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The Stala-team was present at the press day of the Mikkeli Housing Fair when the sites were presented before officially opening for the masses. Naturally our number one interest were kitchens and utility rooms, their materials and practicality.
Mikkeli Housing Fair is located at a scenic area, just 3km outside of the town center. Despite only some of the properties having a shoreline location, most of the fair houses had a view of the lake. The properties’ edges were beautifully covered with forest shrub-land transplant, which fit nicely the pine forest and lake scenery. Most of the entrances of the courtyards had elegant stone settings and the plants were designed to match the aesthetic of the house and surrounding area.
On the average houses were 140 m2 , which is less than previous fair years. As expected, there were some sizable “luxury” houses, but the majority were designed for so called regular couples and families with children. Everyday luxury was brought to a lot of houses with hot tubs on the patios and integrated sound systems. The larger, two story houses had impressive patios upstairs – with and without a lake scenery.
The floor materials were gorgeous tile and hardwood. Tile choices in the bathrooms were beautiful and together with the furniture and textiles, created spaces with a sumptuous feel. In addition to light coloured surfaces, soft and broken tones were used with dramatic black. Textile choices leaned toward high quality natural materials, like cotton and wool. With nearly no exceptions the houses had large windows that let plenty of natural light inside.
Black was the it-colour when it came to kitchens, especially paired with wood. It was great to see that the trends already seen in Europe elsewhere have found their way to Finland and the reign of the white kitchen is facing some challenge from stylish black and rough wood. The fair had a number of classy dark kitchens such as sites Pala (2), Honka Ink (10) and Minun Valo (25).
Light-toned kitchens however were not absent, and especially those with wood bringing warmth and character, were lovely spaces. For example, site 11 Kontio Toive’s kitchen had an overall appearance of a light, spacious and modern space. Villa Saimaanhelmi’s (13) kitchen was light and minimal, with a very well thought out storage and recycling solutions. Casa Wellikulho’s kitchen was a fresh and cozy combination of white and wood as well.
Breakfast cupboards, which have been a talking point since last year, are truly all the rage at this year’s fair kitchens. Several sites included a cupboard that hid everything you need for a breakfast in them.
Kitchens have been open spaces for a long time and they conjoin into living spaces seamlessly. Cooking and socializing can be easily multitasked when the areas are spacious and designed to work on the terms of the resident. Kitchen islands act as dividers and practical surfaces as well as serving tables.
Stone-/composite was the most popular when it came to materials for tops, with either a composite or stainless steel sink, under- or flush-mounted. A close second were laminate tops including a stainless steel sink with a faucet area, which is an excellent and water safe choice. Wood- and steeltops were left behind stone- and laminate tops in popularity, but were worthy of their chosen places is fixtures and other décor.
The dominant sink trend is one big sink in a 60cm cupboard. Majority of the sites had decided on a one-sink solution, either with or without a faucet area. Big sinks offer plenty of space to wash pots, pans and baking trays, while you can wash nearly everything else in the dishwasher. Short worktop areas make food prepping and dishwashing easier, when the top material isn’t waterproof, like stone or stainless steel.
In a familiar fashion, household appliances were integrated and the lighting of interspaces were often equipped with a LED strip. Traditional wall- or ceiling-installed cooker hoods faced new competition from cooker hoods integrated to the stove. This strong trend premiered in the European fairs earlier in the winter and now it has truly started to become commonplace in Finland.
To sum it up, for now at least the kitchens at the Housing Fair are following the European trends and us Finns are plucking up our courage when it comes to using colour. The feeling of claustrophobia doesn’t automatically follow a black space, but accomplishes simple elegancy and is an easy colour to play around with other colours and materials. In addition to wood tones, trendy grey-tones materials, like stone, micro cement and stainless steel are an excellent choice in a kitchen’s interspace, faucet and sink.
Something that caught our eye with utility rooms was that surprisingly many spaces were constructed without a sink. While hand washing can easily be done in the bathroom sink when the two rooms are connected, washing clothes by hand, changing soil to flower pots and washing rain boots could be accomplished with less hassle in a hefty sink in the utility room.
Some houses were clearly designed with laundry and the maintenance of recreational equipment in mind. Plenty of space was reserved and the facilities were effortlessly within a hand’s reach. Sinks with plenty of depth and width and stainless steel worktops make day to day life simpler when small water splashes aren’t a concern.
The black trend of kitchens hasn’t yet reached utility rooms, they mostly stick to light tones. House technology had been hidden behind the utility room’s furniture in some sites, for instance GL -kitchens, the company responsible for furnishing Saimaan Aava, had brilliantly snuck the ventilation unit behind cupboard doors and so made more room on the wall shelf.
All in all the fair followed in the footsteps of European fairs and picked trends from social media, with colour as well as materials. The main themes at the sites certainly were generous space and brightness together with venturing into using dark colours to create atmosphere. Next year the Housing Fair will be held in Pori where, if not building, at least planning is on full speed ahead. We await the houses of our west coast with anticipation.