A few years back, word of a delightful old house for sale in the small seaside town of Dragsfjärd took creative entrepreneur Anna Helminen to the Finnish island of Kemiönsaari. It was there she found the small, 70s house of her dreams, next to a field of horses. Villa Ekkulla was lovingly restored in a collaboration between Anna and the Finnish Design Shop.
On her first visit, Anna imagined Artek's Tankki chairs in front of the big windows of Villa Ekku, where she could drink her morning coffee while watching the horses. Anna told her friend Maija Rasila, interior architect at the Finnish Design Shop about this dream 70s fixer-upper. Now the quiet, black wooden house charms guests with its carefully curated colors and textures.
Time really does seem to stand still here. Tell us about the meaning and purpose of the house?
Anna Helminen: Working with a house from the 70s has long been on my wishlist and here my vision of big windows and a 70s feel came true. I wanted to create an atmosphere where you forget time and place, where you can live everyday life amid the presence of past decades. We also created a range of products for the house with my friend, film director Lotta Petronella, including a fragrance oil and hand soap. The scents evoke the mystical vibe of the house. The products will be sold in the Finnish Design Shop’s showroom.
We’ve just listed the villa on Airbnb and in the future I also have plans to make the house a residence for artists or other creative people. When it’s not rented out I enjoy coming to visit. It's much easier to relax here, where you don't have to fight the busy city lifestyle.
The renovation and interior design of the house were designed in collaboration with the Finnish Design Shop. Tell us about the renovation.
AH: In a way, I was inspired by the traditionalism and ordinariness of this house. The house isn’t very big and there’s no private beach in the yard. However, there is still a lot of beauty here and the old materials bring a spirit and patina to the home that money can't buy. The starting point for the renovation was to keep the old mosaic parquet, the wood paneled ceiling and the original walls.
Maija Rasila: There was a lot of potential, but it was drowned under dark wooden surfaces, heavy furniture and outdated interior design. The space had beautiful original elements, but in general the space needed to be refreshed and clarified, with a more functional base. For example, an extra wall between the kitchen and dining area was demolished to create more space for different views of nature and the home.
The surface materials are largely original, but were freshened up with sanding and a paint job. The mosaic parquet was sanded and treated with a slightly lighter shade of natural oak. Some of the walls have the stunning original wood paneling, which we were keen to leave in place. The walls in the bedrooms and kitchen were painted in light, fresh tones.
It's a really calming atmosphere. How did the interior design of this home come about?
AH: I had a strong vision that I wanted Artek Tankki chairs here. Somehow they belong here. I also gave up my 1967 Fiat and invested in some old Kukkapuro chairs. The car was really beautiful, but it wasn't bringing joy to anyone sitting in the garage, so I replaced it with chairs that I enjoy every day. I thought the FDS products would be perfect here and called Maija to see if we could make this a joint project.
MR: Anna and I shared the same strong vision of a 70s inspired interior, but refreshed for the present day. Anna had a lot of confidence in my choices and I was given a pretty free hand in the design – the most inspiring starting point for a designer.
With the renovation, the original materials are now more visible. We tried to create a layered feel that combines traditional Finnish classics, authentic materials, refreshing metallic tones and old treasures – a few old pieces of furniture were already found in the house. I think the combination was a success, the whole effect doesn't look like a one-off purchase, but like everything has always been part of the house.
It was designed with the Finnish Design Shop design team and almost all the furnishings were supplied by FDS. Some old vintage furniture was also mixed in to add contrast and layers to the interior.
How did the color palette of your home come about and what kind of atmosphere were you aiming for?
MR: In the color palette, I was aiming for a soft, natural 70s feel, enhanced by individual color points and authentic natural materials. The aim was to create a place where time stops and you feel good. The windows open up to the magnificent natural surroundings and the sun can be seen inside the house throughout the day. The aim was to bring both nature and natural light more strongly into the interior.
The rich wooden surfaces of the interior needed to be contrasted with fresh paint tones. Light, creamy and cool greenish tones contrasted with the warm wood, bringing balance overall. The new elmwood kitchen continues the same warm color scheme and is topped with green marble. The fireplace, with masonry of three different materials, really came together when part of the fireplace was painted white. Now, the period-appropriate yellow brick stands out beautifully and the shape of the fireplace is highlighted.
The horizontality of the large wall-to-wall windows, typical of the period, was continued in the long, fixed window sill in the living room, which hides the electric radiators underneath. This makes a lovely sitting area, and plants also thrive in front of the large windows.
AH: I think the ambience has been really well done. The large windows add a touch of greenery to the interior and the color palette perfectly matches the spirit of the house. Pure white walls would have been too much, and instead the atmosphere is soft, warm and cozy. As befits the social aspects of moving to the country, it's a lovely place to host family and friends, here amid the fields.