How to make your home more functional? We asked, and interior architect Hanni Koroma answered

Hanni Koroma is known as an interior architect who can design spaces in which old and new are delicately interwoven. Design Stories went to her for advice on how to make your home more functional and cozy.

An image of interior designer Hanni Koroma.
Interior architect Hanni Koroma takes overlapping spatial timelines into consideration. “To me, the sign of a successful design project is when solutions look natural – as if they’d always been there.”

WHEN YOU SEE Hanni Koroma’s office, it is obvious that she has a knack for creating harmonious and pleasant spaces around her. Her office is in Kruununhaka, Helsinki, in what was originally built as an artist’s studio. The ceiling is high, and light is flooding in through the grid windows.

The interior is a skillful combination of vintage products, storage furniture of her own design, classic chairs, and unique works of art. All parts of the decor seem to be in perfect balance.

An image of a room with large windows and a work desk with wooden chairs.
Natural light comes flooding in through the grand windows. Nikari's Akademia chair and Swedish second-hand chairs stand proud by the work desk.

Hi Hanni! What do you consider to be the key aspect in making a home cozy?
“It stems from space used in a natural, sensible way, with a place for every item. You get chaos if things are left drifting around with no logical storage for keeping them. It’s also important that storage furniture is the right size. They mustn’t be too bulky or deep and take up valuable living space.”

How do you get started when designing homes?
“I go and visit the place and study it carefully with the customer. I also ask detailed questions on how they use their home and what the problems are. We start looking for solutions right away. I also take notes on the spaces and materials and see how sunlight enters the place at different times of the day. Listening to the customer is important, maybe the most important stage in the project. I then start planning solutions to meet the customer’s needs.”

An image of a room, featuring an open fireplace and Ilmari Tapiovaara's Domus chair.
An open fireplace and green houseplants add ambiance to Koroma's office in Kruununhaka, Helsinki. The chair in the front is Artek's Domus chair by Ilmari Tapiovaara.
An image of storage baskets in Hanni Koroma's office.
Hanni Koroma started her own office in 1997 and has since designed numerous private homes and public spaces both in Finland and abroad – not to forget her efforts in art and product design.

How can you make your interior decoration more functional?
“You can draw a map of your home in your mind’s eye, indicating how you move inside it and how you use the space. This is when you often discover forgotten nooks and crannies, maybe even entire rooms, that are hardly used at all.

Next you can list things that need fixing, either on your own or with the assistance of an interior decorator. The reason can be something very simple, such as poor lighting or badly placed furniture, such as an armchair facing a row of coats hanging in the hall. Just shifting the furniture around or improving the lighting may solve the entire problem.

For bigger problems, more drastic measures are called for. If you have lived for a long time in one place, it's common to overlook its potential.”

“As more people are working from home, it is important that the soundscape is not too noisy, and that you have doors you can close.”

What are the key things you should focus on in interior decoration?
“In addition to storage, I would say lighting and acoustics. Both daylight and artificial light have a big effect on whether we feel comfortable in a space. Light can also be used to control how spaces are used and which elements are highlighted. Lighting must be adaptable to the situation and the mood.

Acoustics is becoming more and more important because homes have plenty of open spaces. Especially as more people are working from home, it is important that the soundscape is not too noisy, and that you have doors you can close.”

And how can you bring more warmth into interior decoration?
“The latest trends seek more softness and warmth. These can be created with house plants, wood, and other natural materials, the use of colors, unique objects, and vintage furniture and art.”

An image of Hanni Koroma at her office.
Hanni Koroma encourages to look at your home from a fresh perspective. ”If you have lived for a long time in one place, it's common to overlook its potential.”
An image of Hanni Koroma creating a drawing.
Koroma still draws some designs by hand, using her trusted ruler as an important tool. She often also designs bespoke furniture for her clients.

Which aspects would you recommend that people pay attention to when choosing furniture?
“The choice of furniture must always derive from the space and its proportions. Not even the finest design furniture will look good if it’s crammed into a corner without enough space around it. You should also pay attention to the quality and durability of the furniture.”

You have designed many homes, restaurants, and offices in which layers of time intertwine naturally. How do you go about this?
“To me, the sign of a successful design project is when solutions look natural – as if they’d always been there. I design new parts so that they are in the same spirit as the rest of the building, but they do not have to follow exactly the style of past decades and centuries.

Naturalness stems first and foremost from material choices. I prefer natural materials, such as wood, brick, or stone, because they have always existed and therefore they create a natural continuum. I choose colors that suit the building’s stages and the environment.”

“I think it’s an illusion for a home to be a still life that can be completed in one go. Your home must be updated and adapted along with your needs.”

When is a home interior ready?
“I think it’s an illusion for a home to be a still life that can be completed in one go. After all, a home is in a continuous state of flux, as it is an extension of our lives, and human life consists of various phases. Your home must be updated and adapted along with your needs.”

An image of Hanni Koroma.
All design revolves around materials and proportions. “Not even the finest design furniture will look good if it’s crammed into a corner without enough space around it,” says Koroma. Marika Kecskemét's photographic artwork in the background.
An image of Hanni Koroma's office.
Natural materials such as wood, art, and fresh green plants add softness and coziness to the office space, originally built as an artist’s studio.

How did you originally become an interior architect?
“I had a dream ever since I was a little girl to become an interior architect. My father was an architect and he wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but to me the work of an architect seemed like an endless jungle of rules and regulations. It didn’t have the kind of freedom that I craved. There’s a lot more freedom in the work of an interior architect.”

I graduated in 1996 and started my business right after. Finland had just come out of a recession, and there were not too many jobs around. At first, I designed plenty of homes for private customers. It was not very common at the time. I renovated old places in particular because I found it distressing that old places were made to look too modern.”

What else have you planned over the years?
“I work on everything related to spaces and objects. I’ve designed not only homes but also offices, restaurants, large renovations, exhibitions, and even entire new buildings. I often also design bespoke furniture, and some of them have even been mass-produced. I’ve also done some visual arts.

Although it may seem that I’ve done a great many things, to me it feels all the work is basically the same. Whether I’m working on a piece of storage furniture, a tiny box, or a detached house, it’s really about managing the material and the proportions.”

Read also:

• In Hanni Koroma’s kitchen, aesthetics come first >

Text: Anna-Kaisa Huusko Images: Niclas Mäkelä

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