Maria Kivinen is out travelling for about one week every month. A small single apartment in a good location just outside the heart of Helsinki is enough for recharging her batteries.
For Maria Kivinen, home is a place to relax and rest when work or leisure does not take her elsewhere in the world. For that purpose, 29.5 square metres of space and a large bed are more than sufficient.
“I travel so much that I don't need a lot of space. For me, location was the most important criterion when looking for an apartment.”
Kivinen lives on Hernesaarenkatu near Kaivopuisto in a beautiful yellow house, completed in 1929, that was fully refurbished in 2015. She likes living in the area and enjoys the urban view out of her window towards the blue-grey Hietalahti shipyard.
"The seaside is just a short walk away", she says.
A furnished two-room apartment changed into a personal single apartment
Kivinen moved to Hernesaarenranta a year and a half ago after having lived in Kaivopuisto for a few years before that. She had moved there from London after five years of studies in the United Kingdom. The apartment in Kaivopuisto was a furnished two-room apartment that she could not decorate according to her own taste.
“I found this lovely single on the internet and sent my application. I got a call right away, saying that I could come and see the apartment. This is small in size, but spacious, and there’s a lot of cabinet space. Every square metre is well used, and the whole place is filled with light in the summer. I moved in quickly, maybe within a month,” Kivinen recalls.
In practice, Kivinen had a few suitcase-fulls of clothes to move from one place to another, so the cabinet space was much needed. The wide, white bed was the most important acquisition, and Kivinen wanted to invest in it.
“On the moving day, I got a ride from a friend of mine, and the bed was delivered directly from the store at the same time. And just like that, I had already moved in.”
The theme of the decor is white leather. Some of the furniture in her apartment Kivinen got, for instance, from her friends. There are knick-knacks on the tables, and the lifestyle of a traveller is reflected in the home in other ways, in the form of numerous elegant and amusing souvenirs.
Surprise visit after the move
In December, a few months after having moved in, Kivinen got the most unexpected and extraordinary visitors. On Saturday morning after a Christmas party, Kivinen was woken up by the doorbell at 10 o'clock.
“When I opened the door, there were two police officers standing behind the door.”
The visitors had come to find the previous resident of the apartment with a search warrant. A quick look around assured the police officers of the true nature of things and, when leaving, they still reminded Kivinen of the importance of filing a change of address notification. The fright dissipated right there.
“I had lived in London and I had not remembered that in Finland you need to file a change of address notification. I had just asked to have my name changed on the door.”
In retrospect, the whole situation is something to laugh about.
“My neighbours told me that the previous resident had lived in the building for just a little while. It’s actually quite fascinating that the apartment has such a slightly mysterious past.”
Bed as an entertainment centre
In Kivinen’s opinion, however, the best thing about the single apartment on Hernesaarenkatu, is the bed. It takes up a large part of the floor space and it is not meant only for sleeping. It is used for watching television, playing cards with friends and playing with the dogs Kivinen sometimes looks after.
Above the bed, there is a picture of New York with the Statue of Liberty, because it is one of Kivinen’s favourite cities. Another of her favourite destinations is Mexico. Kivinen works at YLE, Finland's national public broadcasting company, and markets TV series abroad. Therefore, travelling and watching TV are both part of her task description and pastime activities.
“I watch television on my bed on my laptop as my mood guides me. On Yle Areena, I follow Nordic series, such as ‘The Bridge’. If I want to watch drama series with depth, I watch HBO. I also watch Netflix and Amazon. Surrealistic films are my favourite,” she lists.
Above the bed, Kivinen has a round white feather lamp hanging from the ceiling and a similar one in the kitchen as well. In her mind, the soft-looking lamps are like clouds into which the ladder next to the bed leads you.
“It's a bit like Stairway to Heaven,” she says with a laugh.
“Dreaming is important. It must be visible in my home as well.”
The difference between London and Helsinki
In the house itself, Kivinen loves its good spirit. The residents have their own Facebook group and, together, they organise barbecue parties in summer and Christmas parties in winter. People always greet each other when they happen to meet, which is not self-evident everywhere.
Kivinen mentions that she has made friends with, for example, the visual artist who lives in the opposite apartment from her. She has also found other people with a similar mentality as her in the building. Kivinen, who studied theatre in England and has worked as an actor, is particularly enthusiastic about having actors as neighbours. Futhermore, whenever she needs help, there is always someone to provide assistance in the building.
“When I moved in, I mentioned in the Facebook group that I have two lamps that I cannot hang. Within five minutes, a man living next door had come to install them,” Kivinen explains.
She finds one major difference in the living cultures of London and Helsinki: because of the high rents, in London, people live much more often in shared flats.
“There, you can easily have apartments with seven residents. A friend of mine lives in Canary Wharf along the Thames and has five roommates. In Helsinki, people very often live alone – or as a couple if they are in a relationship. There is no culture of living in a shared apartment here. That is another reason why it’s nice that there is a good sense of community among the residents of this building.”