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A Pattern Designer’s 280-Square-Foot Apartment Comes into Bloom

by Sofia Tuovinen

A Finnish Illustrator’s 280-Square-Foot Apartment Comes into Bloom | Design*Sponge

Lotta Maija (@lottamaija) is a young pattern designer and illustrator from Finland, whose work has quickly found an international audience. Her fruity and floral patterns have appeared on everything from Slowdown Studio’s throw to the latest swimwear collection by Swedish Whip Appeal Collective, with more exciting collaborations on the horizon. As Lotta works as a marketing designer for Finnish furniture brand Hakola by day and focuses on collaborations and personal projects by night, it’s safe to say that she has no trouble keeping busy.

Lotta’s creative headquarter is her home in Helsinki, a 280-square-foot studio apartment that she rents in a calm and quiet turn-of-the-century building, just a stone’s throw away from the city’s busy shopping streets. Over the three years that Lotta has lived there, the tiny studio has become a much-needed haven and home base. “I still lived in Italy when my mother went to see the apartment on my behalf and convinced the owner to choose me as a tenant, even though I wasn’t even back in Finland yet,” Lotta explains coming by the apartment while completing an internship abroad. “I only saw a few dark photos but fell in love with the high ceilings and the calm residential location.”

The past few years is the longest period of time that Lotta has been based in any one place. Creating a home has been, as it so often is, a process. She has decorated her home step by step, slowly adding more and more plants and essential pieces, with some of her own prints and defining colors thrown into the mix. A big turning point was when Lotta agreed, after much convincing from her parents and friends, to move her bed up the loft above the kitchen. “I realized how much more room I could have and how different the space would feel if I slept on the loft — moving my bed up there changed my apartment altogether. I even bought a sofa, which feels like a very grown-up thing to do!” she says. Scroll down to see how Lotta has turned a small space into the sweet and functional home that feels, believe it or not, spacious! —Sofia

Photography by Sofia Tuovinen

Image above: View of Lotta’s living room from the entrance of her 280-square-foot studio apartment. Lotta’s own patterns often include luscious pink and green hues, which she has also used throughout the decor in her home. 

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The rattan cabinet from IKEA is where Lotta stores materials, fabrics, and traditional garments brought back home from Japan. It also adds to the natural, down-to-earth feeling that is is repeated throughout her small studio.

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A process video showing how Lotta creates her art. She begins with light sketching and completes the work with juicy colors.

A Pattern Designer's 280-Square-Foot Apartment Comes into Bloom | Design*Sponge
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The throw hanging on Lotta’s wall was made in collaboration with Slowdown Studio. “I painted those pears and plums on the porch of our summer house last year. The pears are melting because it was the hottest summer ever recorded in Finland,” she explains. 

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Lotta in the living room, in front of the Dupree throw that she designed for Slowdown Studio. “I’ve been decorating my home step by step,” she says. “At first, decorating was slower because I was still a student and couldn’t really afford anything. After graduation I’ve had resources to bring my inspirations to life and decorate more.”

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This is my favorite corner — I love the different green colors, the rattan cabinet and all the orange. The bush lily plant on top of the cabinet is a gift from my aunt and it’s now making its second set of babies,” Lotta explains. The print on the wall is called Mandariini and was created by Lotta for Anouk Studio.  

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“What I love most about my home is the ceiling height that makes my little place more spacious!” — Lotta Maija

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There can never be too many plants and having a pink armchair makes everything feel better,” Lotta says. After graduating from university, the velvet chair was the first quality piece of furniture that Lotta invested in.

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The rope shelf is by Hakola and features some of Lotta’s favorite souvenirs from her trips and time abroad.

A Pattern Designer's 280-Square-Foot Apartment Comes into Bloom | Design*Sponge
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My favorite memory in my home is the first evening when I finally got the keys in my hand.

A Pattern Designer's 280-Square-Foot Apartment Comes into Bloom | Design*Sponge
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The vintage kimono that hangs in the living room is one of Lotta’s most cherished items. “I found [it] at the bottom of a huge pile of kimonos at a vintage market when I lived in Japan. I love the pattern of this particular one. It’s very Scandinavian and yet Japanese at the same time, and it differs a lot from traditional kimono patterns,” she explains. 

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When I was a teenager, I daydreamed of having wide windowsills like these. I got the pink poodle family from my grandmother,” Lotta shares. 

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The dining table also serves as Lotta’s work desk. “I need to have a functional home and that is highlighted in this apartment because it’s quite tiny,” she notes. The sago palm by the window is Lotta’s favorite plant. 

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The staggering 13-foot ceiling height allows for a sleeping loft, which has been built above the kitchen cabinets. The loft can be accessed by climbing up a ladder.

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One of Lotta’s latest floral illustrations in the making.

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Lotta has kept her loft simple, with few distractions. “This is where I read, sleep and write in my diary. I’ve decided never to bring my phone up here,” she reveals. 

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View of the kitchen from the sleeping loft. “This is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. I love all the green plants!” Lotta exclaims. 

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Even though Lotta’s apartment is small, it has everything she needs for the moment. “I’m renting, which means that I can’t renovate or make changes to the apartment. As visuality means the world to me I have tons of materials, colors and ideas that I’d love to bring to life, but can’t. I’m saving those ideas for my forever home that I hope to own at some point in the future,” Lotta shares.

SOURCE LIST

Living Room
Couch – Hakola / Lazy Velvet 3-seater
Armchair – Hakola / Day Velvet
Rug – IKEA
Lamp – Innolux
Throw – Slowdown Studio (Lotta’s design)
Shelves – Hakola / Riippu
Cabinet – IKEA
Artworks – Poster on the wall; Anouk Studio (Lotta’s design), big painting by Lotta, framed poster on top of the cabinet Carolina Hellberg
Small pink ceramic bowl – Kioto, Japan
Book next to it – Book by Sara Parikka, illustrations by Lotta
Pink poodle family, ceramic – gift from grandmother, used to belong to her sister
Books – The Anatomy of Colour, Tove Jansson’s Trollvinter in Japanese (hopefully in future I’ll be able to read this one!), Green Home Book, Japanese Graphics and Helene Schjerfbeck
Small, green flower-shaped vase – flea market find
Ceramic candle holder – old Arabia, found at a vintage market in Tokyo
Kokeshi doll – vintage market in Tokyo
Ceramic dog – Veera Ala-Vähälä, @ceramicdoggies
Cactus drawing – Robin Falck, @robinfalck
Teapot – Marimekko
Fan – handmade from Mexico

Kitchen
Small print – @Leenakisonen
Paper lamp – &Tradition
Table and chairs – IKEA

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