WHEN Finland’s consul general in Shanghai moved into a villa on leafy Changle Road in 2012, it was, as she puts it, “in great condition.” The property owner had completely renovated the space, leaving the perfect blank canvas for Marja Joenusva to imprint with Finnish style.
The spacious, light-filled, three-floor house is defined by a neutral color palette — white walls rule but for the occasional dash of color — overlaid with unfussy, signature Finnish furniture.
“I found this official residence by myself with my deputy consul after four months of searching,” she said. “The entertainment area should be big enough to host different receptions. I had the interior architect from my ministry visiting Shanghai comment that this villa house is a jewel in the city center. And by accident, this looks like a Nordic house!” she said.
The location is ideal — a short distance to the consulate — and the consul general loves to ride a bicycle to the office, enjoying a real slice of Shanghai lifestyle.
She felt lucky to get this house as the residence. She likes the house’s clear division of space, the shady garden and neighborhood environment with a mix of local people and foreigners.
“Finland is famous for its simple, minimalist design. We prefer clean lines, as well as functional and modern style,” she said. Despite the considered arrangement of furniture and the unified groupings of accessories and oddities, the house manages to avoid feeling contrived or over-designed.
Internal walls were repainted to create more colorful and bright vibe, especially for the central living area on the ground floor.
“I wanted to create a Finnish feeling and it’s my job to represent Finland in Shanghai. I wanted this to look like Finland and my guests here to experience my country lifestyle,” Joenusva said.
“Everything you see here, from the candles, vases to glasses we use are all sourced from Finland.”
The focal points include Iiittala’s glasses, bubble lamps by the celebrated Finnish designer Eero Aarnio and paintings by famous artist Rafael Varde.
“Finnish design has a very long history and our design always looks modern and classic so that you can keep it for the next generation,” Joenusva said.
For example, she was dreaming of a particular Finnish leather chair by Yrjö Kukkapuro from the 1970s and saved a lot of money for this chair when she bought it in 1992. Joenusva’s youngest son, born in 1991, later wanted to have this chair, which showed that even young people think the design from four decades ago still look fanciful and cool, Joenusva said.
To avoid clutter, Joenusva avoids adding too many items. Each piece of décor is dear to her and reminds her of Finnish design and lifestyle.
Most of the time, Joenusva and her guests hang out on the first floor while the upper floors are her sanctuary where she can unwind after a long working day.
Joenusva has made many efforts to promote Finnish design since she moved here two years ago. She is hosting the 2014 Nordic Design and Innovation Week, which opened at K11 Art Space last month and is one of the biggest annual celebrations of Nordic fashion in China.
“Being a very Nordic-minded person, it makes me very happy to host a Nordic fashion event in Shanghai,” Joenusva said. “Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have many things in common in lifestyle and culture. In the textile industry and fashion, we share a certain kind of freshness and elegance that we are proud to present to the Shanghai audience. Fashion from Finland is defined by minimalism and functionalism. Finns like natural fibers and happy colors in their clothing.”
“Between Finland and China, we have a very colorful picture of cooperation,” she said. “There are 300 Finnish companies in China, and most are based in Shanghai. In addition to economic cooperation we have other cooperations in science and technology, innovation and education.”