Art and design blend harmoniously in this unique home in Helsinki

1960s architecture meets warm interior decoration in a home that combines old and new seamlessly. Michelle Planting and Thomas Zambra decided to make their home a place where friends and family love to get together.

A kitchen with ceramic tiles on the floor
The kitchen opening into the living room is the focal point of the home for the couple that likes to entertain.

ALONG A BOULEVARD in Helsinki, the houses are painted in soft colors. Sophisticated details adorn the walls and the light creates patterns on the window panes. The house was built airily, with the light bouncing playfully from wall to wall even in the stairwell.

The light, and reflections from the nearby sea and the leaves of the linden trees waving around outside the large windows were things that caught the eye of sea-loving couple Michelle Planting and Thomas Zambra on their first visit.

Thomas Zambra and Michelle Planting, portrait
Thomas and Michelle collaborated on the home renovation with interior architect Katie Lockhart. Tove Jansson’s abstract painting from 1969 is pure inspiration with its colors.
PH 5 pendant, orange
The couple’s favorite place is the corner table in the kitchen. Sitting at it, they can look over the top of the tree into the horizon. The orange PH 5 pendant is from Louis Poulsen.

The apartment in the house built in 1966 underwent a major renovation by the new residents. Now they’ve been living there for a year and the feeling of novelty has worn off. Their home has settled into a soulful and beautiful state, as if it had been just like that for a long time. Things have found their own places and the home has a beautiful lived-in feel about it.

A variety of materials and surfaces create an inviting atmosphere that is comfortable to be in.

Stories are created by carefully chosen textiles, furniture and the dialogue between works of art. Treasures by Viktor and Tove Jansson have been borrowed from the family’s collections, complemented by new acquisitions. Rough bronze status, rich oil paintings, softly three-dimensional wall rugs, quilted blankets, braided chairs – a variety of materials and surfaces create an inviting atmosphere that is comfortable to be in.

They buy works of art with feeling. Thomas describes himself a more cautious interior decorator than Michelle.

“Art makes an apartment a home. The best way to find out which works go together is by trying them out. Sometimes we rearrange their order, and sometimes a piece will find its place instantly and it feels it’s always been there,” says Thomas.

Viktor Jansson’s sculpture at a home interior
The child figure common in Viktor Jansson’s sculptures seems familiar – the same kind of small person can be found in a number of places in Helsinki: on Tove Jansson’s tombstone in Hietaniemi cemetery, fountain outside Kappeli restaurant in the Esplanade, and the fountain in Kulosaari.
Tynell 9602 floor lamp, brass - wicker willow
The rattan side table pairs beautifully with Paavo Tynell's 9602 floor lamp. The painting by Karoliina Hellberg creates an impressive vanishing point, and has details you can find yourself immersing in.
Ceramic boxes by Kira Catani
The small boxes on the table are by Kira Catani.

They were guided by an idea of creating a space that would not be too perfect or too obviously Scandinavian. Michelle and Thomas planned the renovation and layout change together with architect Katie Lockhart. During the pandemic, they visualized and worked on the space in video meetings, through pictures and messages – as Katie was in New Zealand.

The oak skirting boards and cornices running along the ceiling and floor accentuates the clean lines of the 1960s apartment.

Lockhart wanted to highlight the apartment’s spirit of long lines, typical of the 1960s, with oak skirting boards and cornices. The oak transports the eyes from the hallways to the rooms, smoothly from corners to doorways and the furniture, drawing out the shape of the apartment with firm and natural strokes. The fittings designed by Lockhart and skillfully crafted by Hemmabäst carpenter Jaakko Nousiainen are the icing on the cake.

Applique à Volet Pivotant wall lamp, aluminium
The oak cornices and the oak frames of the large windows highlight the apartment’s 1960s architecture. The Applique à Volet Pivotant wall lights were designed by Charlotte Perriand.
CH24 Wishbone chair, soaped oak - natural cord
The richness of material choices creates softness into the otherwise straightforward style of the apartment. The Wishbone dining chairs are from Carl Hansen & Søn.
HAY Woody shelf
The HAY Woody shelf is crafted from oak slats and bent steel plates, creating a combination that is visually light yet structurally sturdy.

In the renovation, the space was opened to make the kitchen, dining area and living room connected to each other. Now everything seems to be naturally in its proper place.

“When not everything is perfect, you get that homey feeling,” says Michelle.

Michelle Planting, a holistic wellness coach and co-founder of the Bonbon Community, is vocal about the importance of the home on one’s overall wellbeing. Natural materials and colors are soothing, and the correct space solutions invite people to spend time together, and the space also inspires people to experiment more. So it was important for the couple to make their home a place where friends and family can get together and spend time enjoying good food.

A desk designed by Finn Juhl
The desk in the study is by the House of Finn Juhl. Light is filtered into the rooms beautifully through classic blinds by Woodnotes.
A renovated Scandinavian bathroom with oak details
The lines in the bathroom repeat the style of the apartment in a simple and harmonious way.
Aava bed cover, 160 x 260 cm, dark grey
The home has a number of wall rugs that create softness and bring color on the otherwise white walls. The Aava bed cover by Matri and the patterns in the tapestry by Barbro Sprinchorn and Märta Måås-Fjetterström combine beautifully.

Both have to travel abroad for their work, sometimes for longer periods – and this is a place that is always good to come back to. Home is not just a place, it’s a feeling. And it feels even more like home when you have friends around the table and the space is filled with sounds and the smell of food.

Get inspired 

Louis Poulsen
PH 5 pendant lamp
Carl Hansen & Søn
Wishbone chair
9602 floor lamp
Fyr candleholder
Flowerpot table lamp
Woody shelf
Nemo Lighting
Applique à Volet Pivotant
Riihitie plant pot

See also:

Asun Homes Vol 5 bookazine >

Text: Päivi Helander Images: Sameli Rantanen

Featured products may not be available worldwide. This story was originally published in the Asun magazine’s issue 45.

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