Aug 16, 2014

Parentesi by Flos

A little while ago a few long waited packages finally arrived from Italy. For some time already, Pekka had been doing what he loves, in other words furiously hunting down vintage lights. More specifically, this time it was lights called Parentesi, and finally they were here!

Parentesi by Flos

The Parentesi light was designed by two italian designers Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzu for the manufacturer Flos. After its launch in 1971 it had been accepted to the permanent collections of various museums around the world, including the MoMa in New York and the Triennale design museum in Milan. The light was also honored with the Compasso d'oro design award in 1979.

From below

The name of the light relates to the shape of its central component, a metallic tube resembling a parenthesis sign. The core concept of the light is very simple: a light source that can be moved up and down and turned 360 degrees in a steel wire, which is attached to the ceiling, extended straight down and held in its place by a weight. 

The light source

The simplicity of the Parentesi light is impressive. Not only because the product consists of only nine parts, but also due to the ingenuity of how the bulb assembly is held in position - only by the shape of the metallic tube.

The floor weight

With the nearly global ban of incandescent bulbs it is getting increasingly difficult to find the right kind of bulbs for these old lights. One might choose to use a more modern light source instead, even a LED, but it just wouldn't be the same than an old bulb. 

Bulbs sourced through eBay

When the Parentesi lights first arrived they were closely inspected. Then they had a warm bubble bath to rid the years of dust and dirt from all surfaces.

Some TLC

Even though there is now a Parentesi light in our dining room (the Coupé has moved downstairs) originally we wanted to have them for the staircase. Pekka's vision for this vertical space was that the lighting should somehow be in line with the proportions of the space and enhance the vertical experience. Also, we will be adding a wall decoration to one of the white walls, and the Parentesi arrangement with a steel wire holding up the two light sources is ideal for highlighting details.

Installation at 6 meters

In terms of installation, the challenge was that the space is more than 6 meters high. Therefore, some creativity was needed to develop a system to facilitate installation. An aluminum ladder, empty box of cereal, and the support from the handrail and opposite wall was all that Pekka needed to successfully solve the problem!

Dare to step on?

Very soon we noticed that switching on the two 150W incandescent bulbs at the same time creates not only a lot of light but also also a significant amount of heat. Fortunately, these type of bulbs are also available in 105W. Whereas the 150W bulb works perfectly in the dining room corner, for the staircase we might prefer a little less light. So the system needs to be modified one more time.

Lights on!

Now that the Parentesi lights have been installed to the corner of the staircase and are lighting up the wall we are ready to start with the wall decoration. We received the pieces a while a go and they have been just waiting for the installation of the lights. Very exciting - stay tuned!

An empty wall - not for long

Aug 6, 2014


In October 2013 in the design issue, a Finnish home decor magazine "Avotakka" wrote a story about the Olive Green Window. The article was not publicly available online, so we promised to find out whether we could blog the story.

And here it is! Since the story is in Finnish, we have also provided a rough English translation, which probably don't do justice for the original text but we hope you get the idea. So, please, enjoy "Ikonien keskellä" - "Surrounded by icons"!

Text: Soili Ukkola
Photos: Juha Juntto

In Pekka and Minna's townhouse every piece of furniture and decorative item is a carefully selected collectible. However, in their opinion even a design home can't feel like a museum.

Caption 1: Designed by Paolo Piva in 1981, the Alanda table is an exception in interior design, which is mostly from 1950's. The chairs with metal legs by Charles and Ray Eames are from 1946.

Caption 2: Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman from 1956 are from the first small production series. The light fixture with a black top is designed by Leo Rutjens. A graceful sofa is called a Toot and designed by Piero Lissoni. 

Caption 3: Pekka used 2.5 month to restore the Artichoke. 

Caption 4: For more than a year, Pekka hunted the chairs by Norman Cherner before he found six matching ones from different locations in US. The bookshelf by Poul Cadovius was found from an auction. 

The list is overwhelming and seems endless. Charles and Ray Eames, Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Cadovius, Norman Cherner... Adding the launch years and manufacturers of each item, and including trivia such as the changes made in different pieces including for example the thickness of veneer or alterations of screw stubs. 

Pekka Kumpula is a walking design data source. Effortlessly he lists the details of his home, which is not a surprise as each piece of furniture, lighting and decorative item is a hand picked collectible. Almost everything has been designed and manufactured in the end of 1950's.

- I am the one who has a lot to learn. Luckily, we share the same taste with Pekka, says Minna Allinen.  

Sofi, who is about a year old, yet lacks an opinion regarding the style of her home. 

Pekka and Minna spent about two years finding their home. They were looking for an apartment representing 1960's modernism, in as original condition as possible. 

Now the family has lived in their townhouse designed by Osmo Lappo in 1962 in Espoo Finland for about two years, first a couple of months without a kitchen or shower. The building still has many of the typical characteristics for this era, such as windows from floor to ceiling, atrium terrace, clear division of space and horizontal lines which accentuate openness. 

Typical to the era, Lappo aimed to fade the border between the interior and exterior, and bring the nature close to people to be enjoyed. A gently sloping roof was designed to allow the sun to light up the terrace during the afternoons. 

The 119.5 square meters in upstairs have been renovated nearly without any professional help. The red tile walls were painted white. The ceiling made of pine boards was decided to keep unchanged, to match the wood colored parquet. 

Caption 5: Minna Allinen helps daughter Sofi to eat. The light fixture over the table is a Paavo Tynell. 

Caption 6: Pekka Kumpula sitting in a Bubble chair designed by Eero Aarnio. When winter arrives it will be moved from the atrium terrace to downstairs. 

Caption 7: Something new. Puupalvelu Rajala manufactured the kitchen cabinets designed by Pekka. On top of the veneer covered drawers there is a thin Corian counter top. Sliding doors hide the wall cabinets and an effective extractor hood.  

The green cabinets in the hallway were painted white. 

- Cleaning, sanding, puttying and painting five times over took a lot of time, but now they look fresh, Pekka says. 

The overall goal was above all a harmony. 

- The structures at the entry and other darker details emphasise the light colours. The colour palette in the interior design is very earthy, but also has brighter accents such as the patterns on the sofa pillows and orange towels.

The language of design comes naturally from Pekka, as he is an industrial designer, masters of art and   the creative director and a founding partner of Seos Design, a design and research agency. Earlier, he has also worked in design agencies in Milan and Barcelona. 

Minna is a sales and marketing director in pharmaceutical industry. The couple was brought together by a diving hobby, and nowadays they also share writing the Olive Green Window blog on their free time. The blog was started the same day when renovation in their new home was initiated. The inspiration for the blog name comes from a greenish decorative glass surrounding the front door. 

- The blog tells the story of our home. We want to share ideas and inspiration, renovation experiences and information about the pieces of furniture and their designers, says Minna. 

Even if the couple has renovated the apartment in the 1960's spirit, there is also something completely new. An old oak kitchen was disassembled and sold. 

Pekka designed a streamlined set of drawers and above storage space covered by sliding doors. Due to its open location, they wanted to make the kitchen as inconspicuous as possible, so an extractor hood can also be hidden behind the doors and power sockets and electric wires are hidden in the structure. 

Caption 8: The family has also wanted the decorative items and dishes to complement the spirit of their home. The Arena plates were designed by Stig Lindberg for Gustavsberg in 70's. The Eames House Bird on top of the fireplace was a gift for Pekka from Minna.

There are also other modern concessions. The Italian sofa is by Piero Lissoni and the glass table is from Paolo Piva from 1980's. 

- The classics have their definitive charm. They have a clean form, are practical and made with care. Wasn't it so that the Eameses were inspired by a comfortably fitting baseball glove when designing their chair? Indeed, the lounge chair is very nice to sit in, says Pekka. 

He has the third version of the Eames 670 lounge chair and 671 ottoman, which was originally launched in 1956. The current one is from the very first, small production series. 

Nowadays Pekka follows international internet auctions on a daily basis. He has made purchases for example from US. His advice is to follow up closely what is available and thinking carefully, what one should pay for each item. 

Pekka has a wish list, which includes 10 - 15 items. Currently Eero Saarinen's Tulip table ranks the highest. He would like to have a marble top, but Minna would prefer laminate. 

In downstairs, there is dust and raw tiles and concrete. So far they have carried away 16 tons of construction waste. The washroom and laundry room, however, are already in use. 

- The rest of the downstairs is a complete disaster, says Pekka. 

He has overtaken one of the small rooms downstairs to serve as his workshop. In there, he conducts the restoration of the items found in auctions. 

- Once I bought an Artichoke light by Poul Henningsen from an internet auction. The light smelled off nicotine and was full of dead insects. I took it a part, cleaned, painted and applied a new laquer on all the 72 metal leaves and also had the electricity fixed. Altogether, I spent 2.5 months with this particular project. 

Even they are collecting interesting pieces in their home, Pekka and Minna think that everything is primarily there to be used. Even a design home can't be a museum. It needs to be able to survive the hits of the every day life and the endeavours of the dachshund Urho. 

Caption 9: A home needs to be able to survive the hits of the every day life and the endeavours of the dachshund Urho.

Caption 10: In the bedroom above the teak credenza is a mirror manufactured by Swedish Luxus from the beginning of 1950's. 

Caption 11: The two story townhouse has large windows and a terrace. 

Caption 12: A window was build in between the bedroom and living room, and the closets were renovated. 

Caption 13: The light fixture called both "cone" and "artichoke" has been designed by Poul Henningsen in 1957.

Caption 14: George Nelson designed the Spindle Clock in 1947. Currently it is manufactured by Vitra. 

Aug 3, 2014

Creating storage space

This summer has been sunny and hot. Perfect time to spend in a cool bunker!

Now, with the bunker concrete floor being sanded and painted and the granite washed and protected, one of the projects we really wanted to complete during this summer was to build a shelf system in the bunker. We are desperate to get organised as the original storage room was knocked down during the downstairs demoliton and also the garage remains full of boxes since we moved in two years ago.

As the floor space in the bunker is limited, we preferred to build the shelves on top of the uneven granite to utilise the space as effectively as possible.

Defining the position of the supporting structure

First set of shelves up

The shelf system was not only optimised to complement the form of the granite, but also to fit a maximum number of Smart Store plastic boxes. We had chosen three sizes, and the shelves would host 14 large, 28 medium and 12 small boxes in total.

Following the form of the granite

And they fit perfectly!

When building on an uneven surface, the preferred way is to start from the top. Pekka had an idea of using threaded rods to form a supportive structure, which was attached in to the ceiling with concrete anchors. Further, it was adjusted to hold each shelf in the correct position with a nut on each side. This way, the supporting structure would take a very little space and help to maximise the shelf space.

Supportive structure

Hanging down from the ceiling

Once again, one of the essentials the project would have not succeeded without was the laser attached to an adjustable camera stand.

Hama stand proving itself a must-have

It took three days to build the entire system, but we really consider the time, sweat and sunny days wasted worth it. Sofi also found climbing the granite quite exciting, and was not an unusual sight visiting the bunker wearing her pink earmuffs.

Pekka at work

Rock climbling

And, finally it was ready! In the corner, we left a space for an extra freezer, and there will be some additional storage solutions added in the bunker, but the biggest and most laborious part is now done. We actually think that given it is a storage shelf located in the basement, the system has an interesting, elegant look and feel to it!

Ready for boxes

Jul 26, 2014

Disaster & Recovery

Pekka's parents have a stunningly beautiful Eames lounge chair by Vitra for Herman and Miller International. The chair dates back to late sixties / early seventies and was found by Pekka through eBay a few years ago. Since its discovery the chair has gone through extensive restoration. First, the brazilian rosewood panels were stripped from ugly, old lacquer layer. Then they were treaded with pure Tung oil. Last, some parts of the leather upholstery were replaced due to wear and tear. The end result: a perfectly functional piece. Well, almost.

Something wrong here?

When originally assessing the restoration needs, a decision was made not to change the shock mounts as their condition seemed ok. Considering the construction of these chairs, it is indeed the shock mounts or more precisely the adhesive joints that attach the shock mount to the plywood are the most delicate parts of the entire assembly.

Torn plywood

Only a few months after Pekka's parents started using their chair a disaster struck totally out of thin air. Without any warning an adhesive joint of one of the shock mounts gave in while someone was sitting in the chair. When this happens the whole backrest assembly remains supported only from one side, resulting in the backrest swinging sideways. One can only pray and hope that the resulting damage will be fixable as the worst case scenario is that the load of the backrest will break the beautiful rosewood panel.

Fortunately, the situation was not as bad as it could have been. Yes, the panel was torn, but only from inside and from a depth of four out of ten millimeters of plywood. The rosewood of the outside panel was nearly completely saved with only a minor crack.

 Two shock mounts: one with an adhesive joint that gave up and the other with broken plywood

Aware of the situation, Pekka packed his tools and materials when we took off to a family summer trip to visit his parents. It is of course very unfortunate that something like this happens, but the silver lining is that this indeed is a dream project for Pekka for the summer vacation!

Enjoying the vacation

All four shock mounts were changed in the process, but let's focus on the one with the ripped panel. First thing to do is to get rid of all the ripped layers of plywood. This is important in order to achieve a solid foundation to build on.

Getting rid of the bad parts 

In these kind of operations, one has to master the adequate skills and knowledge, but this is not enough. Also the materials for rebuilding have to be of premium quality. Luckily, we happen to be fortunate to have good connections. Therefore, we would like to thank Janne from HVL, who during his vacation made himself available to provide all the veneer that was needed for the project. Remember to contact him if ever in need of premium quality veneer!

Veneer including brazilian rosewood also know as the Rio Palisander

After preparing the panel and cutting the veneer pieces everything was molded together. As Pekka didn't have the possibility to construct a mold he improvised with several vises. After a few beers needed to avoid dehydration, not bad at all.

Improvised plywood mold

After opening the "mold" and cutting and sanding the sides of the veneer Pekka could finally evaluate the outcome of his work. The results at this stage seemed promising as the structure was solid. Yes, there is a visible difference in the texture between the old and new veneer, but this would not be a concern as it would be covered by the cushions.

Old and new: inside view

View from the bottom

Next Pekka needed to create the base for a shock mount. The important thing is the geometric purity of the base. As working with a chisel requires some serious skills, so please be honest with yourself and when in any doubt contact a professional. Otherwise you may very well sacrifice the whole structure.

Working with a chisel 

Again the end result for this phase looked good. The surface seemed flat enough so Pekka could proceed to the next stage.

Flat base

Last but definitely not least the new shock mount was glued to the plywood. The shock mounts we use are genuine OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts and received together with the glue from Graham Mancha from UK. He is definitely one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to Eames chairs and deserves our sincerest gratitude. It is indeed due to his kind guidance that Pekka has managed gain most of his knowledge regarding these chairs. So please, do not hesitate to contact Graham if you have any questions or needs regarding vintage Eames chairs.

Glued shock mount

The end result is more than we ever dared to expect. At the time of these pictures the glue had not been settled enough to assemble everything together, but everyone, including Pekka's parents are more than happy to show the result with in these few pictures to follow. 

Panel interior

Panel exterior

We have been discussing about shock mounts before, but because of their importance let's do it one more time. Please understand that it is not IF, but rather WHEN that one of the shock mounts will give in. If you have an Eames Lounge chair and don't want to break your it please consider these simple instructions:

  1. While using the chair listen carefully if the chair makes any suspicious noises while leaning back
  2. Periodically check the condition of the adhesive joints of the shock mounts
  3. While standing behind the chair try to lift it up by the back rest to see if it is loose
  4. If something happens and you don't know how to fix it, please contact someone who does
  5. If you decide to fix the problem yourself make sure to have the required skills
  6. Use only premium quality materials, glues and original OEM parts
  7. DON'T BUY CHEAP SHOCK MOUNTS FROM EBAY as it is a guaranteed way to make the situation worse.

Chilling out

And Urho? Well, during the last few days we have been lucky to enjoy  great summer weather in Finland. The high temperature makes Urho even slower than he normally is and due to this he is forced to take a cold shower every day. Even if we know it is good for him, he just simply hates it.

Jul 16, 2014

Slate slaves

The work downstairs continues. Now when Pekka has finally managed to start his summer vacation the pace has increased dramatically. One of the most visual changes is the sanding and painting the visible steel structure and the window frame.

Signs of progress

Even if the paint gives the space a somewhat finalized look the most arduous project during the last few days (and nights) has been washing and seaming the slate floor. This task has really taken us both by surprise simply due to the crazy amount of working hours required to finalize everything.

View from the window

As mentioned earlier, we divided the work between two of us. Pekka was responsible for seaming the slate, which is not overly difficult and it gets easier as one learns by doing. One of the key learnings was that the filler has to have a very precise amount of water in it. Neither too much nor too little. Otherwise it is impossible to work with the seaming tool.

Partly seamed, partly washed

Minna, on the other hand, has focused her energy on the look & feel of the floor. This job includes both washing the slate and making sure the seams are cleaned soon after seaming. This is crucial in order to achieve both visually and haptically precise seam.

Look & feel

And the flip side of the coin? First, the physical experience of spending several days down on your knees is far from pleasant. Our backs, legs and arms are aching. And of course we are also tired. Often the last stint of the day starts at 9 pm after Sofi goes to bed. Eager to get things done, we tend to continue quite late into the night. And when she wakes up early and full of energy, eight hours of sleep is a distant dream.

Blistered thumb

One of the most rueful downsides is the current condition of the bathroom. As the picture below shows it is simply a disaster. Floor covered with sand and dirt. Old towels ripped in rags needed for seaming (luckily due to a blog collaboration we will get some new towels from Luhta Home - more of this to follow soon). Sad, but fortunately a temporary sight.

Fancy a shower?

Jul 12, 2014

Plan B for Friday night

On a regular, non-renovation Friday night a plan A for Pekka's first night of summer vacation would have perhaps been something different. An unseamed slate floor, however, urged us to choose a different option. With a bottle of Plan B and couple of wine glasses off to downstairs we headed!

Plan B for the night

We started the work from the most difficult (and least visible) part of the floor, under the stairs. Pekka took care of the seaming, and Minna followed by cleaning the excessive concrete off the slate edges. Never done slate floor seaming before, the progress was painfully slow.

Detailed cleaning

Based on the earlier experiments, we chose to use 1.6% titanium oxide to tone the seaming concrete (4 dl in 25 kg of concrete). It takes quite a long time to dry and adopt the final colour, so the seam in the photo below is still slightly darker than it will be in the end. Also, the contrast will be strengthened further by a layer of protective toner applied on top.

Some seamed slate

So, we started around 10 pm, finished at 2.30 am and completed about 4-5 square meters of floor. In the wee hours of the night, a thought of the total time required to finish up the rest (25 m2) might have raised some fleeting moments of despair, but fortunately the company, wine and the ultimate vision will compensate the lengthy road ahead!

Floor around the staircase - completed!