have become woven into his home over the years, like the tall, wide wooden doorsteps he built inspired by his trips to Japan.

Vitra's Plywood Group LCM lounge chair in architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful Helsinki home
Next to a bench made for Helinä Rautavaara Ethnographic Museum in Espoo is a Plywood Group LCM lounge chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames.
Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
Matchstick boxes adorned by an image of Soviet cosmonaut Juri Gagarin and a Benin voodoo fetish figure side by side on the ”altar”.
Artek's Stool 60 in architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful Helsinki home
The table designed by Jouni was made from waxed laminated veneer lumber, as are all the other fixed benches, shelves and worktops in the home. The antique Viennese chairs are a Russian version of Thonet’s production. The three-legged 60 stool is by Artek and the white pendant lamp by Juha Leiviskä.

Every piece has a meaning and memory.

Lengthy periods in West Africa have further deepened his interest in the continent. Especially the Dogo tribe in Mali had a strong impression, showing him how living can be modest and rich at the same time. There, home is seen as a genuine family member and the presence of mythology and ancestors is palpable. Spending time among different cultures and religions has highlighted a link between home and a sacred place.

Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
The island between the kitchen and dining area is a handy surface for vignettes and healthy breakfast ingredients. Wooden, hand-carved utensils are used daily. Jouni tailored the kitchen to his own needs making sure everything is within reach when cooking.
Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
The blue-and-white chequered cabinet on the end wall of the bedroom reminds of the Shokin-tei tea house at Katsura Palace. The pulls are bottle tops. Also the delicate Eastern Finnish version of a high-backed shaker rocking chair is like a work of art.
Vitra's Akari paper lamps in architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
The futon bed accentuates the height of the space. Jouni built an “altar” opposite the window with changing symbols and colours. The black backdrop was painted with a mixture of plaster powder and water. The artworks were arranged at an angle to be viewed from bed.

“My home changes appearances, pieces and vignettes become rearranged. I like to cook and experiment with different cuisines. I invite friends over for dinner, right now often rustling up Thai-seasoned food, conversations around the table stretching on for hours”, Kaipia says. 

“I’m a night owl and late riser and enjoy a leisurely breakfast reading the papers. My studio is only a few minutes’ walk away, where I start work around noon. I end up losing all sense of time there. I’ve lived in the neighbourhood for long and know a lot of people, who often pop over for a chat and cup of espresso.”

Vitra's Akari paper lamps in architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful Helsinki home
Next to the bed are Akari paper lamps by Isamu Noguchi, painting by Matti Kurki, drawings by Mirja Airas, a Japanese ink painting, and Jouni’s own work with a black square.

New things arise without forgetting the past. 

Architect Jouni Kaipia's colorful home in Helsinki
Facing the entrance, Jouni designed the bathroom with top windows letting in indirect light, adding to a spacious feel. At the same time, the bathroom brings light to the lobby in the middle of the home. Pendant lamp by Juha Leiviskä.

In Finland, Jouni Kaipia wants to live exactly as he does: in the heart of the city, close to amenities. He cycles near and far. Life is made up of a string of events: home is a starting point, and his workspace, yoga studio, meeting friends and looking forward to new trips a part of daily life. New things arise without forgetting the past.

Get inspired

Eames RAR rocking chair
Akari 1A table lamp
Stool 60
Handmade in Japan
Plywood Group LCM lounge chair
Iris Hantverk
Porch broom
Outline cushion

See also:

• Asun Homes Volume 4 >

Text: Ulla Solasaari-Pohjanpalo Photos: Jaanis Kerkis

This story was originally published in the Asun magazine's issue 23 and Asun Homes Volume 4.

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