A brilliant city home

The home of an interior designer and a carpenter in Helsinki is full of clever interior design solutions, strong colors and a cozy atmosphere.

A brilliant home in Helsinki
The living area is illuminated by Flos’ white Aim pendant lamps. Petri made a new floor out of soaped fir planks.

The residents:

Artek’s store designer Katri and her carpenter husband Petri. Their home is a two-room apartment in a neo-Renaissance house built in 1894 in Helsinki's Punavuori district. The apartment size is 59 square meters.

A brilliant home in Helsinki
Sitting on the bedroom desk are plants, drawing paper and a bronze sculpture made by the family’s son, Peetu.

KATRI, WHO WORKS as an interior designer at Artek, and her carpenter husband Petri built a detached house for their family of four in Espoo at the beginning of the 2000s. The wooden house had 114 square meters of residential space and a lush yard of 700 square meters. With only one of their children still living at home, they eventually decided to sell the house and move to the capital.

“For the price of a detached house, we got a 59-square meter apartment on Fredrikinkatu and some money for renovations,” says Katri.

But what they lost in square meters, they won in the ease of living and their use of time. Katri and Petri are glad that their workplaces and cultural events are within walking distance. Moving into a small home was also an ecological solution.

“It’s our way of reducing our carbon footprint. We’re tired of long commutes,” Katri says.

A brilliant home in Helsinki
A long rug by Woodnotes connects the living room and the sleeping area with a library. The yellow wall cabinet is from Montana’s collection. The walls have been painted with the Belle Arti Pittura a calce chalk paint shade RAL7044.
A brilliant home in Helsinki
The bedroom is for sleeping and working. The Series 7 chairs by Arne Jacobsen serve as Katri's and Petri's work chairs. The slender luminaire on the wall is Flos' 265 lamp. The old set of drawers has been painted gray.

The two-room apartment on the third floor of an old stone building is full of innovative interior design ideas, strong colors and clever space solutions. It includes a cubical loft and a modern, orange kitchen with open shelves. The fine original details of the apartment include white ceiling boards that separate the gray-painted walls from the white ceiling. The broad baseboards and rounded electric sockets have been picked based on an old model, as every detail is important for the overall look.

The two-room apartment on the third floor of an old stone building is full of innovative interior design ideas, strong colors and clever space solutions.

According to Katri, the best things about their city home are the room height of 3.5 meters and the high windows with an urban view of the opposite apartment buildings. When the couple moved into their new home, Katri found herself occasionally staring into the opposite apartments.

“I no longer pay any attention to it. We’re already used to others seeing into our apartment as well.”

The furniture and lamps in the apartment are mainly Danish and Finnish design. Their timeless style and durable materials symbolize ecological interior design.

5 great ideas for the home:

A brilliant home in Helsinki
Behind the yellow wall is the clothes room. The shade of the wall is Sadolin’s S0575-G90Y. The painting was painted by the couple’s daughter, Ilona, and Katri sewed the bedspread out of heavy hemp cloth. The PH 3 1/2-3 pendant light is from Louis Poulsen.

1. Highlight the space with colors

There is an impressive yellow cube between the bedroom and the hallway. Strong colors bring an edge and atmosphere into the interior design. An accent color can be used to highlight a specific spot or structure.

“The cube that acts as a clothes room and a loft is completely different from the style of the old apartment. That’s why we painted it using a strong color,” says Katri.

The walls of the apartment have been painted using concrete-colored chalk paint that creates a surface with a washed appearance. Katri thinks gray is an ideal color for the wall, because it goes with both bright and earthy colors. The orange cupboards in the kitchen are a great example of this interplay.

“A gray background gives strength to the colors. We’ve always liked tinted walls,” Katri says.

A brilliant home in Helsinki
Pans and pots have been neatly placed next to the couch by hanging them on metal bars at different levels. There is a convenient countertop behind the Adea sofa. The dark grey AJ floor lamp is by Louis Poulsen.

2. Utilize the back of the sofa

This home is all about functionality and aesthetics. This is evident in the proportions and placement of furniture. The living room has two armchairs without armrests and a graceful couch. The traditional coffee table has been replaced with two small side tables. Katri says that nothing else is needed, because the living room is used for reading and watching television. Behind the couch, Petri has constructed a shelf that is used for holding piles of magazines, books and plants.

“You can easily leave some space behind the couch. A piece of furniture 30 centimetres deep won’t take much space, but provides a good spot for putting things down.”

“You can easily leave some space behind the couch. A piece of furniture 30 centimetres deep won’t take much space, but provides a good spot for putting things down”, says Katri.

The spacious bedroom includes a bookshelf assembled from String System shelf modules. Many hesitate to place books in the sleeping area, because they gather dust.

“We read a lot, and the bookshelf wouldn’t have fit into the living room. Because the shelves are narrow, dust won’t gather on the edges of the shelves. This makes cleaning easier,” Katri notes.

The window wall of the bedroom has been utilized by placing the couple’s shared desk there.

“In terms of light, the window wall is an ideal place for a desk. The long, narrow surface can fit a computer, and there’s enough space to study designs.”

A brilliant home in Helsinki
Yellow provides energy. Next to the clothes room doorway is a ladder to the sleeping loft. The shoe rack is three meters long. The rug is from Woodnotes, the nightstand was made by Petri.

3. Create storage space innovatively

Old apartments often suffer from a shortage of storage space. Clothes storage was implemented by constructing a cubical loft structure containing a clothes room between the hallway and the bedroom. The walk-in closet has clothes racks and shelves built by Petri. Two people can sleep on top of the cube. There is even enough room to sit, as there is one metre of space between the ceiling and the loft.

“The loft was built for the children, if they stay overnight. It’s cheaper than a larger apartment with a guest room,” says Katri.

For the corridor between the hallway and the bedroom, Petri built low shoe shelves. There is now three metres of space for putting down your shoes; it was an excellent idea to place them in a narrow corridor that would otherwise be wasted space. This way, the clothes room could be dedicated entirely to clothes and textiles.

A brilliant home in Helsinki
The shade of orange of the cupboards is Uula’s furniture paint shade RAL 2001 Red Orange. The space between them is glass, the open shelves are from the String System shelving series. The extendable dining table was made by Petri.

4. Don't be afraid to leave things in the open

The kitchen designed by Katri and built by Petri has no top cupboards; instead, the cups, plates and bowls are out in the open on delicate String shelves. The couple has combined modules of different widths, which constitute a rhythmical collage of shelves on the wall. Petri has combined his self-made shelves with ready-made side rails, as the measurements of the original shelf boards did not fit the wall of their kitchen.

“It’s easy to cook and set the table when things are out in the open. When they’re used, they don’t have time to gather dust.”

Pans and pots are not kept hidden in this home. They hang on the wall in a surprising place, next to the couch armrest. Katri thinks its inconvenient to take pots and pans out from the depths of drawers.

“It’s nice to have them within an arm’s reach.”

A brilliant home in Helsinki
The laundry rack in the hallway is easy to haul up and down using strings. Alvar Aalto's E60 stools are from Artek, and the Afteroom coat rack is from Menu.

5. Take care of the laundry

Because there is no laundry or drying room in the building, the couple had to figure out how to dry their laundry. Their own bathing area could barely fit a washing machine. The solution was the 3.5-meter high hallway, where Petri built a drying rack that hangs from the ceiling by strings. The rack moves up and down using round ferrules. For folding the laundry, Katri uses a gateleg table that is located in the clothes room by the laundry baskets.

Petri built a drying rack that hangs from the ceiling by strings.

“I can move it easily into the hallway next to the drying rack. We sometimes use the same table as a dining table extension.”

Katri and Petri didn’t want to make their small, angular bathing area too clinical. That is why the top part of the walls was painted with gray chalk paint. Petri got the idea for the brick layout of the walls from the tiled walls of the Paris metro. The nostalgic atmosphere of the bathroom was strengthened with an old-fashioned toilet bowl and sink.

“I was excited to realize that bathroom fixtures I remember from my childhood home are still made.”

A brilliant home in Helsinki
The beautiful old-fashioned bathroom fixtures and tiles are from IMG Interiors. The tiling budget was kept manageable by not laying tiles on the high walls all the way up to the ceiling.

Text: Anna Aromaa (Avotakka) Photos: Antti Vettenranta

This story was originally published in Avotakka's issue 1/2019.

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