The stars were aligned when Giselda Autio and her husband Tuomas began their search for a larger family home in the little Finnish town of Kauniainen, 20 kilometres outside Helsinki. They deftly swerved all the usual problems of moving – from finding a new property to the frustrating negotiations that are involved with the buying process, because their decision coincided perfectly with Tuomas’s parents announcing that they wanted to downsize their house.
‘The building wasn’t in very good condition, and my parents-in-law realised that they would need to do quite an extensive renovation if they were to continue living there,’ explains interior designer Giselda of the 1950s detached property. ‘They just didn’t need the space any more, so they decided to move to a smaller apartment nearby instead.’ Happy to take on the work, Giselda and Tuomas moved in seven years ago, before the birth of their two children, Amanda, four, and Benjamin, three months.
The substantial renovation involved ripping out and replacing the floors, putting in new electrics and a new heating system. The couple also took the opportunity to reconfigure the layout of the rooms. ‘The floor plan was simplified from four bedrooms to three, with a new walk-in wardrobe and ensuite bathroom created in the main bedroom,’ recalls Giselda. ‘We also tore down some walls to make the communal spaces feel more open and flowing.’
All of the rooms were painted in muted Farrow & Ball shades (‘Skimming Stone’ in the living area; ‘Strong White’ in the kitchen and bedrooms) and Giselda chose a harmonious combination of designer and secondhand pieces, picked up at flea markets and auctions, to furnish her home. ‘For me, it’s very important to have a calm colour scheme mixed with natural materials, such as wood and elements of brass,’ she explains.
Giselda’s desire for an understated interior continues even during the festive season. ‘In Finland, at Christmas, it is typical to decorate with lots of red – but as I don’t use strong colours anyway, it doesn’t feel natural to dress up my home with bright shades,’ she says of her pared-back approach to decorations. Instead, she opts for a typically minimal Scandinavian feel, with pine sprigs and eucalyptus branches arranged in vases, lots of candles and a real tree adorned with white fairy lights. Simple, yet effective.
This feature appeared in ELLE Decoration December 2018.
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