A wooden house in Kumpula was decorated with striking colors

Moss green, powder rose, bright red and lime green sound like an odd combination. Johanna and Tero have a special ability to make the colors fit their cozy wooden house.

The living room walls are decorated with many movie, astronomical map and typography-themed posters collected by Tero. An old American trunk serves as a sofa table


UX & visual designer Johanna Helin, 34, technology company business manager Tero Salonen, 37, and Boston terrier Remo. The home is a two-story wooden house built in 1935 in Kumpula, Helsinki. The building was originally a semi-detached house that was renovated into a single home. Its size is about 140 square meters.

The long tabletop in the dining area was ordered from a carpenter in Berlin. The table legs came from a previous home and the DSR chairs are from Vitra.

THE FIRST THING YOU’LL NOTICE is the unusual color of the walls. The toned down moss green is a rare choice of hue, and all the interior walls of the two-story detached house have been painted in it. The muted shade has been skilfully combined with faded rose and lime green, bright red and matt black.

”We are easy-going and intuitive decorators. We did not plan the interior design of our home for long, but we wish to pay tribute to the methods, materials and style typical of the period when it was constructed. We favor genuine natural materials, such as wood and wool,” says Johanna Helin.

Johanna and Tero used to live in downtown Helsinki in a loft with concrete surfaces, but the green and communal neighborhood of 1930s wooden houses in Kumpula tempted them. They found a suitable yellow wooden house three years ago through an online discussion board where Johanna placed an ad looking to purchase a house.

All the surfaces in the home needed fixing, as the house hadn’t been renovated in decades. The residents first familiarized themselves with traditional construction and materials typical for the 1930s and then started holistic renovations. The building was a semi-detached house that had to be transformed into a single residence. The enamel signs A and B above the two entrances serve as reminders of the building’s semi-detached past.

There will be plenty of work to do with the old house and big garden in the future as well. Tero blurts out a couple of swear words as he thinks back on the paving project he put together.

The two-seater and three-seater sofas in the living room are from Muuto's Rest collection. There are Minus Tio's City Sunday magazine racks also in the kitchen for cookbooks and chopping boards. The ceiling lamp is German vintage from the 1970s.

The Boston terrier Remo likes to spend his retirement days loafing on the couch in a splash of sunlight.

The new nurtures the old

The couple sought to preserve as many of the old materials as possible. The original plank floorings, communicating doors and windows with their rough glass were restored.

The original plank floorings, communicating doors and windows with their rough glass were restored.

New acquisitions are also a tribute to the old. The carpenter-made new fixtures look like they’ve always been here. The all-wooden cabinets in the kitchen, bathroom and entrance hall have mirrored doors because of their hand-made feel and timeless design. The cabinets have been painted with a brush instead of a roller, as was customary at the time of construction.

Even the smallest details nurture the old style. The nostalgic bakelite light switches that are still up to modern standards, electric sockets and some of the lamps were purchased from Domus Classica.

The foot of the lamp on top of the String System chests in the upstairs study was lathed by Tero’s grandfather. Parolan Rottinki’s black rattan chair is light and easy to carry wherever it’s needed.

The hanging lamp in the bedroom was purchased for the previous home. The right type of nightstands are still missing from the bedside.

A dark hue doesn’t mean gloom

There is only one intact wall in the house; all other walls have a door or a window. For that reason, the residents didn’t want separate accent walls, but chose to calm the spaces using a single color.

“The dining area only has one window, and it’s the darkest room in the house. That’s why we highlighted its intimate atmosphere using dark hues, contrary to conventional rules. We don’t consider our choices of colors radical or pay special attention to them,” Johanna explains.

“We don’t consider our choices of colors radical or pay special attention to them.”

After finding out what kind of paint was used in the 1930s, they had to find a manufacturer that produces paints naturally, with breathing raw materials that don’t contain plastic compounds. The couple chose the Finnish Uula Color’s matt interior paint, Into. For the dining area and bedroom, they chose a dark forest green color, while the other rooms got a slightly lighter hue.

Two shades of the same color in adjacent spaces create depth. Because the ceiling is white and the floor also almost white, the overall atmosphere remains fresh and bright despite the dark walls.

The walls of the log-framed house were lined with mackle paper, after which a painter specialized in traditional construction painted the walls with a brush instead of a roller, which gave the surface an old-fashioned look without roller marks.

The faceted tiles on the kitchen walls are the same as in the bathroom. The Buono kettle is from Hario.

A kitchen without cupboards

Johanna and Tero like to cook, and they designed the kitchen together carefully to suit their needs. There isn’t much contiguous wall space in the room, so the kitchen was made to specifications.

The kitchen has no cupboards or traditional cabinets; everything is stored inside drawers. There is another counter deeper than normal opposite the stove and sink. On top of it, one can store a coffeemaker and food processor and still have enough room for juicing ten kilos of apples or baking a pizza.

Above the counter in place of cupboards is a small, delicate String Pocket shelf for coffee, tea, oils and sauces as well as Minus Tio’s magazine stand that is perfect for cookbooks and chopping boards.

The kitchen was implemented by carpenters Matti Hurme and Tauno Pukki. A ready-made model would have been difficult to fit into a room with a challenging shape. The kitchen has no cupboards or traditional cabinets, only drawers. Magis' Piña chairs are the work of Jaime Hayón.

A carpenter built a custom bench for the corner of the kitchen. The breakfast corner has become the residents’ favorite place in the house. The pendant lamp is Copenhagen by &Tradition.

Utilizing every inch

There was a free space of a couple of square meters left in the kitchen corner. It was too small for a decent dining table, but Johanna found online an idea for a seating group.

The carpenter who made the fixtures built a custom L-spaced bench. A small round table and Piña chairs by Magis complement the breakfast corner.

Another great innovation is the electric socket on the side of the bench that allows a laptop and cell phone to be charged conveniently while sipping morning coffee. Another wasted space was between the doorways leading from the kitchen to the dining area, for which Tero came up with rails on which you can hang pots and pans. This way, large dishes won’t take up unnecessary space in the kitchen and are always within an arm’s reach.

The luxurious home spa has replaced the kitchen of the upstairs apartment, and there are two doors leading into it. Duravit’s spacious bathtub offers a view into the garden. The same wall tiling has been used in the kitchen and in the toilets. Behind the dark wall of the bathroom is a walk-in closet. The door leads into the bedroom. The cabinets were custom-made by a carpenter.

From a kitchen to a luxurious bathroom

The semi-detached house had kitchens on both floors. The upstairs kitchen was taken apart, and in its place, Johanna designed a large, luxurious bathroom. The sink with its nostalgic dual knobs is located on the spot of the old kitchen water mains.

A large bathtub that is used particularly during the winter as a stand-in for sauna was installed underneath the window. The tub has a view into the house’s own garden. The plumbing for the shower and tub runs inside a light dividing wall.

The large bathtub is used as a stand-in for sauna especially in the winter.

A walk-in closet that opens into the bedroom was also separated from the large space. For its door, the couple used the beautiful door from a dismantled fixed cabinet in the kitchen that would have otherwise been left unused.

The shower was placed behind a wall, so that the plumbing for the tub and shower could be fitted inside a dividing wall.

Bathing in natural light makes up for the lack of a sauna. The sauna in the basement is still waiting to be renovated.

The Villeroy & Boch sink is where the former kitchen sink used to be. The old-fashioned dual knob is from Hansgrohe.

Text: Elina Henttonen Photos: Riikka Kantinkoski

The story was originally published in Avotakka.

See also:

• Muuto's Rest sofa >
String System chest with drawers >

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