A New Zealand en­tre­pre­neur and a Fin­nish artist wel­come us into their her­itage Helsinki apart­ment


A New Zealand en­tre­pre­neur and his Fin­nish wife have made their home in a charm­ing her­itage apart­ment with views to some of Helsinki’s most sublime in­ner-city scenery.

In a mo­ment straight out of a fairy­tale, when Fin­nish artist Car­olina Grunér met Kiwi en­tre­pre­neur Sam Ashcroft, it was love at first sight. They moved in to­gether 11 days later, and three months on made their home in a sim­i­larly en­chant­ing apart­ment in an 1890s build­ing in the sea­side sub­urb of Kata­janokka in down­town Helsinki, Fin­land. They mar­ried on their eight-month an­niver­sary. “It felt like we didn’t need words or time to get to know each other, be­cause it was like we al­ready did,” says Grunér.

Just as the cou­ple had no doubt that they were made for each other, Grunér says they knew im­me­di­ately that the apart­ment would be­come their home. “The light, high ceil­ings, big win­dows, wide win­dowsills and sculpted dou­ble doors – all of it charmed us. Not to men­tion the view of the Uspen­ski Cathe­dral – it’s so close you al­most feel like you could touch it.”

For Ashcroft, the draw­cards in­cluded the “worn orig­i­nal floors in nearly every room, and the thick and solid rock walls, which create a very peace­ful and grounded feel­ing”.

Grunér had lived in the Kata­janokka dis­trict be­fore, so the apart­ment’s ad­dress in the real-es­tate ad caught her at­ten­tion. The pho­tos painted an un­flat­ter­ing pic­ture, but she knew the lo­ca­tion would be spe­cial, so they sched­uled a view­ing. The apart­ment turned out to be a di­a­mond in the rough, and soon it was theirs.

“We’d dreamed about liv­ing in an old home in peace­ful sur­round­ings close to the sea,” she says. “Wooden floors and light were im­por­tant fac­tors for us and I wanted to be able to work from home, so we were look­ing for an apart­ment big enough to in­clude a stu­dio.

“We had hoped that our home would be near the cen­tre of town, but not quite at the core. In Kata­janokka, all our wishes are ful­filled. We have views to the cen­tre of the city, over rooftops, parks and the har­bour. The area is ac­tu­ally its own lit­tle is­land at­tached to the main­land, so we’re close to the wa­ter­front but only a 10-minute walk to the city cen­tre.”



The cou­ple dec­o­rated with items from their pre­vi­ous homes, sec­ond­hand finds, heir­loom chan­de­liers and one big new piece: a snow-white sofa. By and large, Grunér prefers to re­cy­cle, an ap­proach that’s not only pleas­ing aes­thet­i­cally but also helps to make the home feel lived in. She and Ashcroft aim to achieve a sense of har­mony, but not have things look­ing too per­fect.

“My mother has al­ways been in­ter­ested in de­sign and our house was al­ways a bit dif­fer­ent to other homes,” says Ashcroft. “Al­though we had some de­signer pieces, it was ob­vi­ous that our house was to live in – noth­ing was too pre­cious. That’s the ap­proach we in­tended to take here.”

The cou­ple des­ig­nated the big­gest, bright­est room as Grunér’s workspace. In fact, with its al­most four-me­tre stud, the en­tire house has a gallery-like feel and is ideal for dis­play­ing her art­work. Tall door­ways con­nect the spa­ces, an­other stand­out fea­ture for Ashcroft, who says, “One of the things on my wish list was that our home have a good, un­in­ter­rupted flow, which this apart­ment does. You can ba­si­cally walk around in a cir­cle – every room is at­tached to an­other and leads to the next. It’s a child’s dream when it comes to hide and seek!”

The tim­ber sur­faces in the kitchen pro­vide a cosy at­mos­phere ideal for re­lax­ing with a cup of tea. From here, dou­ble doors open onto the bal­cony, which, in con­trast to the city views from the rest of the apart­ment, faces a tran­quil court­yard. It’s a lovely quiet sanc­tu­ary where the cou­ple can of­ten be found eat­ing break­fast in the morn­ing sun, lis­ten­ing to the bird­song. Grunér, Ashcroft and their baby daugh­ter, Grace, moved to

New Zealand this past sum­mer. Fol­low their jour­ney on In­sta­gram: @car­oli­na­gruner; @samuel_william.

LEFT The artist’s tools form a beau­ti­ful still life on her work­ing ta­ble. Her grand­fa­ther, Risto Kuntsi, was in­ter­ested in paint­ing, but made his ca­reer as a lawyer. She con­sid­ers him her big­gest in­spi­ra­tion. “His dream was to live as an artist and I...

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