Viivi’s Pastel Helsinki Haven

updated Jul 29, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Name: Viivi Arela
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Size: 230 sq ft room in a 805 sq ft apartment
Years lived in: 1 year; Rented

Living and working in a shared rental apartment hasn’t hindered Viivi’s creativity in personalizing her space. Pastel hues, simple silhouettes and inspiring color-coordinated vignettes lend to a peaceful and personal urban atmosphere, without (potentially landlord-upsetting) permanent modifications.

(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Viivi’s bedroom doubles as her office many days per week while she works on her family-owned fashion label. From the chair at her working table, Viivi has a view through her alcove window onto one of Helsinki’s iconic shopping streets. Known for her skill at capturing lovely vignettes, Viivi has also created an alternative view for herself. On the wall opposite to her working table stand cleverly curated shelves full of delicate treasures, books, and photographs arranged by hue, all of which are an inspiring sight themselves.

Viivi’s apartment sits within a hundred-year-old structure whose high ceilings and double doors lend a sense of grandeur to the space. Some of the aging surfaces—peeling paint, and worn wooden flooring— offer a relief from some of the slick, renovated interiors often seen in this area. Viivi has embraced these charming signs of age, which are also a great compliment to the pastel hues she has chosen for her space. Together with the autumn light that manages its way through the room’s single window, all of these facets create a cozy and somehow romantic atmosphere that is not only inviting, but inspiring in its simplicity.

(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I like a simple, clear space that mixes old with new and design with vintage and basic, affordable stuff. There can be lots of small details (I have a weak spot for still lifes!) if the overall atmosphere is not too cluttered.

Inspiration: I look a lot at pictures and hang out on the internet. Pinterest, Instagram and blogs are a huge source of inspiration, as are movies and cinematic interiors. I try to create a plain space that is easy to work and think in, but that offers visual stimulation as well. The apartment is old and not in a flawless condition, which brings it character that I like and inspires in itself.

Favorite Element: The window. It doesn’t bring in as much light in as a typical flat window would, but I love its romantic qualities and the perfect reading nook it creates.

Biggest Challenge: The room is long and narrowish, and I try to be careful not to emphasize its layout too much.

What Friends Say: They are always surprised how big and spacious a room in a shared apartment can be. And jealous of the wooden floor and ceiling height.

Biggest Embarrassment: I’ve lived here for one dark Finnish winter already but still don’t have a proper lighting fixture in the ceiling.

Biggest Indulgence: The Hay bookshelf. I had been eyeing it for quite some time and when I moved here I found it on sale, so it felt like a good time to act.

Best Advice: Do not try to get everything at once. I refuse to buy anything so-so. I’ll rather wait for the perfect items to come along. It’s surprisingly easy to get along without many things.

Dream Sources: I love Hay, Helsinki Second Hand, Artek 2nd cycle, Aero. I’d love to buy more furniture when travelling, but getting it back home feels tricky.

(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Resources of Note:


Wool rug: Tikau


  • Ilmari Tapiovaara chair: Artek 2nd cycle
  • Table and drawer: Ikea
  • Flower print: Debbie Carlos
  • Blue abstract print: Hanna Konola
  • Poster: Hanna-Riikka Heikkilä
  • Rug: Foreign objects
  • Magic Surrounds garland: Summerland

  • Table: my grandmothers old
  • Table cloth: Artek
  • (Image credit: Lauren Turner)

    Thanks, Viivi!

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