Miia and Willem’s home is one of a kind

A row house built in the late 1940s in Herttoniemi, Helsinki includes a home whose residents shun conventional solutions.

Willem van Bolderen


Architect Willem van Bolderen, Product Marketing Manager Miia van Bolderen
 and daughter Tilda, 3. The residence has 96.5 square meters, and it is located in a row house built in 1949 in Herttoniemi, Helsinki. The housing company is the oldest industrially built row house complex in Helsinki. It was designed by Jorma Järvi and Toivo Jäntti.

Willem van Bolderen
Willem wanted to modify the staircase so that it lets the light pass from one space to the next. The thin steel plates are supported from underneath by wooden beams that also make the gaps between the stairs smaller. The proportions and placement of the plates in relation to one another make the staircase particularly interesting.

DUTCH-BORN ARCHITECT Willem van Bolderen and his Finnish wife Miia came to a compromise in the search for a dwelling of their own: she wanted to live in Helsinki city center while he wanted farther away where there is nature.

Both are pleased with the home in Herttoniemi, which offers easy access to public transportation and abundant services. Willem can cycle to work in the city center, to the office of Studio Puisto Architects that he owns with his associates.

The three-storey residence in the first industrially built row house in Finland reminds Willem of the narrow town houses in the Netherlands. Knocking down the walls delimiting the kitchen and the staircase allowed more light in. The living room and the kitchen are now part of the same space, and it is easy to move around the house.

A plank floor was found beneath various layers at the beginning of the renovation. It has now been polished and waxed. The old ceiling had to go. The sound-insulation layers between the rafters were covered with white gypsum plasterboards.

Willem wanted original structures to also be visible in the kitchen, which limited the design but also provided opportunities.

Willem wanted original structures to also be visible in the kitchen, which limited the design but also provided opportunities. Due to the beautiful brick wall, he designed it completely without top cabinets. The model of the kitchen was overhauled at the same time. A cube was built in the middle of the storey, concealing not only a spacious cabinet unit but also a small bathroom.

At an architect’s home, even the stairs are unusual. They have been implemented using seemingly lightweight white steel plate. The entity designed by Willem is the single most central element in the home, and there is nothing like it anywhere else.

Iittala Nappula

Classic choices

Dining room classics, such as Vitra’s black DSW chairs and the Eolo table designed by Lievore Altherr Molina for Arper, are a good fit for an architect’s home. On the wall is an artwork selected specifically for this space from the studio of artist Reeta Ek. Iittala’s Nappula candleholders were designed by Matti Klenell.

Muuto E27

Relaxing in a hanging chair

The living areas on the middle floor include access to the backyard and views of a pine grove. The furnishings consist of individual, relaxed seats, such as a hanging chair from Parolan Rottinki and Vitra’s Eames elephant toy. The E27 lamp is by Muuto.

Willem van Bolderen

Fair materials

The handsome brick wall was saved and cleaned. The cabinet frame, doors and the interior of the worktop are plywood. The stainless steel plate with a sink is glued to the plywood using a flexible adhesive so that the worktop can withstand the materials shifting. The leather handles are self-made from leather belts. The kitchen was implemented by OpDeco based on Willem’s design.

Willem van Bolderen

The sun rises

For Tilda’s room, Willem designed a combined cabinet and bed covering the whole wall that leaves room for play on the floor. The bed decorated with flexible ropes intended for sail boats is a pleasant place to sleep. Not only do the ropes form a safe side for the bed, but they also create a decorative sun ray pattern. The rope handles of the cabinet doors are made of the same material. The stairs are utilized for storage.

Not only do the ropes form a safe side for the bed, but they also create a decorative sun ray pattern.

Willem van Bolderen

Small and practical

In addition to the kitchen cabinets, the cube in the middle of the second floor also accommodates a small bathroom. The sink cabinet and surfaces were implemented by OpDeco. The frame is made of components from the old kitchen.

Hay Noc light

The nest

The bedrooms are located upstairs in the house. Linen textiles have been used to make the parents’ bed inviting. The Noc lamps by Hay provide light when it is time to read, and Hay’s small Tray tables have their place next to the bed.

Willem van Bolderen

Slice of light

The row houses positioned naturally in the terrain have full-grown trees and vegetation that can only be enjoyed in an old residential area. The proportions of the three-storey residence resemble Dutch town houses. Even though the house is narrow, it is not labyrinthine or gloomy. Especially the living areas on the middle floor are airy and spacious.

Text: Piia Kalliomäki Photos: Pauliina Salonen

The story was originally published in Avotakka.

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