You may have noticed (although probably not, as there's been a lot going on in the world) the lack of Knock Knock's. This has been my fault. I have found it increasingly hard to find places which suit the unsophisticated criteria. I hope all previous Knock Knock's won't be offended by this. It is meant only as a compliment. I feel Knock Knock has to be houses which are lived in and lived in well. They don't have masses of money spent on them. Instead, it is the skill and passion of the owners that drive the design and look. All of you who read this know that I adore all types of design, but for Knock Knock, it's essential not to be too done and have heaps of heart. So you can imagine my excitement when I came across pictures of Anna's home. When she agreed to participate in Knock Knock, I was more than pleased. When she sent through her copy and photographs, I was ecstatic without further a do, the first Knock Knock of this school year.
An old Tin Plate smithery in Hanko, Finland
Article By Anna Piiroinen - @annapalaaanna
Photography By Tomi Parkkonen @studioparkkonen
5th October 2022
It was a rainy evening at the end of August when I saw our house for the first time. We were visiting Hanko, the southernmost city of Finland and exploring the fairytale-like, quiet inner courts of the main boulevard. Just a few steps from the sea shore, we entered a courtyard and stopped in front of a funny-shaped, lime-white brick house.
We were very dedicated Helsinki people, not planning to move anywhere from the vivid centre of the capital. Still, maybe the wine we had enjoyed at the dinner made me say the legendary words: "Parkkonen, if you love me, you buy me that house!" I had never seen anything like it, at least not in Finland.
Twenty years later, here we are. The house wasn't for sale then, and we had no plans of living in a small town, but it came on the market later, and we kind of left everything and moved to Hanko with our three children.
Our house was built around 1902, it was originally a tin smiths workshop. Around that time, there was a Finnish-English Biscuit Factory in Hanko; for example, their tin boxes were made here and some iron parts of the famous Bengtskär Lighthouse. During the years to come, this robust house served basically as an atelier for several artists.
Our budget was very very modest and our renovation skills even more modest, so we did only what absolutely had to be done (electricity, bathrooms) and moved in. Somehow, looking back, that was probably a good thing. At least we didn't over-do anything!
Although the house is about 150 m2, we only have two rooms and a kitchen. The upstairs is one large room with a spacious bathroom at the other end and downstairs there is a living room and a big kitchen, where everything happens. At the beginning, we thought about building walls and rooms but somehow, our kids suddenly grew up and moved out while we were planning. At the moment, the upstairs is still a little empty, we don't know yet what to do with all this space.
Our house is definitely not a very practical one but it is just the right house for us. It is part of who we are.
My favorite things in this house? The beautiful brick ceiling downstairs, the arched window in the kitchen, my reading spot at the rattan chair under the big maple tree in the back yard. I love the unconventional spaces, the light, the thick walls. Summer or winter, you have to have woollen socks on! My favorite items here are probably the ancient mermaid wall relief from Normandie, a funny porcelain dish with a sausage as a handler and a little chinese porcelain figure. Almost everything here is vintage: from my parents, who are collectors, from elderly relatives, from the flea markets, vintage- and antique shops. Even my kitchen cabinets were here when we moved in. I love to cook and sometimes I have wished for a more modern kitchen but nowadays I am almost proud of our 1950's -something cupboards. Why fix it if it works? Save the planet!
I had always dreamed of a white house by the sea with a balcony, a gas stove and a bathtub. It's all here. I still can't believe my luck.
A few years after moving to Hanko, we also bought an old warehouse from the same courtyard and renovated it to become our guest house, mainly used by our grown-up children. And for the last year, we have been working on a 1903-built bank building on the same street. It will be our office and a gallery. All our houses are old brick buildings. I have been joking that we collect them but to be honest you have to be a little crazy to start all over again and again. This bank project is the most ambitious one so far. We restore the historical building in an as environmentally friendly way as possible. After now learning everything about natural paints, traditional methods etc I already know what we will be doing for the years to come: starting all over with our home and giving it the love it needs and deserves.