This Small Lisbon Apartment Is ‘Scandinavian Simplicity’ at Its Finest

published Aug 29, 2023

This Small Lisbon Apartment Is ‘Scandinavian Simplicity’ at Its Finest

published Aug 29, 2023
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“I moved to this apartment in the middle of a super strict lockdown in 2021. Everything except grocery stores were closed and I was not even sure if I was allowed to move during all of that, since the rules were a bit hard to follow,” begins graphic designer and illustrator Saara Helkala about the hunt for a new home in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Originally from Helsinki, Finland, Helkala has lived in Portugal for eight years, and had been living in and enjoying the same Lisbon neighborhood for five years. She was able to find this 592-square-foot, two bedroom rental apartment in the same area.

“The first time I saw this apartment, I loved everything about it,” she shares, explaining that she liked the high ceilings, all the light, and the door to the balcony the most. Also the fact that it had two bedrooms “so I would be able to turn one of them into an office,” she admits.

“But I never did: I work on my kitchen table because it’s the most quiet spot during the day. The other side of the apartment gets lot of street noise, dogs barking and constant construction noise, but the living room side I mostly just hear birds singing in the Nespera fruit tree growing on my downstairs neighbor’s yard.”

Helkala, who along with graphic design and illustration work is also working on her first book, says she loves being at home and living alone. “I wear the same kimono I’ve had since I was 17 and walk around holding a cup of tea, check out if my plants seem happy, and play my favorite playlists. I also work a lot at night when it’s quiet and I feel most creative,” she explains.



  • Mirror — Secondhhand
  • Little side table — Secondhand
  • Bookshelf — IKEA


  • Sofa — Secondhand
  • Sofa table — IKEA
  • Quilt — from a small souvenir shop in Tavira, Algarve
  • Rug — Vida Portuguesa
  • Poster — from a Portuguese film festival
  • Vase — Casa Cubista
  • Vase — Ceramicas na Linha
  • Pillows — Saana & Olli, Kauniste, Marimekko
  • Drawer — Secondhand
  • Little things on the table — Marimekko
  • Little Monstera plant tablecloth — a souvenir from Madeira


  • Table & chairs — Secondhhand
  • Stools — Secondhand
  • Poster — from Japan
  • Kitchen towels — Saana & Olli


  • Bed — Secondhand
  • Bedding — Marimekko
  • Dresser — Secondhand
  • Clothing rack — IKEA


  • Bed frame — Secondhand pallets
  • Dresser — IKEA
  • Sheets — H&M
  • Pillow cases — Marimekko
  • Drawer — Secondhand
  • Other drawer — IKEA
  • Chair — Secondhand
  • Little plant shelf — Secondhand
  • Pouch — from Morocco
  • Other items — Secondhand


  • Towels — Marimekko
  • Rug — H&M

Thanks Saara!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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