Home renovation in the style of the 1960s – now the residents have the luxury of a patio yard of their own!

Sometimes the best ideas come in the middle of the night and out of the blue. Photographer Outi Aalto’s clever idea to move the old kitchen to the rental apartment upstairs set the ball rolling on the renovation of the kitchen. In the renovation, the 1960s home even got a patio yard.

Exterior of an apartment building in Tampere, Finland
Inspired by the architecture of Alvar Aalto, the apartment building was built in 1968 in Tampere, southern Finland.


Photographer Outi Aalto, real estate agent and entrepreneur Leo Aalto and children Robert, 8, Edvin, 5, and Lilian, 2. The home is a 117-square-meter apartment built in 1968 in Tahmela, Tampere.

Photographer Outi Aalto sitting in a hanging chair
The balcony is furnished with a hanging chair by Parolan Rottinki, great for enjoying some alone time deep in thought. “Seeing far usually gets the thoughts flowing,” says Outi Aalto.

“LIVING ON RENT for a year gave us time to think how we would change the apartment if it was our own. The only thing we knew we would keep for sure was the beautiful, lacquered mosaic parquet. After finally closing the deal on the apartment, we’ve had something to renovate every year, and some of the needs for change have been a surprise even to us.

I used to lie on the kitchen floor thinking about small changes that would make our kitchen even more functional and modern.

When we moved into the apartment, the white kitchen, renovated in the early 2000s, had an insane number of cabinets. First, we removed some of the upper cabinets and retiled the kitchen backsplash. These changes kept us happy for many years.

Then, we got the opportunity to buy the apartment upstairs, whose layout is identical to that of our home. The apartment above ours, which we put out to rent, was in urgent need of renovation.

Then, one night, I just had the brilliant idea of moving our old kitchen to the upstairs apartment. Thus, we were faced with the need to design a new kitchen – just as suddenly as I got the whole idea of moving the old kitchen.

Slatted kitchen cabinets from Kvik
Outi and her husband modernized the kitchen with timeless, high-quality choices in the style of the 1960s. The slatted cabinets are from Kvik, and the wall tiles are from the previous kitchen.
Red desk legs by TIPTOE
The back wall of the kitchen is clad in oak panels. Part of the breakfast table has been sawed off, and the table has been equipped with metal legs by TIPTOE. The E60 stools are by Artek.
Wide grout in the kitchen terracotta floor tiles
The open shelves made of oak hide the sewer ventilation pipe. The grout lines on the floor tiles are wide, as was customary in the 1960s.

THE SMALLER THE SPACE to be renovated, the wiser it is to seek the help of a professional for the design. That helps you make the most of the potential of the space.

We started the quick yet careful design of the kitchen with the slatted doors we’d been dreaming of. The beautiful, slatted Cima base cabinet is from Kvik. We kept the opposite cabinet wall white.

“The idea was to restore the kitchen to its former 1960s glory.”

We modernized the worn parquet with the stuff used before. Since the idea was to restore the kitchen to its former 1960s glory, we selected hand-made brick tiles for the floor.

The kitchen was finished with custom-made, wall-mounted oak veneer panels and open shelves. Once the renovation was complete, we noted laughing that our new kitchen is probably one of a kind.

The wall of windows extending into the living room was difficult to decorate, so we ordered a simple yet impressive set of cabinets for it. Over eight meters long, the row of cabinets hides the mismatching radiators that were a real eyesore.

A black A110 pendant lamp over a dining table
Artek’s dining table and black A110 pendant lamp were the first purchases that Outi and Leo made for this home. The old school chairs are recycled and restored.
A child skating indoors
The Aalto family leads a bustling life, and the children are free to express themselves at home.

OFFICIALLY, our apartment only has two bedrooms, but we managed to create a study behind sliding doors at the back of the living room.

The idea for that came from my husband Leo, who was tired of looking at my messy study. This way, everyone’s happy.

“We managed to create a study behind sliding doors at the back of the living room.”

Even though the sliding doors to the study are usually closed, we wanted something special for the back wall. We ended up choosing the Arkki interior plywood panels, which are made of Finnish birch plywood and easy to install using the tongue-and-groove joints.

In the style typical of the 1960s, our living room is L-shaped. It offers an amazing view over Lake Pyhäjärvi. We put our striped sofa in a place that’s great for admiring the view and sunsets.

We used to have a motley collection of furniture, some of which was also homemade. Nowadays, we try to decorate our home with beautiful timeless classics. Our most recent purchase is Artek’s floor lamp A810, which I had been dreaming of for ten years. I started dreaming of Swedese’s Lamino easy chair already when living in Gothenburg as an au pair. The host family had a living room full of those chairs, and I decided that one day, I’d also have a Lamino of my own. And now I do.

Artek's A810 floor lamp
In the style typical of the 1960s, the living room is L-shaped. Outi had been dreaming of Artek’s floor lamp A810 for ten years before buying one.
Brass-colored Flowerpot table lamp
Outi has made the artwork with her son Edvin. The brass plated Flowerpot table lamp is by &Tradition.
Home office hidden behind the white sliding doors
The study is hidden behind sliding doors. The row of cabinets under the window is 8.5 meters long and custom made by a local carpenter.

WE HAD TO RENOVATE the wet room suddenly, and much more extensively than we’d first thought.

The need to modernize the wet room stemmed from a broken washing machine, around which the utility room had been built. The doorway was too narrow to get the washing machine out of the room. Thus, the only solution was to dismantle the sturdy door frame, which proved to be more difficult than expected.

This started the snowball effect. Finally, after almost three months of renovation, our home had an additional shower and toilet.

On the same day that we installed the last of the moldings, our third child, Lilian, decided to come into the world. At that point, we joked about giving renovation a rest for a while.

Soon, it’s time to give the worn facade of our apartment building a well-deserved facelift. We’ve been planning the facade renovation with architects and the board of the housing company.

The house was built in 1968. Its architecture is greatly influenced by that of Alvar Aalto, as the architect who designed our house, Kerttu Nuoliala, interned for Aalto back in the day.

White String System in the hallway
The String shelving system is perfect for storing small items in the hallway. The fiberglass wallpaper on the walls is covered with light-colored renovating plaster.
A door to the patio from the bedroom
A doorway leading out to the new backyard was made in the bedroom wall. The poster by Daniel Arsham is a souvenir from the Moco Museum in Amsterdam.
A patio with outdoor furniture
The Aaltos created a charming outdoor oasis, sheltered by the adjacent rock, for the whole family to enjoy. The patio offers a view of the nearby lake through the apartment.

THE BIGGEST CHANGE to our apartment is the door leading to the backyard that did not even exist when we moved in. While living on rent for the first year, I kept longing for a yard of our own.

In our bedroom wall, we made a doorway leading out and built an idyllic patio yard in the middle of the adjacent rocks. The patio contours to the shape of the ground. Our family has been using the backyard a great deal.

The housing company also has a stunning sauna section and roof terrace that the residents can use. The roof terrace offers an amazing view, which is one of the best things about our home. You get to admire Lake Pyhäjärvi and the Pispalanharju ridge basking in the glow of the evening sun.”

Get inspired

A810 floor lamp
String Furniture
String cabinet
Loop cushion
Audo Copenhagen
Bottle Grinder
E60 stool
Lamino easy chair
Table and desk leg
Flowerpot table lamp

See also:

New arrivals at Finnish Design Shop >

Text and photos: Outi Aalto

Featured products may not be available worldwide. The story was previously published in Avotakka magazine 6/2023.

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