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How a Simple Family Lives in the Finnish Countryside

People can be divided into two categories. Some love big cities, the constant hustle and bustle, morning subway rides, and developed infrastructure. But for others, that kind of life is pure torture; they’d prefer the predictable life in the countryside to any bustling metropolis. That’s exactly what the heroes of my story did today.

Meet 29-year-old Louisa, a coordinator for a charity project that provides anonymous psychological support to young people. Her husband, Axel (he’s 30), is an aspiring writer, the author of two collections of short stories.

The couple comes from small towns but met each other while studying in Helsinki. They lived there for 8 years before deciding to return to their native region in western Finland.

The reason was simple: they both suffered from the frantic pace of life in the capital and saw no prospects. With their average salary, Louise and Axel could only afford a tiny apartment in a separate bedroom district, and even that would require a mortgage.

As a result, the couple moved from the capital to the small town of Vaasa (population about 70,000) on the Baltic Sea coast. They first lived in a rented apartment and then bought a house next door. More precisely, half of the house—it’s divided into two apartments.

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© Louise Mannilille

Louise at the threshold of their old-new home a couple of days after finalizing the deal. The couple spent all their money on it, plus took out a small loan from the bank (a regular loan, not a mortgage).

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© Axel Åhman

The house was in good condition. Major repairs (except for the bathroom) were not needed anywhere. Louise, Axel, and their friends only did cosmetic repairs + partially reorganized the space.

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© Axel Åhman

The guys did everything themselves (Louise is in the photo). They painted the floors in all rooms, replaced some boards, wallpapered the walls, and tidied up the ceilings.

The area of the apartment (or rather, half of the house that Louise and Axel bought) is 135 square meters. There are three-meter ceilings and large windows here.

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© Vanessa Forstén

Louise and Axel have been together for 14 years, but they bought the house when they were in a civil marriage. As a result, buying real estate and doing repairs brought them even closer, and in February they got married.

Let’s see what their house looks like now?

Important note: there is hardly any new furniture here, everything is second-hand. Some things remained from the previous owner (for example, the kitchen set, which Axel himself restored). Some things came from grandparents. Some items were given to them by friends and acquaintances. Some were found at flea markets and on classifieds websites. In general, bit by bit from everywhere.

“We didn’t have money or the desire to buy new things,” explains Louise.

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© Vanessa Forstén

Let’s start the tour with the spacious and bright living room. A bookshelf along the windows and a crystal chandelier are what’s left from the previous owner of the house/apartment.

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© Vanessa Forstén

Decorating the house with random things, arranging every nook—this is something that both Axel and Louise equally like.

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© Vanessa Forstén

The kitchen was dark and unwelcoming. The dark wood facades of the kitchen cabinets added to the gloominess. The guys wanted to freshen up the room. And it seems they succeeded.

What did they do? They repainted the facades, removed the upper cabinets, and replaced the countertop (they ordered a new one from a local carpenter).

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© Vanessa Forstén

Axel and Louise spend a lot of time at this old table—both work from home, so they often drink coffee and sit here with their laptops.

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© Vanessa Forstén

View from the kitchen to the bedroom.

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© Vanessa Forstén

This room is the couple’s pride and joy. They came up with an interesting solution for zoning: they made an additional partition with a window (the same “wall” at the head of the bed), and behind it, they arranged a dressing room.

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© Vanessa Forstén

Right there, in the dressing room, there is a small table where Louise does her makeup.

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© Vanessa Forstén

How do you like this jewelry stand?

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© Vanessa Forstén

View from the kitchen to the dining room. This chest of drawers, found at a flea market, used to be a regular buffet. They divided it into two parts, turned the bottom into a chest of drawers, and put the top in the pantry.

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© Vanessa Forstén

Axel often plays the piano. And he deliberately placed the instrument in the dining room—says that playing one or two tunes during dinner with guests immediately makes the atmosphere more friendly and sociable.

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© Vanessa Forstén

Chairs made of dark wood and Midbec Anemone wallpaper attract all attention.

By the way, they bought the dining table for next to nothing at a flea market. The chairs were inherited from Axel’s uncle (his family was renovating and replacing furniture). And the 1970s chandelier was purchased through an ad.

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© Louise Mannilille

And a photo from everyday life (not staged)—Axel at work and a cat supervising the process.

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© Vanessa Forstén

The house is heated by tiled stoves. Some rooms have underfloor heating.

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© Vanessa Forstén

Louise bought this chair from the well-known Swedish brand Asko Harlekiini at a flea market for only $30.

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© Vanessa Forstén

The stand for firewood and vinyl records (an interesting combination) Axel made himself.

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© Vanessa Forstén

This is what the study looks like, where Axel can disappear for hours (for example, when coming up with his next story). The map on the wall with the Helsinki plan reminds him and Louise of the time when they lived in the capital.

“Louise and I often go to flea markets for inspiration. We’re lucky because our tastes are similar, and decorating the house is a hobby that we both love,” says Axel (quote from his interview to an interior magazine).

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© Vanessa Forstén

Finally, let me show you what the bathroom looks like. Here, we had to do a major overhaul—replace absolutely everything.

The renovation of the bathroom almost bankrupted Louise and Axel. They even had to take out a loan. The couple wanted the tiles to go all the way to the ceiling, and considering that the ceiling height here is 3.3 meters, the idea turned out to be not cheap.

“During the renovation, when almost everything was ready, a water pipe burst. Fortunately, we didn’t have to dismantle anything,” shares Axel.

After 2 years of living in their house, the couple admits that they have never regretted their choice:

“When we meet friends from Helsinki, their first question is always: ‘How is life in your Vaasa?’. We always answer: ‘Wonderful. Moving here was our best decision’.”

Qualified interior designer and article author specializing in home and residential interiors since 2021. My favorite topics include Scandinavian design, reviews of English cottages, as well as simple and light ideas for apartment decoration.

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