Feb 25, 2014

Staircase facelift, part 3

Let's start by redefining some terminology.

We made a mistake of calling it a facelift, but really, we should be talking about a complete makeover instead. It is really, really difficult to comprehend the radical change which has taken place during the last four days. Simply, we are in love.

Black, white and wood

In love and absolutely stunned. The new staircase looks fantastic, and it fits perfectly into the space - obviously, a match made in heaven, as it was a random find from an internet flea market.

Circling down

View from downstairs

We are also so impressed by the effectiveness of our construction team from Txrakennus. Not only they were amazingly fast, but the quality of the work also deserves a humble notion. We are pleased to recommend their expertise for anyone, anytime!

Lit by a Bubble

As the staircase is old, some parts were missing, bent or unsuitable to be used in the assembly for whatever reason. Together, Pekka and the team already found customised solutions for many of these challenges, but of course, there are a few details which still need some work - including the replacement of a temporary securing system of the central pole as well as the first missing bar of the handrail.

Securing the staircase - for now

Missing a bar?

Nevertheless, these little shortcomings fail to dampen our exuberant joy of having the staircase assembled and in place, and being so positively surprised by the end result! Also, a practical benefit of having a flight of stairs going downstairs is that we no longer need to disturb our kind neighbours and cut through their backyard to go to take a shower...

Feb 24, 2014

Staircase facelift, part 2


Just a few days ago our staircase area was a restless combination of various wood. All of a sudden, it has been completely transformed, eagerly waiting to host a black circular staircase. Just one more night!

Paintwork progression

We are so pleased with the paint work. For a short moment of fleeting insanity, we were contemplating if we should do it ourselves, once the staircase was installed. Fortunately, quite soon we agreed that if the preference was a set of black stairs instead of black stairs with white spots all over, we'd better have the professionals to take care of it in an orderly progression. Very good decision indeed.

Another view from below

Sofi is finding it extremely intriguing to follow the men at work. The lowest door glass window is just low enough for her to see what is happening on the other side. Of course, it could be that she has just made a deal with Urho, who normally is responsible for supervising. Pretty smart from Urho - while Sofi is occupied elsewhere, he gets the full control of the couch, without any annoying distractions!

Observing men at work

Feb 23, 2014

Staircase facelift, part 1

Finally, the day has come to bid farewell to a wooden staircase leading downstairs. It has served us well, which we gratefully acknowledge. However, it will not be missed, but being a perfectly good staircase of solid wood we do hope it would soon find a new home where its 1980's look and feel would complement the surroundings better.  

The official last shot

Like described earlier, the space for the staircase used to look like a matchbox with ceiling, walls and stairs all made of different wood. So another target of the over-the-weekend facelift is the wood panelling on the walls. Basically, the ceiling is the only thing remaining as it is.

Wooden perspective

So, on Saturday morning, the demolition started. Not without minor incidents, as can be seen below, but proceeding in very good speed. The silver lining of this unexpected damage is that Sofi now masters the word "rikki" ("broken") perfectly, and every time when passing by the little hole she makes sure to point it out with a bright and surprised voice, and a curiously scolding expression on her face!

Men, or mice with superhero powers?

After the staircase and panelling were gone, a support system to reach the higher parts was installed.

Shot from below...

...and a view from above

With the staircase and panelling now removed from the equation, the space looks very different and of course much bigger. It will be extremely interesting to see how the new black steel staircase will first fit and then look in the new surroundings (Remember, this is how they used to look!). Fingers crossed. In a few days, we will know.

Preparing the space for the new staircase

And once again, the rest of the downstairs is a mess. An organised one, but a mess nevertheless. By the way, if you happen to know anyone who would need a wooden circular staircase for example for their summer house, you know where to find one in a very competitive price!

To be continued. Soon.

All you need is here

Feb 16, 2014

Two Finnish Masters

An area very central to our every day activities is the space between the kitchen and dining/living room, hosting a small table set by Alvar Aalto. First, we wondered if the little table was located too close to the dining set, and thus not really needed. Now, after a year and a half, we have noticed how extremely practical it actually is. Close to the kitchen, the observation (and if required, reaction) time and distance remain minimal, if anything alarming happens for example in Sofi's end of the table. And, as the laminate surface seems practically impossible to damage and extremely easy to clean, it is perfect considering the junior diners.

Practical approach for daily meals

The "in-between" space actually builds on the work of two Finnish masters, Alvar Aalto and Paavo Tynell. They were both pioneers in their own fields, namely furniture and light design, respectively. Their designs are still highly appreciated and frequently found in many Finnish homes.

Our table is called 82B and the chairs are model 66. They were both designed by Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) in 1935. The set is made of solid birch veneer and accented with white laminate on the surfaces. In 1930's, Aalto's interest on wood processing and his collaboration with Otto Korhonen (the founder of a Finnish furniture manufacturing company Korhonen) led to the development an innovative way to bend wood. The result was an L-shaped leg (patented in 1933) enabling standardised construction of an entire product family. This, in turn paved the way for socially oriented design and architectural planning, as well as mass production methods for manufacturing.

82B & 66, both with laminate surfaces

L-shaped leg #1

L-shaped leg #2

Plywood, on the other hand, was invented in 1850's as a combination of three or more layers of wood. Cheap and easily accessible, it has since been an important medium for experimentation by modernist designers from the 1920's onwards. Cheaper and more easily accessible than aluminium or steel, plywood was a key material for early 20th century designers such as Gerrit Rietveld, Marcel Breuer and Alvar Aalto.

Between the kitchen and living room

Perhaps our favourite Paavo Tynell (1890-1973) piece, a brass pendant light which hangs above the Aalto table, was designed by Tynell and produced by Taito Oy in 1948. Taito Oy, founded in 1918, was one of the most important lighting manufacturers in Finland during the first half of 1900, producing lighting solutions both for domestic and public spaces.

Brass pendant light by Tynell

After the Second World War, when Outokumpu mine started providing brass after war-related efforts, also Tynell started utilising brass in his designs. Very soon, the brass lights become a commercial success both in Finland and US, exports to US starting in 1948 when the Finnish-American Trading Corporation opened a "Finlandia House" in New york. Interestingly, in the US one could not hang a pendant light from its electricity cord, and to overcome this obstacle Tynell developed his famous counter balance light, which later became one of his trademarks.

Pattern from grandma's knickers

The brass pendant light housing has a typical perforation of small holes found in several Tynell lights. We have mentioned this before in a post titled "Northern Lights", but the rumour is worth repeating, as it nicely links these two Finnish masters. Apparently, when noticing the pattern, Alvar Aalto made a remark of a resemblance to his grandmothers knickers (isoäidin pitsipöksyt). 

Pendant parts

As the pendant light has already seen quite many years, it become evident it would benefit for some care when Pekka disassembled it for cleaning. The wiring has already been replaced once before, but a further electric update might soon be in order. Of course, Pekka will share the full story, when the time comes.

Expiring electricity

Urho would also like to use this opportunity to send his winter greetings. He does not mind, however, that this year winter started late and seems to end early. As it has been mentioned before, Urho really does not care much about winter attire (to read about Urho's past interactions with winter clothes please visit "Sneaky Little Sausage"). It is understandable that a handsome dog like Urho prefers to show off his easy-on-the-eye -figure, rather than hiding it in baggy clothes, whatever the latest fashion trends may state... 

Sniffing snow

Feb 7, 2014

Can I have my room back?

Rather than a proper post, this is more of an announcement. And perhaps just a fleeting moment of sharing a bit of renovation frustration which every now and then tends to sneak in, especially in Minna's mind.

The disturbing part is not the unfinished downstairs. We don't really need the space and are perfectly happy living upstairs and are thus not in a hurry with the project at all. What is frustrating are all the derivatives of not having the space available for furniture and other things. Everything which would normally reside downstairs, has been temporarily stored somewhere else. In the garage, the Man Cave, Sauna, or Sofi's room. Stuff. Everywhere.

Yes, the poor kid's room is currently a dump. The room is filled with things which do not belong there at all, and thus it is light years from being an inviting space for playing. Every now and then a visitor asks if they could see how we have decorated Sofi's room. It is those moments, any change of subject will do.

Two pieces organised

For some reason, it was today that Minna decided things would need to change. Right now. The situation is embarrassing to the point that this time there will be no "before" pictures shown. Just a close up of a ceramic dachshund and an old sewing machine toy, which were some selected targets of her cleaning fury.

Fingers crossed it will be sooner than later when presenting the "after" pictures. With this announcement, we thought it was important to let you all know the process has been initiated. Somehow the extent of publicity tends to be directly proportional to the commitment level. Fingers crossed.