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!”
Photo by 
1 / 16
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.
Photo by 
2 / 16
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.”
Photo by 
3 / 16
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.
Photo by 
4 / 16
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.
Photo by 
5 / 16
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.
Photo by 
6 / 16
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."
Photo by 
7 / 16
Hallway view of master bedroom
A view back into the hallway from the master bedroom.
Photo by 
8 / 16
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.
Photo by 
9 / 16
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.
Photo by 
10 / 16
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.
Photo by 
11 / 16
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.
Photo by 
12 / 16
Decorated wall in master bedroom
A wider look at the impromptu gallery wall.
Photo by 
13 / 16
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.
Photo by 
14 / 16
All-white bedroom window area
The flags and other bright accents bring a shot of color and fun to the serene, white-filled bedroom.
Photo by 
15 / 16
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.”

Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

Photo by 
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.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016