The wind gusts from the gunmetal sea, up a hill, through the streets of the Art Nouveau quarters of Helsinki towards Uspensky Cathedral. Here, at street-level, providing respite from the Katajanokka chill, you’ll find the warmly lit studio of designer Samu-Jussi Koski.
Every morning Samu-Jussi Koski walks from his home, along the seafront, to his studio in Helsinki’s Art Nouveau quarter. The Katajanokka creative hub serves as a second home for the founder of the Samuji clothing brand, and is replete with favorite hang-outs and piles of “work-in-progress” waiting patiently for his creative attention.
We strip off our winter coats and sit down to dark coffee and green tea. Classical radio plays in the background while Neema the dog sleeps on the sofa. You could easily think you were visiting someone’s home; a compact, two-room apartment inhabited by a person with an appreciation for beautiful chairs, colorful art and tables perfectly placed for watching the street life outside. But the homeliness is belied by the towering bookshelf full of binders and magazines, a large desk with papers strewn across it, and two chairs in front of a screen. This is, in fact, the home of Samu-Jussi and company partner Kitty Salovaara's S&Co creative agency. It’s the busy hub of their consultancy work and creative projects, which include his own Jeans&Towels and Borse e cose bag brand, which will hopefully see the light of day next year.
Intuition is my tool in life in general, and I trust it.
"I've found that I intuitively make my offices homely – bringing elements into the space that make them more like homes than offices. I think, in this line of work, the feel of the space is particularly important. And also because we spend so much of our day, and our lives, at work," says Samu-Jussi.
A good atmosphere was the most important criterion when it came to choosing the office. As with all his previous homes and offices, he trusted his instincts.
"This was a great find, there's a good atmosphere here. I think that's always the most important thing. Intuition is my tool in life in general, and I trust it,” he says “As soon as I walked through the door, I got a good feeling, even though the windows were still barred and there were big fluorescent lamps reminiscent of a car garage hanging from the ceiling."
The ambience of the office space comes from cheerful combinations of colors, art hanging on the wall, wood and warm tones. The street-level windows bring life inside, people pass by busily, street lights illuminating the darkening streetscape in the afternoons.
"I've always liked good materials, whether it's furniture, carpets or textiles. Pleasant materials make you feel good and visitors invariably ask if they have to take their shoes off when they come in. I think it has something to do with the cozy atmosphere, which I think is funny," he laughs.
I have seasons when I long for color, and other times there is no room for it. I think it's the same with music – sometimes I miss music, sometimes silence.
Samu-Jussi chose a light beige shade for the walls, which brings warmth to the space and softens the furniture. The walls in the adjacent room were painted a shade darker, which harmonizes beautifully with the colorful details and the old, light-colored fireplace in the corner of the room. In contrast to the pale linen and greige, the kitchenette was painted a cheerful yellow. The space is a response to the longing for soft materials and warm colors, a workspace where you feel comfortable.
"I have seasons when I long for color, and other times there is no room for it. I think it's the same with music – sometimes I miss music, sometimes silence. I think of these periods as moments of life change, the patterns of which can often be recognised only in retrospect,” he muses.
Personally, I think uncertainty and anxiety about the future of the world manifests itself in my own life as a longing for soft materials and beautiful colors.
As an intuitive decision maker, colors also reflect life and the outside world for Samu-Jussi – they represent the little things that bring good cheer.
“Colors and music are needed for some reason, and people’s actions relate to the bigger picture. A bit like the lipstick index; in times of recession, lipstick sales increase when people need a little pick-me-up,” he explains. “Personally, I think uncertainty and anxiety about the future of the world manifests itself in my own life as a longing for soft materials and beautiful colors."
After the fact, Samu-Jussi wondered if he should have dared to paint more color on the walls. The small vestibule is still waiting for a burgundy finish.
"After a colorless season, there's a lot of color here now, by my standards. However, there is potential for a lot in the shades of the walls. In a bold moment, I really liked a bright, dark blue. Light blue would also have been nice here," Samu-Jussi reflects.
The workspace is thought out, yet at the same time feels pleasingly spontaneous, in its own way, and the atmosphere is subtly light, soft, special. I ask about the source of the designer’s seemingly eternal inspiration. He responds that the lazy answer would be to say "everything", but instead he stops to think.
"In recent years I have been inspired a lot by nature, previously by big cities. Maybe the older I get and the more I've seen of life, my brain starts to push out the superfluous, and what's left is something palpably honest,” he says. “What was once everything is now getting smaller and smaller. I find myself inspired by the beautiful surface of natural stone."
In this office, inspiration is alive in the surfaces of materials, the art hanging on the wall, the thick magazines and fabric samples lying on the bookshelf. In all its tranquility, Samu-Jussi's studio is a delightful expression of how even seemingly ordinary colors are an integral part of the atmosphere of a space. As the studio’s owner would attest, there is infinite beauty in the everyday.