Sep 28, 2015

Josh White

You may have noticed the new Olive Green banner? Quite cool, isn't it?

So here is a little story.

Josh White, who is a graphic designer from Boulder Colorado contacted us some time ago kindly asking for a permission to use some of our photos in his study project, Aleksander Nielsen Paint Collection. We said yes, of course.

Paints (photo by Josh White)

Brushes (photo by Josh White)

Ideabook (photo by Josh White)

Browsing through Josh's portfolio, we found we really liked his style - instantly he seemed like a guy with an eye for MCM (you can check out some of Josh's work here). So we asked if he would be interested in helping us with the blog graphics. To our delight, he was.

After exchanging some ideas we agreed Josh would draft us a couple of concepts to get started. He sent them with a note that we could pick, choose and mix elements. But we didn't need to do any of that - this creative genius nailed the design at the first time. We were ecstatic.

So far, sounds very simple and straightforward, doesn't it?

The only thing missing was the blog tag line. In the draft it said "Olive Green - an interior design blog". Yes - but no, too obvious. This is when it started getting complicated. We just couldn't come up anything intelligent. Days passed (distracted perhaps by work). Then weeks (work and kids). And finally months (work, kids, dachshund, renovation). Nothing.

Finally we reached the breaking point. We had this cool new graphic ready to go live, so how difficult could it really be to come up with something? After all, one of us works as a marketeer and another one is a creative professional. Yet we were lacking the big idea.

So we sat down (something we should have done months ago), took a blank piece of paper and started making a very traditional mind map. And funnily enough, after five minutes, we had locked "MAD for MCM". Yes, only in five minutes. One could turn it around and say for each letter, we took about a month of consideration. Crazy.

Then, back to Josh. It wouldn't have been surprising if he would have completely forgotten us after all this time. But no. Josh, who seems to be the most easy-going and flexible personality on earth, sends the updated material with his compliments on the tag line in his reply the next day.

So, thank you Josh, you are the best! We are really happy that our paths crossed and we had an opportunity to work with you! And needless to even mention - if you ever need a recommendation, you know who to ask.

Meet Josh White (photo by Gabrielle White)

"I'm a graphic designer who grew up in the plains and recently fled for the mountains. I share a cozy apartment with my significant other—Gaby, also a designer. Together we enjoy DIY, the outdoors, and the dream of starting a design studio."

Aug 23, 2015

Slate Terrace, Part 1

For about two years a pile of slates on the back of our backyard has been patiently waiting for this weekend. For a bit more than two years, we have been dreaming of a slate terrace. The time has finally come to turn a dream into reality, a random moss-collecting slate pile into a beautiful terrace.

Grey river rock from Argentina

Well, not so fast. Remember our past challenges with the terrace project? Continuing on the same note, a couple of days ago we learned how a "small" error in volume estimate can turn into several hours of extra work. The delivery of stone dust (the final layer under the slate) went fantastically - excluding one small detail. There was way too much of it. Nearly twice the amount needed. Great.

The deliver of stone dust

However, such happens. And then you just deal with it and accept the delay. Quite soon neighbours and friends have came up some projects where stone dust would be needed. 

Too much of a good thing

The point of reference for the correct level was is by a concrete step by the back door.

Point of reference

A friend gave us an invaluable guidance on how to achieve a correct level and inclination across the terrace area. The trick is to set several references across the entire area, and mark them with wooden blocks. Such a simple, but a perfect method. Thank you Stenkka!

Reference blocks in position

Miraculously, next morning it was done. Or to be precise, half of it. But at this point, Pekka couldn't resist the temptation to start laying the first slates. Besides, variety is the spice of life (and terrace work).

Waiting for the first slate

Two years is plenty of time to forget how much heavier the thicker and often times bigger slates are vs. the ones used inside the apartment. No need (or time) for gym during this project. The first slates are now laid, and once again, we are convinced that good things are worth the wait. It is going to look quite fantastic when finished!

Pekka's puzzle

And guess who is enjoying the stone dust? Yes, it is great to dig holes when His Sausageness wants to find a hiding place for a bone. Or it serves pretty well as a very large "Dachsroom" when the nature calls. Or, it presents a fantastic opportunity to refine the skill of being able to position oneself dangerously. Whatever it is, you can always count on Urho.

"Certainly it is going to be electrically heated, isn't it?"

Aug 16, 2015

About renovation and relationships

Some years back we came across an article about challenges of building a house. There was one paragraph that stuck with us (freely translated): "I'll build a house. You take care of the kids. See you in two years." Unfortunately we were no longer able to find it online, which is a pity - it was a great read.

It is also a well known fact that while building a house or extensively renovating one things may go sour quite easily. The entire process is a stretch for a relationship, and thus a true test. Will we really see in two years as agreed?

We have always been renovating. Thus when asked how do we deal with such a lifestyle it would be easy to say: "Oh, it is our mission. We just love it."  But the fact that we tackled our first shared project only a few months into our relationship and are still on that road does not make us superhuman. Quite the contrary, we do not love every minute of it. There are times when we absolutely hate renovation. And there are times when we grow frustrated with everything, even each other.

Helsingin Sanomat (a national Finnish newspaper) wrote about renovation and relationships just recently (1). The article was based on interviews with a couple who had finished a major project and a therapist, who compared renovation to a third wheel in a relationship. It all starts with a beautiful idea of a perfect home to be built/renovated together. Then, one commits to the project work whereas the other takes care of the kids. Slowly, the latter one starts feeling excluded and stranded. Most likely, unexpected challenges will arise, deadlines and budgets get exceeded. Everyone who has ever renovated can vouch for this message.

We have certainly received our share. Nasty surprises of a 1960's apartment, broken machinery, unfavourable weather conditions, stretched budgets, constant mess and eternal incompleteness, long working hours either with the project or children,  - the list is quite extensive. In addition, as mentioned before, we have very different personalities. Pekka enjoys to process, Minna would love to finish things as soon as possible. Keep adding careers, daycare and a dachshund not forgetting too few hours of sleep. At worst, it might get very interesting. Still, we hardly ever really fight.

Of course we have talked about it trying to recognise our key success factors. The HS article mentioned above lists a few very good points we fully agree with. Choose a partner with a similar taste. Recognize each others strengths and utilise those. Allow ideas to fly, bounce them back and forth with each other to reach the best outcome for both. Celebrate project landmarks.

Another crucial one for us is involvement. It is not sufficient just plan something together, we both need to participate in the actual work, be project owners. Even if Minna would be mostly watching the children, every now and then the roles get reversed and she will get to do the "dirty work".

Also, there need to be breaks for "normal life" and to allow inspiration. Sometimes it is difficult to get started even with the smallest project, there is no drive. In these cases, we drop the gloves, forget renovation for as long as it is needed. We dive. Play tennis. Visit relatives. Sometimes the wait is shorter, sometimes longer, but eventually the motivation and enthusiasm will return.

And finally, acknowledgement of each other. Visitors always kindly pay their compliments to how beautifully something has been designed and implemented, but the work of a support team remains more invisible. But it doesn't matter. The most important thing is that between the two of us, not a day go by we wouldn't thank each other or recognise the other person's achievements.

It is teamwork. And fortunately we seem to be pretty good at it.

Last but not least. These photos were taken by our favourite photographer, Nani Härkönen from Nanianette Photography during a day when she was photographing us in our home. Thank you Nani, you are a Star - a pleasure to work and hang out with and skilled beyond measure!

1. Helsingin Sanomat 2.8.2015 (

Jul 30, 2015

Into the Earth #3

We crossed our fingers on Friday for a weekend without rain, as it has proven to be impossible for trucks to climb up the grassy hill when the ground is wet. Against all odds after all the bad luck, the Weather Lords favoured our cause!  So on early Monday morning, after a 250 kg plate compactor which did not move an inch in the mud had been changed to a 80 kg piece of machinery, Pekka started preparing the ground for landscaping fabric to be placed between sub soil and the first layer of compatable gravel.

Compacted ground ready for landscaping fabric

Then a cement truck loaded with gravel arrived. Instead of manually carrying all the gravel uphill, it would be delivered "by air" to the correct location. Why did we not think of this before but relied on raw manpower and wheelbarrows before?

Gravel truck arriving

So the next part was easy. Pekka could just watch 15 tons of gravel (0 - 32 mm in size) moving 20 meters up hill to our backyard, slowly covering the landscaping fabric.

Flying gravel

More flying gravel

Then the gravel was evenly spread around the 45 m2 terrace area with shovel and then compacted carefully with water and compactor to finish the first gravel layer.

First gravel layer ready

Next the entire area was covered with 50 mm Finnfoam thermal insulation to minimise the impact of ground frost. Gaps between the panels and walls were filled with expandable urethane foam.

Laying down insulation

The picture below shows the slight inclination of the terrace on the border of foam and wall. The exact inclination will be adjusted with the following layers to match the recommendations.

Ready for the second layer of gravel

The following morning, at 6.30 am (way before Pekka's morning coffee), the gravel truck returned and shot another 17 tons of gravel (0 - 16 mm in size) on top of the insulated terrace.

Second set of flying gravel

The piles look huge first, but both times the amount was just perfect (thanks for the providers calculator!). Fortunately Pekka got some help from Sofi, who was quite keen on assisting with her own shovel.

Shoveling team

After 2.5 days of intense teamwork, we were finally at the point we originally planned to have achieved more than a week ago.

Terrace foundation - ready!

Compacted gravel

Without Juha's laser Pekka had to rely on a traditional string line method to determine the right ground level. The top gravel layer is now compacted and levelled correctly with an inclination of approximately 2 cm per each meter away from the building. The border stones (which were actually recycled stones from Project Underground) have also been laid to determine the area and support the structure.

Determining the correct level

Despite this being perhaps the project with most adversities, everything is now finally ready for stone dust and slates. But those will need to wait a bit. We need a small vacation first. All inclusive with relatives.

Terrace to be

Jul 24, 2015

Into the Earth #2

At this point, it is rather difficult to hide what we are doing. One can just follow the mud track to ground zero. If day one had it's challenges, day two started out in the very same spirit. Already before their morning coffee, Pekka and Juha were struggling to help a truck to survive the muddy uphill to come and pick up the pallet. Needless to say, the attempts were first unsuccessful. Only after covering the critical parts of the entry way with gravel, the truck finally managed to drive up. At this point, we had basically wasted 8 hours, a full working day.

Do not mind the mud!

But finally, digging continued. During the next hours, progress was significant as Pekka and Juha were able to work uninterrupted.

In action

Just in case you have never had an opportunity to follow an excavator in action, it is pretty intriguing. In addition to the skill to manage the machine, the driver needs to be pretty good in problem solving - for example how to get the depth and shape just right, how to manoeuvre in a small space without damaging anything or how to move around large rocks without breaking things. Juha proved himself to be a professional - he was fantastic!

A thoughtful moment

It was not only the large rocks giving Pekka and Juha a headache, but also a large tree stump (remainings of one of the two pine trees cut down in 2012) The roots were long, strong and tangled with rocks, so it was difficult to remove from the ground in the first place. Furthermore, it was nearly impossible to move around. We first thought it would classify as landfill waste, which is free to dispose, but it does not. Fortunately, Juha and Pekka got it off the pallet - now we just need to get creative what to do with it...

Obnoxious old stump

This is how the work site looked like after day 2. The required depth had been reached across the entire area, and we were ready for the next step. But...not so fast. It rained the entire night and the morning of day 3, and there was no way the full pallet could once again be picked up. Furthermore, the truck bringing the gravel would not be able to get close enough either. So yes, unfortunately it will be a day off. Needless to say the level of frustration is quite high, but what can you do - this is the Finnish summer.

Digging completed

About 50 cm down

And by the way Urho, who can relax anywhere, did so in the heart of all action. Given the size of his ego it is of course clear there is absolutely no danger in his positioning!

Construction dog

Jul 21, 2015

Into the Earth

At 7.30 am it arrived. At 8.00 am the engine started. The digging begun. At that time, we had no idea of the challenges the day would bring. Ignorance truly is bliss.

A two ton fairy

The goal was to move 10 tons of soil to build the foundation for the terrace. An empty pallet on our backyard is becoming a very familiar looking sight.

So it begins

The dynamic duo, Pekka and Minna's brother Juha had a clear experience-based division of work - each would be responsible for what they know best: Juha was to focus on handling the excavator, whereas Pekka would focus his energy on the wheelbarrow. To know when they had reached sufficient depth, laser was once again handy.

Heavy-duty laser

Juha has been sharing his life with excavators since he was four years old. In his thirties, a life long dream finally came true and digging become a serious hobby for him, first with a rental equipment and ultimately with his own machine. Therefore, it was not very difficult to persuade him use a couple of his summer vacation days to come for a visit and do the digging for us.

Man and machine

No one knew what to expect - soil, rocks, construction waste...? One big tree stump for sure. Could be anything.

Hidden treasures

It was not expected it to be a walk-in-a-park project, but enough is enough. At some point during the day a moment came when the camel's back nearly broke. There had been other lesser problems with the excavator already earlier, but just when it was blocking the way to the pallet one of the tracks broke. There stood the yellow monster, and in split second, everything went on hold. For way too many hours.

Broken track

To make a long story short, challenges are meant to be overcome, and after a few hours of desperation, depression and determination Juha and Pekka were back on track again. And the digging continued.

And then there was a hole

In the end of the day, the first pallet was full. The nearly dead and buried wish of a new terrace had been brought to live again. Tomorrow is a new day, fingers crossed it will be better than this one.

Highway to heaven

As a small side note, we had a lovely visitor over today to see our place for the first time. Despite of the dust invading every nook and cranny of the place and the crazy mess in every single room, she very kindly complemented our place. Perhaps in a few weeks the place will be dust free again. Not for forever, but at least for a while.

Dust, everywhere

Jul 19, 2015

Clearing the way for an excavator

Today we woke up full of energy. After morning coffee, it was decided that the first thing to do was to buy a chainsaw to be efficient. An hour later Pekka returned with his Makita.

The Makita

And what did we do? The goal was to empty and clean the terrace area, including removal of about 130 concrete blocks each weighing 29 kg. The excavator would arrive on Monday morning at 8.00 am. To make a long story short, we made it.

10.00 AM

12.30 PM

3.00 PM

5.30 PM

The leftover slates and most of the wood moved to their temporary locations.

10.00 AM

12.30 PM

5.30 PM

In the spirit of recycling, 66 concrete blocks were sold on a Facebook flea market. Hope they serve well their new owner!

Blocks in line

Urho proved himself once again of being very skilled in positioning himself in very ungrateful places as related to where the action was. Call it a dachshund's luck, but once again he survived a day of serious renovation without a scratch.

What on earth...?