Mirja Mielonen has laid out a fine spread and invited some of her neighbours over. The first guest at the door is Helena Nuora, who arrives with a box of Madeleine cakes sent directly from France. She is soon followed by Eeva Ahtinen, who is coming from a yoga class.
All the ladies live on Kestikuja in Veräjälaakso, Helsinki, one in building A, one in building F and one in building D. They have become friends over the years, as they have lives as neighbours for a long time. Mielonen moved into her apartment more than 30 years ago, Nuora almost 20 years ago and Ahtinen more than 15 years ago.
“I’m the only one who has lived here from the very beginning. I moved here with my 12-year-old son 30 years ago,” Mielonen says.
The balconied two-room apartment with 53 square metres has been a functional and cosy home, and the yard and Lumo team have offered something for Mielonen to do in her retirement.
The apartment reflects Mielonen’s interest in home decoration: beautiful vases and matching colours. The blend of old mementos and new acquisitions brings warmth and feels safe and comfortable. The bedroom is white with blue and brown accents, the living room colours are grey and red, and in the bathroom decor the accent colour is violet.
“You don’t need to use a lot of money to acquire, say, hand towels in suitable colours to the bathroom.”
As her most beloved possessions, Mielonen mentions the three pictures hanging on the living room wall that her father once carved of chipboard. The handiwork of Mielonen herself and her relatives is visible in her home in other ways as well. The large chest table under the hallway mirror was made by Mirja's brother.
“It was made using five different tree species. All my sisters are also the kind of people who would rather make their curtains and other accessories themselves than buy anything ready-made,” Mielonen says.
Many of the dishes in the kitchen Mielonen decorated herself: in her working years at Arabia, she used transfer prints to make finished Arabia dishes personal. She also painted the TV stand in the living room herself.
The gardeners of a Lumo building
The thing that unites Mielonen and Nuora, who lives in the building F, is their interest in gardening. They both love working on the front gardens of their respective buildings, getting their fingers dirty. They keep the flower beds and roadsides tidy for their own and other resident’s pleasure.
“I rake and decorate the yard. I collect stones and cones from the forest. I create pleasant surroundings for the other residents, and they commend me for the work I’ve done,” Helena Nuora says.
“I have also been working out there on the yard for the 30 years I have lived here,” Mielonen says with a laugh.
She browses the pictures on her phone and shows some photos from last summer, where there are boxes in front of the building filled with marguerite daisies and Calibrachoa million bells in full bloom, and a rhododendron growing under a window.
Being involved in the Lumo team has also become a permanent hobby over the years. The Lumo team arranges such activities as parties and other events for the residents of Kestikuja.
Having lived in the building for a long time, Mielonen knows many of the residents, but would gladly get acquainted with all of them.
Getting the club room in condition
In autumn 2017, the club room, located in connection with the building A on Kestikuja, served as a venue for the building’s 30th anniversary. There were three large sandwich cakes made by a catering service on offer, and about 40 people came to eat them. At the same time, the residents also celebrated the refurbished club room, which was Mirja's private summer decoration project.
“I wanted to make it homelike and such a place that it could be enjoyed by anyone, from the very young to the very old,” Mielonen explains.
“Mirja had the vision all figured out and the colours selected down to the last detail. But not in such a way that you would not dare to come in and sit around in the room,” Nuora praises.
The spacious club room has a floor patterned with brown and white squares, to which Mielinen has combined watery green and turquoise in the form of pillows and chair covers. The rug under the sofa set repeats the same colours. Mielonen sewed the chair covers out of old curtains, which one of the residents had donated.
As an icing on the cake, Eeva Ahtinen, who practises watercolour painting, was asked to paint a picture on the club room wall that would match the other colours.
“A little bit under a general pressure, I made the painting in a course held by the watercolour association” she says.
The beautiful club room is suitable for throwing a birthday party, for example
In the club room, there are three dining sets, a sofa, benches, an armchair, a TV and a small kitchenette. Books can be found in the bookcase, DVD films under the television, and games for outdoor and indoor use in the cabinets. There is also a sewing machine and yarn, as well as crafts supplies for children.
Since the 30th anniversary party, the club room has already been used at least for common Christmas and Shrove Tuesday parties. Since the kitchenette does not have an oven or cooker, the food served must be ordered from elsewhere, or people make it themselves and bring it in from their own kitchens.
“Taking part in common parties always gives me such a good feeling that, no matter how busy I am, I always want to be there,” says Nuora.
The next event to be arranged is a film night for children. The club room is also suited for private use, such as birthday parties.
Notices of the events organised by the Lumo team are posted in good time on the bulletin boards of the buildings. The Kestikuja residents also have their own closed Facebook group.
Being near nature
Mielonen, Nuora and Ahtinen praise the surroundings of Kestikuja particularly for it being near nature. On a sloped plot, every building with three floors has its own area and yard.
A few years ago, when retiring from work and looking for a smaller apartment, all Ahtinen did was move from an apartment in building F to another one in building D. Nuora likes particularly the area’s opportunities for outdoor activities.
“Here we live close to nature, forests and the river, so there are great recreational opportunities. In winter, I can just put my skis on and take right off on a ski track. I swim in both the sea and the river, and the Pikkukoski beach is located at the end of the road opposite to my house. In the forest, I can pick bilberries and gather sprigs,” she lists.