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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.

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!”

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 Petra Bindel
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.

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 Petra Bindel
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.”

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 Petra Bindel
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.

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 Petra Bindel
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.

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 Petra Bindel
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.

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 Petra Bindel

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 Petra Bindel
A view back into the hallway from the master bedroom.

A view back into the hallway from the master bedroom.

Photo by Petra Bindel
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.

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 Petra Bindel
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.

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 Petra Bindel
To keep her open storage neat, Susanna stacks and organizes her books and DVDs by size and by color.

To keep her open storage neat, Susanna stacks and organizes her books and DVDs by size and by color.

Photo by Petra Bindel
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.

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 Petra Bindel
A wider look at the impromptu gallery wall.

A wider look at the impromptu gallery wall.

Photo by Petra Bindel
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.

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 Petra Bindel
The flags and other bright accents bring a shot of color and fun to the serene, white-filled bedroom.

The flags and other bright accents bring a shot of color and fun to the serene, white-filled bedroom.

Photo by Petra Bindel
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.”<br><br>Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

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 Petra Bindel
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