A gravel road skirts the suburb of Puistola, where stand-alone houses sit beside a lush forest. A row of brick terrace houses sits adjacent to this delightful patch of suburban wilderness and, from the courtyard of one, a smiling Lela Louhio holds a bunch of bright yellow tulips in her hand. In the late winter grey, her garden has burst into bloom. We stopped a while to chat with the style designer about color, light, and letting your child discover your dream home.
How did you find this home?
We moved to Puistola three years ago and decided that we wouldn't be moving from that house for the next few years. However, things didn’t quite gel with the strata committee, so we started looking for a new home.
A year went by and the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit, so we put the search on hold. But my daughter wasn’t happy about this. She wanted a bigger room. One might say she has a close, perhaps slightly obsessive, relationship with Finnish real estate website Etuovi.com – her hobby is browsing the home listings! Occasionally my husband and I get sent links to the listings she likes. Last spring she sent us a link to this terrace house, but since we had decided to stop looking, we didn't even open it. After the third prompting, we gave this apartment a chance. We went for a walk to a house a kilometre away, because we had nothing better to do and called the agent to arrange a showing that same afternoon, hoping it would keep our daughter happy. When we got to the open house, I realised she was obsessed for a reason. We called the bank that evening. My child found us the home of our dreams… and she got the biggest room in the house!
What was your first reaction to the apartment?
My first thought was, "Uh oh, I love this home! Why did we agree to come? There's no turning back now!"
As soon as I crossed the threshold into the entrance, I was struck by the light of the space. I was sold. The architecture of the apartment really spoke to me – at its maximum, the space has a room height of seven metres, with windows everywhere, and light can flow through the space on several levels. Light also flows through the open staircases beautifully. We can admire the shifting prisms forming in the living room from early spring to late autumn.
What kind of decorator are you?
I tend to be very spontaneous – I fall in love easily and may achieve a result I love immediately. I'm definitely an emotional decorator, but I've learned to control myself and over the years I've become more demanding when it comes to materials and quality.
My home is not all matchy-matchy, but things have an intuitive relationship with each other. A cohesive whole is made up of coincidences and unusual combinations. It suits our style. I'm also like that as a designer – I'm from another country, so my relationship with Finnish brands and products is different. My roots are not here. Maybe that's why I like different styles.
I would describe my interior design style as a balancing act between new and old, traditional and modern. My style is somewhat nuanced and varied. I like the fact that you can tell that my home is not a Scandinavian home.
What is your relationship with colors and how do you use them?
I have a strong, yet open-minded relationship with colors. There are a few color palettes that I lean on. If I only listened to my emotions, I would solely choose bright, happy colors from the 50s and 70s. But I consciously try to mix them with modern neutral color palettes so I don't go too retro or vintage. I keep myself in check!
Do you have a favourite color?
Yellow is my eternal favorite color. But its shade and type vary. Last year it was a rich mustard yellow, now I'm very much in love with a bright, Miami Vice yellow. Beyond that, I have seasonal favorites that change every year – currently it's a bright, pale baby blue... combined with yellow!
What's inspiring you right now?
Between the coronavirus and my busy lifestyle, my home country and its culture are very much on my mind. Social isolation and distance constantly take my thoughts to Brazil. At the moment, everything related to our culture, our folklore, our music, Brazil's beautiful countryside, its busy capital, nature and food inspires me enormously. The crisis has brought my Brazilianness to the fore in a whole new way.
Also, glass artist Ingegerd Råman's idea that we need time and space to create something new resonates with me enormously. I have found that the best decisions come from stillness – from looking and feeling what is around you. In silence, you understand what objects and spaces have to say. Speed is not an advantage when it comes to creating something new. So it’s this ethos of stopping that inspires me right now.