Composer’s home Villa Kokkonen – a unique artist’s residence designed by Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto designed a home for composer Joonas Kokkonen that blends beautifully into the landscape, and inside opens up like a fan around the studio and grand piano. Come and explore Villa Kokkonen with Design Stories!

Villa Kokkonen facade
The street-facing facade of the Villa Kokkonen is dark and closed. Most of the windows open onto the courtyard.

FEW HOUSES look as well adapted to the terrain as this low, single-story home on the crest of a gentle slope. Villa Kokkonen’s organic, undulating facade, reminiscent of the lid of a grand piano, is dark and almost unnoticeable from the street, calmly blending in with the contour of the street.

Many people know of Aino and Jean Sibelius’ Ainola residence in Järvenpää, Finland, but Villa Kokkonen in the same area is an architectural gem of equal value.

A detail in the Villa Kokkonen facade
The street-side facade and main entrance are adorned with a wavy shape, which can be thought of as the lid of a grand piano, the flow of music or the rippling surface of a lake.
Windows at Villa Kokkonen by Alvar Aalto
The main building seems to be almost hidden under the shelter of the trees.
Trees and Lake Tuusula in the background
Villa Kokkonen was completed on the west shore of Lake Tuusula in Finland in 1969.

Villa Kokkonen was the artist’s home and workspace of the composer and honorary Academician of Science Joonas Kokkonen (1921–1996), and was completed in 1969. The house was designed by architect Alvar Aalto, and is one of the few private homes he designed.

The dark exterior of the home hides bright and cozy private spaces.

The west-facing plot has three buildings on it: a pergola leads from the main building towards the log sauna building, next to which is an irregularly shaped, curved swimming pool. The garage is in a separate building next to the entrance road. Both the house and the sauna are made of wood, and the main building is clad in dark vertical boarding.

An open fireplace in the study of Villa Kokkonen
The undulating shape repeated in the details of the building can also be seen in the fireplace of the study.
The A809 floor lamp by Alvar Aalto
The composer’s workspace and main tool, his grand piano, is at the center of the entire house. The photo collage on the wall of Joonas Kokkonen’s studio features pictures of fellow composers and other musicians. The A809 floor lamp is from Artek.
Erik Bruun art piece on the wall
In the background is a wall canvas by graphic artist Erik Bruun.
The living room of the Villa Kokkonen
A bronze bust of Kokkonen by Heikki Häiväoja graces the corner of the living room. The sculpture was a gift from the Finnish Cultural Foundation in honor of Kokkonen’s 70th birthday. The room still has the original furnishings.

JOONAS KOKKONEN and Alvar Aalto got to know each other when they were members of the Academy of Finland. Aalto first visited the plot in 1967, and drew his first sketch of the house. Aalto placed a soundproofed studio at the center of the home, and it still houses the composer’s grand piano and original furniture.

Artek Aalto tea trolley 900
In the foreground, on the living room wall, is a tapestry that was a gift to Joonas Kokkonen on his 60th birthday. In the back is Villa Kokkonen’s original Artek tea trolley 900. A modern addition is Piia Jalkanen’s ceramic vases.
A dining room with a sliding door
The sliding door between the living room and the dining room is divided by vertical slats, creating a certain rhythm.
Composer Joonas Kokkonen’s telephone desk
Joonas Kokkonen’s telephone desk in his study is in the recess of a bookshelf. The fixed bookshelf in Villa Kokkonen’s study was custom designed by Alvar Aalto’s design studio. There is also a modern work of art by Inka Bell and wooden mushrooms by Maija Fredrika.
Dining room in Villa Kokkonen
The dining room furniture is still the original. It was designed by Reino Ruokolainen and manufactured by Haimi. Above the table are lamps designed for Villa Kokkonen. The painting is by Vesa Hiltunen.

The other rooms of the modestly sized home – the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms – were arranged in a fan-like pattern around the study. The layout allowed the large, soundproofed sliding door to be closed when Kokkonen was composing, so that the rest of the family could continue their daily lives in the rest of the home. It was also possible to hold small concerts in the house.

Villa Kokkonen was not only a place of work and reception venue, but also a home on a human scale.

Most of the items of furniture in the house are unique pieces designed by Alvar Aalto and Artek especially for Villa Kokkonen, or well-known Artek classics. The walls are decorated with art that the Kokkonens had purchased or received as gifts.

Sauna building of the Villa Kokkonen by Alvar Aalto
The main building is connected to the sauna building in the backyard by a pergola passage.

Alvar Aalto never charged his friend for his design work, but asked Kokkonen for “a few lines of music”. Kokkonen fulfilled this wish by dedicating a cello concerto to Aalto. It was premiered in 1969.

Joonas Kokkonen’s estate sold Villa Kokkonen to the City of Järvenpää in 1998, and later donated the movables to the city.

Get inspired

Floor lamp A810
Tea trolley 900
Aalto vase
Mimoides pillow
Pendant lamp A110
Alvar Aalto Homes
Aalto chair 611
Reeta Ek
Well art print

See also:

All Alvar Aalto's designs >

Text: Jenni Juurinen Images: Niclas Mäkelä

This story was originally published in the Asun magazine’s issue 41.

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