Together but separately – Dejlig, Ratia Stories and Studio Elisa Manninen enjoy working in a shared space

Three Finnish interior design studios have settled at one table in an office in Ullanlinna, Helsinki. In this interview, Tiina Hautala, Laura Ratia and Elisa Manninen tell us what it is like to share a workspace with competing professionals. We can already reveal that in fact, there is no competition at all.

Laura Ratia, Tiina Hautala and Elisa Manninen
Finnish interior designers Laura Ratia, Tiina Hautala and Elisa Manninen run their own companies in a shared workspace in Helsinki.

DEJLIG, RATIA STORIES AND STUDIO ELISA MANNINEN each create interior designs for their customers in the same workspace. The three firms come from surprisingly similar backgrounds. Dejlig’s Tiina Hautala holds a BBA degree, while Laura Ratia of Ratia Stories and Elisa Manninen of Studio Elisa Manninen both have MBA degrees. Each of them decided to make a career change, and after some twists and turns, they ended up working at the same table.

How did companies in the same line of business end up working in the same premises? The answer to this question is clear: they have gained much more from combining forces than from toiling away alone.

&Tradition Formakami JH5 pendant
Customers enjoy visiting the light-filled, atmospheric office. The airy pendant light is &Tradition's Formakami JH5 and the Tolomeo desk lamps are by Artemide.

Hello Laura, Elisa and Tiina! How did you get to know each other?
Tiina: “Elisa and I had desks in a studio at Telakkaranta in Helsinki, so that is where we met. The idea of a shared workspace came up, and a couple of years ago, we found this place together. I met Laura through Elisa, and she joined us a year ago.”

Laura: “I knew Elisa from my last job, the media agency we worked at. More than a year ago, I met Tiina and Elisa at an event and asked about their workroom arrangements. I think it was on Valentine's Day that I got a text message from Elisa, offering me a place in the Ullanlinna office as colleague number three.”

Muuto Cover lounge chair
Contemporary Scandinavian design is presented throughout the workspace. The Cover lounge chair is by Muuto, and the Kizu table lamp on the windowsill by New Works.
Marimekko Urna vase
Vitra's handy Toolbox and Marimekko's Urna vase have been placed on the shared desk.

Three companies in the same line of business, sharing an office – how does this work in practice?
Tiina: “Many have wondered how competitors have ended up working under one roof. In my experience, this solution is positive and only positive: we have our own work community and we can spar each other and share ideas. In this arrangement, it is the openness that is special and valuable. On the other hand, this also makes it possible for us to take on large projects: I just completed a design assignment with Elisa, which I would not have had time to implement alone at the time.”

“We have our own work community and we can spar each other and share ideas.”

Elisa: “Private entrepreneurship involves a fair bit of toiling alone at work. Here, we can openly talk about our work. A soon as I became an entrepreneur, it was important to me to work with people, although I certainly could have worked on my own for example from home. In the studio, I got to know people in the field and created valuable networks. None of our businesses would be performing so well if we had each stayed alone. We get a lot of information from each other; and we get to know new materials and furniture in passing. Here, we are exposed to information that we might not even find on our own. When you work alone, your perspective is much narrower in that respect.”

Laura: “We have a good thing going on here. We get a huge amount of energy from each other, which is extremely important in our daily work. Of course, sometimes you need to work alone and have some privacy, but very soon, you will want to get back to the office. It is valuable to keep your home separate from work.”

Elisa: “We believe that combining forces like this is really worthwhile. It brings more work and more success. We are looking forward to a large shared project, where we can combine the expertise of all three designers!”

Vitra Toolbox
“We get a lot of information from each other; and we get to know new materials and furniture in passing. Here, we are exposed to information that we might not even find on our own”, Elisa Manninen says.
New Works Kizu table lamp
Located in the heart of Helsinki's Ullanlinna district, the office space provides a calm and cozy environment for working as well as socializing.

Your office is located in the seaside district of Ullanlinna, Helsinki. What's it like to work there?
Tiina: “We are here in a quiet corner of the Ullanlinna district, between houses. We can meet our customers at the office, and we have all the materials here as well. The arrangement has functioned very well. Should anyone need more peace and quiet for a meeting, we can agree in advance that the others will work elsewhere during that time. It almost feels more like a home than an office. At first, we had small separate desks here, but soon came to the conclusion that one large table would serve the purpose better.”

Laura: “This place has a wonderful light coming in, but even in the summer, the room stays nice and cool. The location is quiet, even though we are facing the street.”

Elisa: “Everyone who comes here says that the atmosphere is wonderful. I love coming to work here. An interior design firm operated on these premises before, and many things were already in place. We were lucky to be the first to get the chance to view the office, and we had to make the decision immediately. So it happened that we moved our tools here shortly after the viewing. Every now and then, we have a Cleaning & Bubbly Friday here. That means we clean up the office and the material sample stores, and then raise a glass of sparkling wine. In good company, we may enjoy ourselves long into the night.”

Artek Chair 69
Studio Elisa Manninen and Tiina Hautala's Dejlig were jointly responsible for the space and interior design of this completely renovated apartment in Ruskeasuo, Helsinki. The dining space is furnished with Alvar Aalto's 69 chairs in black and A330S pendants in chrome. The lounge chair is & Tradition's Catch JH14.
Hay Nelson Saucer Bubble pendant
All surface materials, fixtures and the entire interior of the apartment were updated. Residents wished for a timeless decor with a peaceful, Scandinavian feeling. The pendant light is from Hay's Nelson collection.

“We believe that combining forces like this is really worthwhile. It brings more work and more success.”

Normann Copenhagen Amp chandelier
The renovation of this apartment in Helsinki's Töölö district was done respecting the history of the building, with an aim to save the beautiful details of the interior. The spirit of the old house was emphasized in the material choices but brought to the present day. The eye-catching luminaire is Normann Copenhagen's Amp chandelier.
Hay Rice paper shade
The new surface materials, lighting and furniture for the Töölö apartment were selected by Tiina Hautala. The luminaires include Hay's large Rice paper shade and New Works' Kizu table lamp.
Gubi Multi-Lite pendant
This townhouse apartment in Helsinki was renovated completely. The design of the surfaces, lighting and furniture is by Laura Ratia from Ratia Stories. The pendants are from Gubi’s Multi-Lite collection and the chairs from &Tradition’s In Between series.

You have each collaborated with Finnish Design Shop’s Contract Sales, some of you for a long time! How has the cooperation been?
Laura: “I have been cooperating with Finnish Design Shop’s Contract Sales from the very beginning. The company's product range is extensive and they are easy and pleasant to work with. For example, if a product included in the invitation to tender is not available in their selection, they suggest something similar to replace it with.”

Tiina: “The primary reason for cooperation is definitely the selection that Finnish Design Shop can offer. When all the products for a project are available in one place, it is very easy to return to that operator. The Contract Sales professionals have always provided uncomplicated service: they are really helpful, they find more information for you and contact the supplier to find out the details that concern you. I’m impressed by their approach to customer service.”

Elisa: “I agree! A large selection of products from one place, easily and quickly.”

See also:

• Finnish Design Shop's Contract Sales >

Text: Hanna-Katariina Mononen Images: Mikael Pettersson, Elisa Manninen, Tiina Hautala and Satu Nyström

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