This holiday home designed with emotion, skill, moderation and common sense offers a calm contrast to the everyday city life of interior architect Joanna Laajisto and photographer Mikko Ryhänen.
THE SCENIC LAKESIDE LOCATION has a magical charm that soothes a busy mind in an instant. After a hectic working week, a sense of relaxation begins to land already during the journey to the leisure time home. The approximately one-hour drive from Helsinki to Karjalohja in Southern Finland is like a rite of passage that leads to unwinding with family and friends, wandering in nature and continuing with beloved projects. Together with their two daughters, Joanna Laajisto and Mikko Ryhänen head to their new holiday home whenever possible.
The self-designed contemporary house offers a spot of respite and a chance to make the most of the changing seasons. The building project has served as a rewarding practical lesson for Joanna’s career as an interior designer. She now firmly believes every architect should execute at least one personal building project to see the big picture and effects of each applied solution in a completely new light.
Mikko Ryhänen, a photographer, planned the cottage together with Joanna. He also took part in some of the construction work learning new skills along the way, as despite the couple having a skilled contractor in charge of the build, there was always plenty to do on site.
The holiday home was built with plenty of patience, consideration, and time. Before embarking on the build, the couple had put holiday living to the test at the cottages of friends and relatives. With a clear idea of what they were after right from the start, the first steps were easy to take. Joanna and Mikko knew they wanted to build a new house, but finding a dream plot a reasonable distance from the capital city took its time. Two years into their search, this rocky woodland plot with its own shoreline ticked all the right boxes.
The floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of the lake glimpsed through trees like a shifting painting.
The couple spent the first summer getting a feel for the plot in peace. They first put up a small hut just big enough for the family of four to sleep while otherwise spending their time outdoors enjoying the natural setting. Once the children were in bed at night, Joanna and Mikko would start planning where their future house should be located with the help of a tape measure and some sticks to mark the corners. They decided the natural spot for the building would be on a cliff. Now the black house is dominated by floor-to-ceiling windows that offer views of the lake glimpsed through trees like a shifting painting.
The couple paid special attention to building heights, ensuring the house would blend into the landscape and be hardly noticeable from the lake. They made an extra effort to preserve all the bigger trees, only felling and clearing what was vital for the build. With the outside areas remaining almost intact, the house seems to belong to its setting.
The refined details and carefully selected materials coupled with craftsmanship create a luxurious elegance.
In her work, Joanna strives for intriguing, timeless and sustainable designs, where aesthetic and environmental aspects go hand in hand. Also, in their warm, minimalist home, refined details and carefully selected materials coupled with craftsmanship create a luxurious elegance.
Adhering to a reasonable budget did not mean resorting to cheap fixes but keeping the size reasonable and opting for functional solutions. The taller than standard doors were left without mouldings for a streamlined feel. Door pulls, switches and textures complement the mood. Touch, acoustics, and fragrance resulting from the materials in the space have a lasting effect and can be sensed subconsciously.
The cleverly designed layout makes the house seem larger than its approximately 100 square meters. In addition to a spacious living area, the house includes a spot for a large dining table, open-plan kitchen, two bedrooms and extra sleeping nook, bathroom, and sauna. The house sleeps six, while the hut the couple built in the beginning offers extra space for overnight guests. The hospitable couple created a nice mix of open spaces for larger gatherings and private areas for rest. The serene atmosphere is soothing and energizing. The house is testament to there never being too much beauty.
Text: Ulla Koskinen Images: Mikko Ryhänen
This story was originally published in the Asun magazine's issue 25 and Asun Homes Volume 3.