Published in 5/2023 - Tune Up


Apartment in Vallila

Mattila & Merz

Architects Laura Mattila, Mikko Merz
Location As Oy Hauho, Vallila, Helsinki
Gross Area 51  m2
Completion 2023
Original Building Martti Välikangas, 1925

In the spring of 2022, we bought an apartment in the Hauho apartment building in the Vallila district in Helsinki, designed by architect Martti Välikangas and built in 1924–1925. The building complex is a good example of the social housing production of the 1920s, which sought to improve the living conditions of the city’s working population. The 51-square-metre apartment represents the most common dwelling type in the building, comprising two rooms together with a kitchen and bathroom. At the time we bought it, the apartment had over many years become impregnated with cigarette smoke, the most recent comprehensive renovation had been done in the 1950s, and a light surface renovation in the early 1980s. It was in a bad condition but, on the other hand, many layers, including some original features, had also been preserved.

The renovation project lasted a year and a half. The planning and implementation were guided by the following goals: to create a modern family home in terms of usability, to preserve and cherish the old, and to truly understand the building’s distinguishing features. 

Without tearing down the original partitions, we changed the room layout so that the kitchen, which was located on the street side and facing the morning sun, became a second bedroom. We moved the kitchen into the large living room on the yard side, which became an open kitchen-living room combo. The wastepipe of the new kitchen could also be extended to the walk-in closet connected to the larger bedroom, which was turned into a small utility room with a washing machine.

The restoration-focused approach was present throughout our work. During the renovation process, among other things, the interior doors that were covered with boarding in the 1950s were returned to their original four-panel appearance and all the mouldings were removed, renovated and reinstated. We undertook a paint exposure and paint analysis to determine the original pigments, from which the hues were mixed for the new surface finishes. The paints used included linseed oil paint and home-made distemper. The kitchen was built in solid wood, in accordance with the building’s original kitchens.

Along the way, we examined various traces, collected fragments, documented, explored the house’s archives and gradually formed a picture of the phases of our ordinary apartment over a hundred years. The result is a home where history is allowed to be present, and the present is a part of a continuum. ↙

Text Laura Mattila, Mikko Merz

Photos Paavo Lehtonen