Alvar Aalto is one of Finland’s best known designers and architects. Born in 1898, his works include buildings, furniture, glassware and lamps from a career that spanned decades until his death in 1976.
Alvar once said, “It is easier to build a grand opera or a city center than to build a personal house,” and you can visit his house in Munkkiniemi, 4km north-west of Helsinki city centre.
With his wife Aino, Alvar acquired the land and built the house in 1936. It was designed and used as a home and studio. The day we arrived to visit there was already a small group gathered on the footpath and taking photos of the garden.
Inside, Alvar’s work desk is still laid out as though he might arrive at any moment to start drawing up plans under the large windows that take maximum advantage of the natural light.
Alvar and Aino were involved in every part of the creation of their home – they designed not only the house but the furniture and fixtures that went inside. Aina also designed fabrics, some of which feature in the house and can still be bought.
Touring the house is fascinating as you realise that between them they designed the sofas, the lamps, the tables, the chairs, the glassware….even the bathroom basins! Alvar and Aino’s two children grew up in the house and their bedrooms are preserved as closely as possible to how they would have appeared during their childhoods.
The house has a lovely warm, calm feeling and features Japanese sliding doors and wall coverings. Aino passed away in 1949 and Alvar was remarried three years later to architect Elsa Mäkiniemi. She lived in the house until she died in 1994.
The house was later purchased by the Alvar Aalto Society and they now keep it as a museum with a small shop.
Guided tours are given of the house and unless you are in a big group you can just turn up at the allocated times on the website. As with most things in Finland, opening hours are adjusted during the winter months so check before you come.
The garden was just beautiful when we visited, the house draped in curtains of red and gold leaves. I saw pictures of the house in winter and the warm space that Alvar and Aino created looks absolutely beautiful covered in snow.
The great thing about their work is that the house will appeal to lovers of architecture, furniture, and interior design alike. If you’re not already a fan I would suggest you might just find something you like when you visit Aalto House.