It’s been an intense period of time with plenty of exciting and thrilling work, so I haven’t managed to take a full weekend off in a couple of months. This one though was reserved for a break. And a catch of breath.
Always and without delay, every time I slow down I think about space. Physical space and mental space. The balance between the two and how such balance – or sometimes, the absence of it – makes us feel, act and operate.
At home, but also in cafés and other public venues, space matters a great deal to me. I find myself often changing tables in cafés or restaurants because I feel that the spot I am in does not do justice to the decorum and I cannot fully take it in. I fail to sink in the atmosphere. It is perhaps an insignificant detail or a product of an obsessive mind for some, but somehow for me the right place and space can have a powerful impact.
A great space makes room for harmony, for clarity of thought, it allows us to be more mindful of everything that surrounds us, to cherish everything more.
A few weeks back, when trees still had beautiful yellow and orange leaves, I was invited to explore two commercial interior spaces in Helsinki, designed by interior architect Esa Vesmanen, the founder of Pure Design.
The first one was Salme, an optician’s shop like none I have entered before. The concept of the boutique is unique and niche to say the least, as the owner gathers all of the frames for the glasses from all over the world. Salme does not appear to have two of anything, each frame is a one-of-a-kind. Likewise, the service. For each customer, there is a special frame – one that fits their features so completely, that I have heard it is extremely rare that someone steps out of Salme without buying. Perhaps this was one of those rare occasions I regretted not having to wear glasses, or perhaps I was relieved on my wallet’s behalf.
Part of the secret is also the display – all of the frames are carefully tucked away in simple, clean-cut drawers which only the clerk opens in search for alternatives until the perfect match is found.
I looked around and noticed how clear, airy and minimalistic the space is. With the exception of a few carefully-crafted, deco pieces of furniture, a couple of light shelves and two colorful chairs, everything in the shop allows one to breathe deeply and recompose. To be present. And ready to look for the perfect eyewear of course.
Above the main counter hangs a fabulous piece of lighting, emulating the sign of the infinite. Below, along the meeting line of walls with the floor, small grey stones are sprinkled all around. It surprised me to find out that the stones served first and foremost a practical scope, as the venue had a problem with water leakage and humidity. The solution brought by installing these small and delicate stones is not only aesthetically pleasant and surprising, but also gives the space a charming Asian touch. I left feeling revitalized.
Next off – the high-end store Luxbag on Esplanadi. Vesmanen was in charge of the interior architecture and design of the venue, from its launch as a small, intimate and personal boutique to its expansion into a much wider space. A change that was celebrated and inaugurated this autumn.
Although the two spaces – the initial one and the expansion – have quite striking structural differences, the fusion between the two was done seamlessly. If not told beforehand, I wouldn’t have known there was any expansion, I would have taken the whole interior as one single story. Because as it tuns out – there is a story.
From the moment you walk in, the space lures you in, towards the back, where the changing rooms are. With every step, lights grow dimmer. The walls become dark grey, in contrast with the minimalistic ash-wood racks that support the clothes and some of the accessories. Like a walk in the forest, they said. A charmed one, I might add, with plenty of magical items calling for the traveler’s attention.
Reminiscent of past times, imposing Corinthian columns blend in silently and without disturbance. To me, this detail is perhaps the most remarkable effect of Vesmanen’s work, who managed to create synergy, balance and a serene atmosphere in a place that had already its own character, soul and stubbornness. The art of taming a space, I suppose, is among a designer’s greatest crafts, and Vesmanen did a marvelous job with this one.