written by:
photos by:
March 7, 2011
Originally published in Cheap and Chic

A pair of crafty designers on a serious budget show that though their apartment may be short on square footage, it’s long on charm.

Modern graphic dining room with black lacquered table and striped rug
Susanna Vento, pictured here with her daughter Varpu, is a Helsinki-based editor, stylist, and interior designer. Asked about her design approach in her own apartment, she says: “As an interior designer I choose new designs for my clients, but for my own home, I tend to prefer crafty or old stuff. If I buy something, I want to buy only things that stand the test of time. But even better is to buy nothing at all and do-it-yourself!”
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Modern open-plan dining room with various chairs and striped rug
The family's activity centers around the open-plan dining room, which does triple-duty as a living room and kitchen. Susanna prefers a motley set of dining chairs over a coordinated set; that way guests can pick their favorite when they sit.
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Modern dining area with striped rug and string lights on ceiling
The apartment has no couch; “We simply don’t need one—plus it would take up a lot of space,” says Susanna. A string of outdoor lights fosters a cozy atmosphere. “I tried them out once for a party and they looked so nice that I decided to keep them. The light is warm and inviting.”
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DIY detailing on cabinet fronts
Since the couple knew they'd soon rip up the kitchen during a major pipe replacement and renovation, Susanna devised a cheap and easy way to prettify the nondescript cabinets in the meantime: she cut triangles out of black contact paper and affixed them to the cabinet fronts.
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Modern graphic decorative objects
Susanna's skill as a stylist is evident in the apartment's many eye-catching arrangements of objects: here, a paper bird, a origami bowl, and a jar of striped paper straws.
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Uten.Silo organizer by Vitra above a white-painted chair with blue-tipped legs
In the entryway, a plastic Uten.Silo organizer by Vitra shelters keys and other bits of potential clutter. A white-painted cafe chair suits the minimalist color scheme.
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White-painted chair with blue-tipped legs and zig zag print rug
On the black-and-white palette, Susanna remarks: "It makes it easy to add accent colors, like petrol blue, and also makes the apartment’s architectural details—like the original doors and deep window ledges—more prominent."
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Hallway view of master bedroom
A view back into the hallway from the master bedroom.
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Baby tricycle in master bedroom
The master bedroom is a real continuation of the main living space; Varpu rides her tricycle through, and the whole family gathers on the bed to watch movies and cartoons on the television across the room.
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Sanded light-reflecting light
It took Susanna several layers of sanding—and then finally tossing her water-based paint and selecting the proper oil-based formula—to get the floor as white as she'd envisioned. But she couldn't be happier with the result. “The apartment looks bigger when there are white surfaces for the light to bounce on,” she says.
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Color and size coordinated open storage shelves
To keep her open storage neat, Susanna stacks and organizes her books and DVDs by size and by color.
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Colorful postcard and magazine clipping wall art
Instead of splurging on expensive framed art, Susanna tapes postcards and images cut from magazines to the wall. They're bright, colorful, and easy to swap out as she likes.
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Decorated wall in master bedroom
A wider look at the impromptu gallery wall.
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Children’s room wall with colorful cotton flag banners
While she was pregnant and on maternity leave, Susanna tackled creative D.I.Y. projects to decorate Varpu's room, including stitching these festive cotton flag banners.
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All-white bedroom window area
The flags and other bright accents bring a shot of color and fun to the serene, white-filled bedroom.
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Children’s bedroom filled with plush cushion pillows
Varpu's bed is piled with a motley assortment of plush cushions: “I love pillows and can’t resist when I see a nice one. Children love them too.”

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16 / 16
Modern graphic dining room with black lacquered table and striped rug
Susanna Vento, pictured here with her daughter Varpu, is a Helsinki-based editor, stylist, and interior designer. Asked about her design approach in her own apartment, she says: “As an interior designer I choose new designs for my clients, but for my own home, I tend to prefer crafty or old stuff. If I buy something, I want to buy only things that stand the test of time. But even better is to buy nothing at all and do-it-yourself!”

Last summer, Susanna and Jussi Vento purchased a two-bedroom, 660-square-foot apartment in Helsinki’s Punavuori district, where they live with their one-year-old daughter, Varpu. The building was “an unremarkable ’50s high-rise,” says Susanna, “but we liked the light in the apartment, the practical layout, and the original double doors between the rooms.”

The tiny abode was in desperate need of a makeover, but knowing that an expensive pipe replacement loomed, the couple had to be frugal in their interventions. Fortunately, both work in creative fields—Susanna is an interior designer, stylist, and editor, and Jussi is a graphic artist—and renovating with a tight budget was exactly their kind of challenge. “We come from families that love doing things with their hands, so it’s natural for us,” Susanna says. With less than $4,000 but plenty of DIY spirit, the couple turned a boring flat into a visually exciting home. Susanna shows us how.

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