Julia and Riku’s loft is a bright apartment with black accents, located in a former fire station in Lahti. With the help of thorough planning and good design, the couple were able to tailor the one-bedroom apartment for the needs of their family of four.
Luhta Sportswear Company's store designer Julia Niemi, 33, Riku Niemi, a Telia employee, 34, and children Vilho, 8, and Valto, 1. The family’s home is a 58 square meter apartment with one bedroom and a 10 square meter loft, built in 2018 into an old fire station building in Möysä, Lahti. The original building was built in 1927. The adaptive reuse design was done by architect Riitta Vesala.
AT HOME AT A FIRE STATION? Julia and Riku Niemi first heard about the project from Riku's coworker, who had already bought an apartment in the old fire station building.
“We weren’t really planning on getting involved in a new apartment project, since not much time had passed since our last one,” Julia explains. But after taking a look at the apartments at the fire station, the couple were so excited they ended up buying an apartment anyways. Each apartment in the building is unique. The couple chose a first-floor apartment located at the far end of the building that features a private entrance through the terrace.
“We bought the apartment well before the demolition work started, so I had time to redraw the entire floor plan myself. We also chose the surface materials and designed the electrical plans and lighting to fit our needs,” says Julia, who has studied design at the Lahti Design Institute.
The young families who moved into the building at the same time quickly felt a sense of communality. After six months in the new apartment, it has become clear that whether they need to borrow wine or eggs, want a jogging buddy or need some help with the kids, the neighbors are always there for each other. Strangers have turned into wonderful friends.
A home for the whole family
The loft’s central space is used for playing, relaxing on the couch and family meals. The kids, Vilho and Valto, get to spread their toys out on the silver-colored microcement floor by Designbetoni. Julia and Riku bought the white leather couch for their first home as a couple in 2009.
A streamlined solution
The stairs leading to the loft are located next to the wall, so that they take up as little space as possible. The beautiful staircase and its railings bring structure to the black and white interior design. They were designed by Julia and made by her father. The round dining table is from Ruoko design, and the room is lit by Pholc’s Mobil 70 pendant.
Everything where it needs to be
Julia carefully planned the compact kitchen in order to fit in everything that was necessary. The intermediate space features black finger panel that has proven challenging to clean. The laminate countertop and basins are from Kvik, taps from Tapwell and the appliances from Bosch. The wooden countertop for the kitchen island was custom-made by Hollolan mittakaluste.
Two sets of needs
Julia cleverly combines more high-end design with supermarket products. The long space serves two purposes: it acts a workspace for the parents, but also features a sleeping space for the boys. The workstation consists of a dresser and a desk. Ferm Living’s Kelim rug and the yellow Tolix chair add a splash of color. Heicon’s fun bunny lamp found its place on the windowsill.
In the spotlight
The apartment is located on the first floor, but thanks to the thick stone walls, traffic noise is not a problem. The window area features windows on two of the walls. The wide windowsills are an excellent place for plants, lamps or ceramic objects. The metal chair is the Hee lounge chair by HAY.
Mind the roof truss
The loft features a multi-level sleeping area for the parents. Even though the original roof trusses sometimes require a bit of caution, they are a beautiful detail. All of the enclosures planned for the new pipes were not present in the drawings. Instead, they simply appeared in different places. The floor is made of maple parquet.
A comfortable nest
The boys’ sleeping space is made out of a bunk bed, with the top cross board replaced to provide enough support for the plywood. The veneering and the ladder were made by Julia’s father according to her drawings. The green and white Gran cushion cover is from Fine Little Day.
Black on white
For the washrooms, Julia wanted the tiles to be laid vertically. It was lucky that she decided to visit the site to supervise the job, since the tiler would otherwise have laid them horizontally. The black details of the lamps and textiles are perfectly in line with the rest of the interior.
Text: Maija-Riitta Mustonen Photos: Hannes Paananen
This story was first published in Avotakka's issue 1/2021.