The modern leisure home of Joanna Laajisto and Mikko Ryhänen invites to unwind

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.

A living room in a leisure home of Joanna Laajisto and Mikko Ryhänen
Two living area walls are almost entirely made up of windows. Joanna wanted the space to be low and cabin-like. The walls and ceilings were painted in the same elegant shade of Sokeva clay paint. The floor is larch plank by Timberwise.

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.

Joanna Laajisto and Mikko Ryhänen
Mikko Ryhänen and Joanna Laajisto on the terrace, which circles around three of the building’s exterior walls.
A black holiday home
The black, low building surrounded by terraces rests on a cliff top. The steps lead down towards the beach.

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.

Made by Choice  Airisto bench / side table, ash
The furnishings in the living room are mainly vintage finds, family heirlooms and own designs, such as the Airisto bench designed by Joanna for Made by Choice. The tufted wool rug is by Woodnotes, Cesta lamp by Santa & Cole.
Santa & Cole  Maija 30 pendant, white
The large dining table found its natural spot between the living room and kitchen. The table was made from surplus floorboards and metal legs. The old Artek chairs received a new lick of paint. Maija 30 lamp by Ilmari Tapiovaara illuminates softly.
Santa & Cole  Maija 30 pendant, white
Views from the hallway towards the dining area and living room. Kitchen to the left.
Veneer doors in the kitchen
The kitchen is located on the forest side of the building. Joanna chose veneer for kitchen cabinet doors, interior doors and storage unit doors made by a carpenter.
Nemo Lighting  Lampe de Marseille Mini wall lamp, white
A lightweight island is handy in the kitchen. The Lampe de Marseille Mini by Le Corbusier illuminates the work area.

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.

Interior designer Joanna Laajisto in her holiday home
Functionality, aesthetics, and ethics are equally important in Joanna Laajisto’s designs.
The master bedroom in a leisure home
The parents’ pared-down bedroom provides access to the terrace. In addition to a comfortable bed, a stool doubling as a bedside table and a peg rail for clothing is all the furniture that is needed.
Made by Choice  Airisto stool / side table, ash
Storage space is concealed behind the narrow wooden door. The Airisto side table is one of Joanna's designs and manufactured by Made by Choice.
Artek  Aalto stool E60, black linoleum
The girls’ room is located next to the kitchen. Joanna’s father built the simple bunk beds based on Joanna’s design. Artek’s Stool E60 was designed by Alvar Aalto.
A row of storage cabinets
The row of kitchen cabinets continues as storage units in the hallway.

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.

A modern bathroom with tile floor
.The bathroom and sauna are impressive in their simplicity. The sauna door paneling was inspired by childhood memories of bathing in a sauna. Joanna made the door handle from a branch. The wash basin is by Agape, taps Tapwell.
A modern Finnish sauna
The sauna benches were made from wide waned planks. Floor tiling by Pukkila.
A black leisure home in Finland
In the evening, the contemporary building shines like a lantern. The small guesthouse can be glimpsed in the distance.
Helios fireplace by Skagerrak
A large lower terrace was built by the waterside. Helios fireplace is by Skagerak.

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.

Get inspired

Made by Choice
Airisto stool
Vitra
LTR Occasional table
Santa & Cole
Casta lamp
Iittala
Sarpaneva cast iron pot
Made by Choice
Airisto bench
Artek
E60 stool
Santa & Cole
Maija 30 pendant lamp
Woodnotes
Uni wool rug

See also:

Asun Homes Volume 4 >
Joanna Laajisto's designs >

Text: Ulla Koskinen Images: Mikko Ryhänen

This story was originally published in the Asun magazine's issue 25 and Asun Homes Volume 3.

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