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Cabin Life in the Heart of Helsinki

by Sofia Tuovinen

Walking into Robin Falck’s home is like stepping into a parallel universe, where having to choose between country and city life isn’t necessary. Robin, a Designer and Art Director, moved into his one-bedroom attic apartment in Helsinki four years ago. Although this type of living has become a popular way to increase housing supply in densely built city centers, there’s something very different about Robin’s home.

Built into the attic of a stately Jugendstil building in the late 70s, there’s no sign of the shiny and glamorous luxury living often associated with modern conversions. “This was one of the first attic conversions in the entire city and the 70s feel is evident throughout the apartment,” Robin explains. The most significant feature in this 485-square-foot home is the angled wood panel ceiling, which slopes all the way from one side of the apartment across to the other. “The ceiling is definitely the main reason why this home feels so much like a cabin. The antlers and deerskin on the wall obviously add to it as well.” Where the paneling is at its lowest, floor-to-ceiling windows stretch the length of the entire home. An equally long balcony adds valuable square footage and is in constant use during the warmer months. The indoor-outdoor style living makes it easy to forget that Robin does in fact live in the heart of the city — rooftops that partly cover the view toward the city’s archipelago are the only reminder.

When Robin moved in, he wanted to embrace natural materials and colors in order to create an escape from the hectic city life. A yellow wallpaper that had covered the walls was replaced with fresh paints in slate and white to create a bold yet natural contrast. “I really like dark surfaces and the mood that they set,” Robin shares. “The walls in our family’s summer cottage are painted a dark navy. Three generations have already got to enjoy that house. I have so many good memories from there and wanted to recreate that cozy feel in my own home.” Robin also decided to paint one wall with chalk paint. It’s the perfect spot for planning trips and events and for friends to leave their mark when they come over for a visit.

Creativity and heritage are as important in Robin’s home as they are in his work. Several items in the apartment have been designed and built by Robin himself. “In a lot of things I prefer old over new. Old things were made to last and had a clear purpose — no gimmicks,” he explains. He wants the things he creates to have similar meaning and value, and to make a difference. A passion for design and craftsmanship is evident in all Robin’s creations, including Nido, a micro-cabin he built in 2010. “My personal projects have all been equally important to me, but Nido has definitely been the most impactful.” It’s clear why Robin enjoys his cabin in the city as much as his cabin in the woods — they’re both the perfect escape. —Sofia

Photography by Sofia Tuovinen

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Robin’s attic apartment is his escape from the city below. The wood panel ceiling, which slopes from one side of the apartment to the other, creates both a dramatic architectural effect and makes this city home look and feel like a cabin.
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To accentuate the cozy cabin-like feel of his home, Robin chose to paint the wall separating the bedroom from the living area in slate grey on both sides. Vintage items can be found around the home, like this old piggery light that hangs from the ceiling. Windows look out onto a wide balcony that serves as an extra living space.
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“My grandfather brought these snow shoes over from Maine. We used them to get to our cottage before we had a snow plough,” Robin explains. The work space is situated in the corner of the bedroom, close enough if inspiration would happen to hit at night.
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The dark green headboard has been painted with chalk paint. “Sometimes I use it as a canvas and sketch on it,” Robin notes. A vintage work lamp has been attached to an old stool that doubles as a nightstand. Floor-to-ceiling windows stretch the length of the apartment and offer a view of rooftops and the nearby archipelago.
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Robin’s grandfather’s old piano stands opposite the bed. Posters and photos show Robin’s passion for motorcycles.
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The chalkboard wall is the central spot in Robin’s home and can be seen from both the bedroom and the living area. “I used to do chalk art for restaurants around town — this is where I tried out different designs,” Robin explains. The wall always looks different and people who visit can add to it as they choose. For now, humpback whales drawn by Robin’s girlfriend Lotta adorn the wall.
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The combined dining and living area offers the perfect space for both smaller and larger gatherings. The picture in the background was left in the apartment by the previous owner.
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Robin in his living room. “My next project is to tear out the old floors and replace them with wooden floorboards throughout,” he shares. Every cabin needs a sauna, he offers, and another upcoming project is to build one in the bathroom. “There was one originally, but someone took it out!” he adds.
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“I made the coffee table when I was into a more minimal look. I just happened to have the right amount of magazines to make a stable leg!” Robin laughs.
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Doing what you love and doing it right is evident in Robin’s work. Eames DSW chairs have been placed around Berk, a dining table that Robin designed and built himself.
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A skylight brightens up the "retro rustic" galley kitchen. The kitchen cabinets are original from 1979 and match the wood paneling that runs through the entire home.
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The spacious balcony stretches the entire length of the apartment. It’s the perfect place to have breakfast on a warm day or to enjoy a dinner with a view. The table and benches are Robin’s own handiwork.
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The vintage bookshelf is filled with good reads and souvenirs from various trips. The gas mask is the most recent, and perhaps strangest, of them all. “I recently returned from a motorcycle trip in Russia and some local motorcyclists gave it to me to wear when I return, so that they’d recognize me!” Robin shares.
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Antlers and a deerskin on the wall add to the apartment’s cabin feel. Velvet pillows in muted tones adorn the sofa by Bo Concept.
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“The favorite thing about my home is that it’s my cabin in the city and where I find myself at ease.” — Robin
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The plan of Robin’s attic apartment.

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