When we begin the process of making our homes truly our own, we often draw inspiration from colors, decades and places that speak to us. Finding our own voices in the midst of all the trends, fads and the do’s and don’t’s can be challenging. I’ve recently found myself wondering when and how my own home will turn into the best possible reflection of myself. When I visited Ulla-Maija Wesander’s home in Helsinki, Finland, I immediately got my answer.
Five years ago, Ulla-Maija, a dental surgeon, decided to make a big change in her life by moving from a quieter neighborhood to the city. She settled in Ullanlinna, a central neighborhood known for its beautiful and decorative Art Nouveau buildings. Having spent a lot of time there in her younger days, the neighborhood had a certain nostalgic appeal. After renting for a while, an apartment went up for sale in the building that she lived in. She couldn’t resist the unique details of the perfectly spacious one-bedroom apartment, which include an original tile stove and a round window bay with a view of the sea. The 11-foot ceiling height was the icing on the cake.
Although the bones of the apartment were excellent, there was still some work to be done. “Before I started renovating, all rooms had ornate wallpapers. It was well executed, but it just wasn’t me,” Ulla-Maija explains. The kitchen was outdated and lacked adequate storage space, which is why it needed a redesign. The renovation took nine months, and allowed Ulla-Maija to create a bright and personal space while respecting the history of the building. Decorating the apartment didn’t come without challenges. With so many windows and doors, the wall space is limited. It took many tries, but eventually each piece found its place.
Ulla-Maija’s home is the perfect combination of natural tones and eye-catching details that bring the rooms to life. Her ability to mix and match colors and patterns to create surprising and beautiful spaces is no hidden talent. “I love the contrast between old and new,” she shares. “There are a lot of antiques in my home, so I wanted to create a fun contrast by adding some mid-century and modern pieces to the mix.”
Paintings, sculptures and ceramics can be found throughout the apartment. A passion for art runs in the family, from her grandparents and parents to her own children. The gallery wall in the dining room has turned into a family tree of sorts, displaying portraits of family members dating back to the 1800s. Ulla-Maija’s home is a reflection of both her roots and her own life journey, and that is what makes it feel so inviting. “A home isn’t created in an instant. You add to it as you go, and little by little it becomes a reflection of who you are and where you’ve been.”
Ulla-Maija’s home, filled with heirlooms and pieces that reflect a truly unique sense of style, made me realize that the answers to my questions all have to do with time. The meaningful pieces are the ones that stay and, over time, they create a home that represents us — where we’re from, who we are, and what we want to be. –Sofia