A designer couple’s home in Helsinki is a stylish return to the seventies

What would a lottery win for a creative couple who loves the 1970s look like? A semi-detached house built in Tammisalo, Helsinki, in 1969 and cherished by its previous resident for almost 50 years.

A semi-detached house in Helsinki
Elisa and Antti-Jussi visited several house showings before falling for this brick-clad beauty. Damp is the Achilles’ heel of buildings from the 1960s, but Antti-Jussi points out that this concrete-framed house has been so well cared for that there is no sign of this problem.

Residents:

Antti-Jussi Silvennoinen, who heads the Andbros design agency, Elisa Konttinen, an advertising designer, Hertta (5), and their 2.5-year-olds Sasu and Kerttu. Home is a 120-square-meter apartment in a semi-detached building drawn by architect Mauri Petrimäki and built in Tammisalo, Helsinki, in 1969.

Elisa Konttinen and Antti-Jussi Silvennoinen
Elisa Konttinen and Antti-Jussi Silvennoinen love seventies architecture.

A WINDOW THE SIZE OF THE LIVING ROOM WALL is covered by see-through curtains, a rare sight in modern homes. Translucent polyester curtains were a popular choice in Finnish homes during the 1970s. The previous resident, a 91-year-old lady, left the curtains for the new residents, graphic designer Elisa Konttinen and designer Antti-Jussi Silvennoinen.

“Mrs Onerva said that she had bought the curtains from Stockmann's fabric department. They are so lovely that we left them in the window,” Elisa says.

Mrs. Onerva had resided on the ground floor of the concrete semi-detached house since 1969, living alone for the last ten years as a widow. To Antti-Jussi and Elisa, who moved in a year ago and love seventies architecture, their new home in the box-like semidetached house is a lottery win.

“It's great to live in a home inhabited by the previous residents for 50 years. Our names are now the second to be marked on the house’s share certificate,” says Antti-Jussi.

Moooi Gothic Chair

Green drama

The hallway features dramatic colors. A coat rack is concealed behind a velvet curtain. Pride of place is given to a Simpukat rug by Laila Seppä, which Elisa received from her grandmother. The bedrooms are located along the hallway. The Gothic chair is by Moooi.

Inno's Kola Light rocking chair

Light therapy

Elisa noticed how the houseplants, drooping due to the move, began to flourish in the bright living room. As well as a jade plant, Mrs. Onerva left behind a coffee table with an oriental touch and a gorgeous vase by Aimo Okkolin. “It's great to see objects being given a new lease of life here,” Elisa says. The interior ambiance is not disrupted by the flat-screen TV, with its picturesque wallpaper. The Diamond chair designed by Harry Bertoia was bought from Knoll and the Kola rocking chair from Inno.

Hakola's Lazy sofa

Mixed styles

The family previously lived in an apartment building. Elisa and Antti-Jussi are delighted that their furniture was so easy to match with the new home. The only new purchase was the Lazy sofa by Hakola. It divides the living room area as Antti-Jussi did not want to place the sofa by the windows: “We would have lost the sea view.” Green textile wallpaper covered the end wall, but there were so many picture marks that the wall had to be redecorated. The warm Oona wool rug is from Normann Copenhagen.

Normann Copenhagen's Circus pouf

Key details

The living room includes details appreciated by a designer: large wooden-framed windows and oak, herringbone parquet that adds warmth and dignity to the light living room. Antti-Jussi and Elisa are big fans of 1960s and 1970s furniture and know how to combine it with furniture of different styles, such as placing velvety armchairs by Martela alongside teak. The Circus pouf is by Normann Copenhagen.

Iittala's Sarpaneva cast iron pot

Highlighting a collection

Antti-Jussi did not want upper cabinets in the kitchen: “They would have congested the narrow kitchen.” Open, oak shelves made by a carpenter lighten up the space. The couple can use these to display old pottery, which they had collected to excess and hidden in cupboards. “You have to be careful not to overcrowd the shelves. This is a new concept for us.” The Sarpaneva cast iron pot is by Iittala and the EM77 vacuum jug by Stelton. Rhythm is provided by Rombini wall tiles designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.

Brick-colored tiles in the kitchen

An efficient space solution

A separate kitchen and dining area are a rare combination nowadays. The kitchen, which had seen better days, had to be renovated. Antti-Jussi placed wood-colored drawers by the window and white, light-reflecting drawers against the opposite wall. He had the kitchen decorated with brick-colored tiles, which look as though they have always been there.

Vintage Aslak chairs by Ilmari Tapiovaara

Cozy dining area

The windows have curtains in light, powdery colors, left by Mrs. Onerva. Antti-Jussi suggested at least six different greens for the wall. “Antti proposes a color scale, and I choose the shade. Otherwise, painting would never happen,” Elisa says. An oriental carpet provides extra color for the dining area. The carpet and Lammhults bench are from Bukowskis. An Arkki cardboard lamp, designed by Antti-Jussi's Andbros design agency and made by Lovi, hangs from the ceiling. The vase was made by Elisa's grandmother. Ilmari Tapiovaara designed the Aslak chairs.

Kehrä vase by Tamara Aladin

Valuing old objects

A fine collection of 1960s glass items from flea markets, such as a blue-gray Kehrä vase by Tamara Aladin, has been placed on the shelf. Elisa has a strong view of decor: “An item must have a unique feature to end up in our home.” The couple loves colored glass, rough surfaces, and bold shapes. Designed by Antti-Jussi, the unique glass Russian dolls were mouth-blown in Nuutajärvi.

 Tikkurila N494 Nephrite

Contrasts in place

Antti-Jussi and his father renovated all the wet rooms. The ceiling of the small hallway bathroom has cozy ribbed paneling. Lacquered oak veneer is used behind the sink. The wall is painted with Tikkurila N494 Nephrite. “This provides a sufficiently strong contrast to the light wood surfaces.” The window recess serves as a practical surface and flower table.

Lexo storage boxes

Joy and color

The twins' beds fit alongside each other against the side wall. Lego boxes have been stowed under the old Muurame beds. Elisa found the small wooden table and chairs at a flea market. “They are durable and well designed in pleasant primary colors.” The Floover vinyl tiles withstand play and are easy to clean with a damp cloth. The jovial Hattarakukka curtain is by Marimekko.

Old intarsia cabinet

The residence’s calling card

Before the actual hallway, you enter a porch with the same brick-red tiles as the kitchen. The old intarsia cabinet is the perfect size for the hallway recess. The wooden-framed glass door is one of the many fine points of this 50-year-old residence.

Get inspired

Inno
Kola Light rocking chair
Iittala
Sarpaneva cast iron pot
Hakola
Lazy Wool sofa
Marimekko
Pieni Tiiliskivi cushion cover
Ferm Living
Little Architect chair
Artemide
Eclisse table lamp
Normann Copenhagen
Circus pouf
Stelton
EM77 vacuum jug

Text: Anna Aromaa (Avotakka) Pictures: Jaanis Kerkis

This story was originally published in Avotakka.

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