Close to nature – This apartment in East Helsinki is decorated to be in harmony with its surroundings

The bold splashes of color inspired by the neighborhood’s 1960s architecture are an important part of Susanna and Marko’s home. The couple chose the shades of green and blue – their favorites – based on the proportions of the apartment and the light filtered through the pine forest.

Susanna Kivisilta and Marko Rantanen in their home
Marko and Susanna fell in love with the atmosphere of Vuosaari. For the living room, Susanna chose Farrow & Ball’s color No. 280, St Giles Blue.


Creative generalist Susanna Kivisilta, 45, and photographer Marko Rantanen, 49, as well as Maltese dogs Lara and Odin. The home is a 96-sqm apartment in Vuosaari, Helsinki, in a building completed in 1964.

Vintage dining table and a green wall
The Poul Cadovius table was purchased from a vintage shop in Copenhagen. Artworks by EGS and Linda Linko.
HAY Arcs wall lamp
Some of the dishes are inherited, while others are finds from vintage shops and flea markets. The Arcs wall lamp is by HAY.

NEEDING SOMETHING and wanting something are two completely different things, but realizing that is freeing, thinks Susanna Kivisilta, who is passionate about interior decoration. She and her spouse Marko Rantanen live in a colorful and charmingly bohemian apartment in Vuosaari, Helsinki. They see careful deliberation and taking your time as ways of renovating and decorating sustainably. In their opinion, renovation is not something you should rush into. Knowing your style helps avoid mistakes even when quick decisions are needed.

The generalist and photographer moved to Vuosaari from Ullanlinna, where they had lived for a while after years of living in Tapiola, Espoo, and Copenhagen. The couple wanted to be close to nature and live in East Helsinki so that they could get to their cottage quickly. This apartment was the first and only one they went to see when looking for a new home. The couple was impressed by the intriguing look of the Brutalist building and the view of the pine forest through the wide windows.

Susanna Kivisilta portrait
“The world is full of wonderful things that can be recycled. Finding them requires time and a bit of effort,” says Susanna Kivisilta.
HAY Outline cushions on a sofa
The sofa cushions and artworks repeat the favorite shades, which are blue and green. The Outline cushions are from HAY.

Susanna and Marko are fascinated by modernism and feel right at home with the architecture, materials, colors and proportions of 1960–70s architecture. The home is also decorated for the dogs. In almost every room, there are soft beds for them, as well as rugs, throws and piles of pillows that dogs love. “There are seats for humans in every room, so it seems only logical to offer the same comforts to dogs,” explains Susanna.

When renovating and decorating a new home, the couple leans on Susanna’s scrapbooks, in which she has compiled pictures of interesting interiors, things and elements over the years. With their aid, Susanna and Marko immerse themselves in the architecture of the new home and the atmosphere of the time when it was built. After this, they always make a list of what they really need and another of things that would just be great to have. The rest of the decisions are guided by budget and intuition.

Artek wall shelves in the kitchen
Favorite dishes are displayed on Alvar Aalto wall shelves. The artwork is by Göran Augustson.

Playing with colors

The original kitchen was already long past its prime and needed a complete renovation. Susanna and Marko designed the new kitchen together: “We just started to play with pieces of material in different colors and thinking about which combinations would work best in the kitchen where the light is at its most beautiful in the mornings.” The cork flooring goes well with the building’s period of construction. The shelves are old and made by Artek. The color on the wall is Arsenic No. 214 by Farrow & Ball.

Flos Snoopy table lamp
The Snoopy table lamp is a design classic by Flos. The cushion is by Johanna Gullichsen.

Obsessed with cobalt blue

The armchair is a second-hand find, a prototype made by an art student in the 1960–70s. It is covered with an old fur rug, waiting to be reupholstered. Marko has made the shelf in front of the window from a piece of rare iroko wood. The metal shelf unit is perfect for the low-ceiling space and leaves room for art. The lamp is Flos’s Snoopy. The glass sculptures are by EGS.

Cover Story Charles
The paint shade in the workspace is Cover Story’s 031 Charles.

Perfect shade of yellow

“I’m lucky to have such an inspiring workspace at home, with windows overlooking an amazing and ever-changing forest landscape,” says Susanna. She wanted to paint the walls with a cold shade of yellow, since in the afternoons, the study is flooded with bright sunlight and a warm shade could have made the room look stuffy. The typewriter is a classic designed by Ettore Sottsass. The lamp is Flos’s Tab T, and the chair is vintage Artek.

HAY door mat
The wood slat door of the walk-in closet adds rhythm to the space. The door mat with contrasting edges is from HAY.

A new wood slat door

The sliding door to the walk-in-closet is made by Marko, and the couple got the idea for it from the slats adorning the balcony, an integral part of the building’s architecture. To keep the overall look harmonious, the walls in both the hallway and living room were painted in the same light-blue shade, Farrow & Ball’s No. 269 Cabbage White The kilim rug is a vintage find. The original oak parquet was refurbished in the renovation. The orange relief is Keinumorsian (swinging bride) by Wäino Aaltonen. The oval mirror by Rodolfo Bonetto is Italian vintage.

An open shelf in the office
The shelves in the office hold tools for art and photography.

Work and art

Susanna won the globe on the shelf in Marko’s study in a drawing competition when she was six. The pen-and-ink drawings are made by Marko. The shelf unit houses part of his extensive vintage camera collection as well as tools for making art, taking photographs and doing woodwork. Marko is also a professional carpenter and likes designing and making furniture.

Moroccan rugs
The beautiful rugs in the home were purchased from a familiar merchant who sells Moroccan rugs.

Photo of a place so dear

Taken by Marko of a sunset, the photograph on the wall is like a piece of Italy in the couple’s bedroom. The pine sideboard is Swedish design and a find from Tori, a Finnish online flea market. The couple fell in love with pine furniture a few years ago after buying a cottage. “It made us see the nostalgic appeal of the classic material.” The glass sculpture is by EGS. The armchair was found in poor condition in a recycling group on Facebook.

Polygon bed cover, HAY
The blue Polygon bed cover is by HAY.

Nothing gets old when your taste remains the same

The rug is from the couple’s go-to Moroccan rug dealer, just as the majority of the rugs in their home. There are beds for the dogs in almost every room. The couple’s taste has remained fairly unchanged, so many of the items of furniture and objects have been with them for years. The Toucan desk lamp from the 1980s is a flea-market find, and the cushion is from Liberty.

A plexiglass painting made by Susanna adds color to the bathroom.

No need to change just for the look

“The bathtub is an important place for both of us. It’s great for taking some time for yourself, thinking and relaxing.” Susanna finds the tiles quite dull, but since they are in good condition, the couple felt that it would be foolish to replace them. Susanna came up with the idea of painting a picture on plexiglass to give the bathroom a more interesting look.

Get inspired

Arcs wall lamp
Cover Story
Charles interior paint
112B wall shelf
Outline cushion
Snoopy table lamp
Momento vase
French press brewer
Mnemonic hand soap

See also:

New arrivals at Finnish Design Shop >

Text: Mimmi Pentikäinen Images: Kaisu Kaplin

Featured products may not be available worldwide. The story was previously published in Avotakka magazine.

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