Hike into a forest and your heart slows down. At least, that’s what happens to me. Here’s what I discovered after three flights, a long train ride and a taxi with a really lost driver: Nordic pine forest, west coast of Finland, surrounding the world-famous home, Villa Mairea, designed by Alvar Aalto. Harry and Maire Gullichsen were among the wealthiest people in Finland when they commissioned their good friends, Alvar and Aino Aalto to design their Villa Mairea during the Depression. The architects called the villa an “opus con amore,” a house imagined with affection. The Aalto design emphasizes local, rustic materials: rattan mats on the floors rather than Persian carpets. There are paths made of local flagstone and columns of spruce at the front entrance – not exactly what you’d find in Beverly Hills.
I was amazed by the curved cedar balustrades and arbours made of spruce saplings at the Villa Mairea. In a home filled with paintings by Picasso, Fernand Leger and Alexander Calder mobiles, built-in bookcases in the study were designed using birch plywood to be engaging and human-warm.
Hercules on our (yes, Aalto-inspired) curved back deck, doing what he likes best: posing.
Designed with a whole range of green tones, this little garden catches my eye every time I walk through the kitchen. And, because it’s sheltered on the north side of our house, the plants flourish even after the first snowfall.