In April 2020, Hilla Mäntyomena carried her belongings to the stairway of Töölönkatu 11–15 and felt slightly worried.
She had made the decision to live alone for the first time in her life. No more sharing with roommates and partners.
After making the decision, Hilla went to the Lumo webstore, the place where she had chosen her two previous homes, as well. The webstore did not let her down this time, either: Hilla found the home of her dreams. But still, the decision made her nervous.
What if she felt lonely? What if something happened and there was no one to help? Who would take the dog out if she fell ill?
Hilla did not know it at the time, but she would soon share her life with her new neighbours and their friends. One of her closest new friends is her next door neighbour Nea Sjöblom.
Moving back to Finland – to an apartment found through the Lumo webstore
I want to live in that house on Töölönkatu! This is how Nea Sjöblom felt in spring 2019 when she was still living in Tallinn. Nea had studied abroad for three years, and she decided she would return to Finland after finishing her Bachelor’s studies. With a year left in her studies, Nea started browsing residential areas and thinking about her options.
Moving to a new city from abroad with dogs is no walk in the park. Where can you find an apartment if you’re unable to attend showings? Let alone an apartment that welcomes dogs.
In the Lumo webstore, of course. That is where Nea found the apartment on Töölönkatu 11–15 that won her heart. The same thing happened to Hilla almost a year later.
“I really love old buildings. I want to live in a modern apartment that has all the latest facilities, combined with older architectural elements like large windows and high ceilings,” Hilla says now, sitting on her couch in front of a large, multi-paned window.
The building where Hilla and Nea live was renovated in 2018 and nowadays mainly comprises one-room apartments. Everything has been modernised, but the building has not lost its old-time charm.
Meeting a friend who lives next door does not require a special occasion
When Nea moved in next door to Hilla in June 2020, Hilla’s biggest fears of living alone had already subsided. She had noticed that most of the residents were young adults like herself. And she had already made friends with Jussi, who lives upstairs.
Hilla and Nea started saying hello to each other in the stairway. Because they both had a dog and regular office hours, they were often going out at the same time.
“One night when I was having friends over I saw Hilla in the stairway. I asked her to join us,” Nea says.
Neither of them really remembers what they did that night. The usual, they guess: talked, made coffee, had some wine. Nothing out of the ordinary. The night was soon followed by similar evenings spent in the apartment of either of the two. They meet every now and then, without planning their meetings in advance.
“I suppose we are terribly boring because we never do anything special,” Hilla says.
However, a friend you can meet without advance planning and a special agenda is a rare find.
Hilla keeps a pair of grey slippers at her door that she calls “neighbour slippers”. She wears them when she goes to visit friends in the same corridor.
Hilla and Nea spend a lot of time with their neighbours Janne and Jussi. The four friends have a WhatsApp group they use for messaging almost daily. They also see each other regularly in the stairway, on the streets and in the local grocery shop. When your friends live in the same building, they become such a permanent part of your daily life that you do not have to ask what’s going on in their lives when you meet – you already know. There is no need to update, so you can just talk about things. About life.
Of course, having your friends near is also convenient. Borrowing kitchen utensils, tools or even clothes is easy. If you need someone to watch your dog, help is always near. Getting help with or sharing tips on the apartment is easy when everybody lives in a similar apartment. When Hilla found an integrated cooker hood in her kitchen, she shared a video of it with her friends – have you noticed this? Yes, they had.
That Nea and Hilla would form a close friendship was not self-evident. They have different personalities, styles and backgrounds. But they are both spontaneous and extroverts. And they live in the same house.
“Under other circumstances, we might not have become friends, but this house has brought us together,” Nea says.
Like a commune, only better
“Can you come over now?” When your friend lives next door, you can actually agree to meet right away. This is what Hilla and Nea appreciate in their friendship.
“Even if I’m tired after a days of work, it feels easy to ask Hilla to come over,” Nea says.
“I never want to make arrangements beforehand, I’d rather decide in the moment. That’s possible in this house. When Nea sends me a message and asks if I want to hang out, I can choose whether I want to right now. And I always want to,” Hilla says.
“I love it when I’m spending the Friday night at home with my dog, watching a boring film, and something unexpected just happens. That’s really special,” she continues.
On Töölönkatu, Hilla and Nea have become good friends and met each other’s friends, as well.
“I make friends easily, and I love introducing my friends from different circles to each other. That is what I’ve done here, as well,” Nea says.
“I have learned it from Nea. It has become the normal way of doing things, this mixing and mingling,” Hilla says.
It is not uncommon that Nea is spending the evening at home with a group of friends and notices someone is missing – only to find them next door at Hilla’s.
In a way, Töölönkatu 11–15 is like a commune for Nea and Hilla, only better. Every day is full of social encounters and surprises, but there is always the peace and quiet of one’s own apartment. You can be alone if you want, and you don’t need to share the kitchen, bathroom or laundry machine with anyone.
“Now I never want to stop living on my own, this has been so much better,” Hilla says.