Maija Fitzgerald has brought the practicality and simplicity of interiors in her native Finland to Dublin, creating a hygge home like a hug, right here. You can too!
Living by the sea
In 2010, Maija Fitzgerald (who is originally from Finland) and her Irish husband had decided to make the move from Brussels where they had lived for many years, back to his native Dublin.
‘We found that homes were very expensive in Dublin and we had to spend quite some time looking before we found our house,’ says Maija. ‘’My one real stipulation was that it had to be by the sea, and this house was both coastal and affordable! I loved the location and there was a large back garden, so it had potential for extending; it was also very basic, which was a plus for me; we could create our own style here.’
Small space made big
The downstairs of the house was very small, a tiny hall and what had originally been two small rooms with the wall now removed to create a larger open space. ‘Even so, it was a small space for two people!’ says Maija. ‘My initial idea was to have an extension to the rear to add extra room, with a downstairs bathroom, but as we lived in the house for two years first, I changed my mind. Carving the bathroom out of the extension would have created an uncomfortably-shaped space for the living room, and it really wasn’t necessary to have two bathrooms, I discovered.’
Roof light extension
Having lived in the house long enough to get a good idea of how the couple used the spaces and what they needed to add, Maija decided on a simple pitched-roof living extension to the back of the house. With two large roof lights to bring lots of extra daylight into the interior. ‘I felt we really needed the light even before the extension went on’, she says. ‘The rear of the house faces south east, so the roof lights bring in a lot more light.’
For the build, Maija decided to go with Shomera, an all-in-one specialist in garden rooms and extensions. The Shomera architect quickly drew up plans for the simple space, but Maija disagreed with one component; the large sliding glazed doors. ‘I was worried about the heating, the Shomera architect told me my fears were groundless; modern sliding doors are triple glazed, but I just didn’t believe it,’ says Maija. ‘That is my one regret, I insisted on a small door and window instead, but I’ve visited friend’s home since that have large sliding doors and no issue with heat loss. There would be a lot more light in the room if I had listened.’
As the company uses pre-assembled timber-framed elements, the build was very fast, and only took five weeks in total. ‘Day one started with the concrete base and services, day three brought a huge truck outside the house; when we came home from work, the walls and roof were already in place!’, says Maija. The extension was largely complete before they knocked the wall through into the house so the couple only had to leave for a week to stay with friends, then it was home to start the decorating and finishing phase.
The kitchen renovation
The original kitchen had been just the L-shaped run of units, with the dining table on the opposite wall, but with the dining table moved out into the extension, there was room for some more badly-needed kitchen storage. ‘Luckily, as the IKEA kitchen had just been put in for the sale, I could go to the IKEA store for matching units for the other wall, keeping everything very simple,’ says Maija.
‘I already had everything planned out in my head as regards placing furniture and using colour. I like a very uncluttered space, with all furniture against the wall except the dining table, and planned all the walls to be a simple white, except the hall and office, which are in neutral greys.’ The bedrooms and stairs had a brand- new carpet in dark brown, but Maija replaced it with a light grey/off white instead. ‘The upstairs and stairs immediately became so much brighter!’ she reports. ‘I also had built-in wardrobes and a large bookcase made so that all the floor space is freed up, storage is all on the walls.’
‘Simplicity, light, use of space, functionality; these are the ideas that inform Scandinavian design’, says Maija. ‘At home in Finland, we maybe would use purely decorative furniture a lot less; like a tiny side table that has no real use, or something which is only for displaying ornaments, we prefer practicality.’
In this mode, you are more likely to find furniture in Maija’s house double-jobbing; the ottoman coffee table which is a wine storage unit, the white sideboard which contains Maija’s shoe collection.
‘It all turned out even better than we had planned, we’re very happy with it,’ says Maija. ‘The house is quite a small, boxy 1980s build and at first I wasn’t sure we could make a bright Scandinavian home from it, but using common sense and lots of careful planning it really has exceeded my expectations.’
Maija's Design tips
‘If you have a small living space you can’t make it bigger, but you can make it feel bigger. Simple, uncluttered interiors always feel more spacious; limit your furniture and colour palette.’
‘My favourite tip for a classic, uncluttered Scandinavian interior is double-jobbing furniture, like my ottoman coffee table/wine store. Useful and practical it does two things at once, so you need half the furniture in your floor space, resulting in that simple, spacious light Scandinavian look.’’
‘In a small house, light is one of the most important elements and Velux windows are you friends.’
Simplicity and functionality are two elements of Maija’s very Scandinavian style.
The flooring throughout the ground floor is a simple white-washed timber finish supplied by the designer/builder, Shomera.
‘I like the simplicity of the Ikea kitchen and just added some elements in the same design for extra storage.‘
The small side table is also Ikea, Maija painted it in a light grey.
A magazine basket beside it came from the Finnish Design Shop.
Most of Maija’s tableware and glassware is Iittala’s Ultima Thule range, also from her native Finland and available at The Finnish Design Shop.
The ottoman/coffee table in the extension is also a wine storage unit. The old side board bought in a antique market and painted by Maija is for shoe storage; she brought both home from Brussels with her.
The easy chairs are Italsofa – from Arnotts.
The photographic print of New York city is by Dutch photographer, Anne Valverde.
The curtains are in Bottna fabric, from Marimekko.
The Alvar Aalto table is from the Finnish Design Shop.
The lamp is a 1960s design by Yki Nummi.
‘We like this room for TV, the extension is for music or reading. This works very well when there are two people in the house; I can play music while Tadgh watches TV (with headphones!)
‘Hackney’ sofa from Debenhams.
The Notre Dame gargoyle photos were bought in Paris.
Sisal floor rug – Ikea.
The bedroom is small and plain but stamped with Maija’s unmistakeably style. Practical, uncluttered and with very Scandinavian use of texture and fabric to give colour and interest.
Bed – Ikea.
Throw – Foxford Woollen Mills.
Maija bought the Marilyn artwork in a shop in Brussels.
The knit pendent lightshade in Finland.
‘This is a tiny room, not much larger than a box room, so it is very simply furnished with just a few pieces I really like’, says Maija. ‘I’ve had built-in wardrobes installed here and in the bedroom to provide plenty of storage which frees up the space.’
The carpet is from Raheny Carpets.
Maija bought the desk and mirror in an antiques shop in Brussels.
The Ghost chair is from Arnotts.