Saarinen’s House in Finland
“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”
Yesterday, I visited Hvitträsk in Kirkkonummi, Finland about thirty kilometers west of the city. Meaning “White Lake” in Swedish,Hvitträsk is the name of the land that Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950), Herman Gesellius (1874-1916), and Armas Lindgren (1874-1929) used as a retreat from their busy architectural practice in Helsinki. When construction was complete in 1903, each architect had their own house completed in the National Romantic Style.
The main part of the museum was formerly Eliel Saarinen’s house. He lived with his family in his total work of art creation until 1923. Saarinen made all of the furniture for the house, either on site or nearby. He also designed many of the rugs and textile designs throughout the house, such as the rose pattern on his bed.
In America, Eliel, his wife Loja, and their two children Eeva-Liisa “Pipsan” and Eero resided on the grounds of the Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. (It is here that I first encountered Saarinen’s architecture as a student in the Art Academy.) The Saarinen family continued to visit Hvittäsk during the summer, until 1949 when the home was sold to Anelma and Rainer Vuorio. In 1981, the land and architecture became property of the Finnish State. Then in 2001, the National Board of Antiquities became the owner and restored the property.
When I visited Hvitträsk, I was given a guided tour by Pepita Ehrnrooth-Jokiselta, the Director of the Museum and longtime friend of the Cranbrook Educational Community. Pepita has worked for this amazing museum since she was fourteen years old and has visited the campus of Cranbrook several times to see Saarinen’s work there. I believe that for people that have lived with Saarinen’s architecture, it easily becomes a passion.
While the environments for Hvittäsk and Cranbrook feel similar to me—both are nestled in perfect harmony with the natural world—the interiors felt very different. The wooden logs at Hvitträsk give it a more rustic sensibility, compared to the slick interior of the Saarinen House on the Cranbrook Campus. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like I was home again in a way.