Home inspiration: The Alvar Aalto House

The Alvar Aalto House in the district of Munkkiniemi in Finland was the building where Alvar Aalto, architect and designer, lived during most of his life and career. The house now serves as a museum. Alvar and Aino Aalto designed the house as their home and architectural office in 1935-36.

The use of natural materials, the understated, pure style and cosy ambiance make this house a comfortable, timeless family home. It's hard to believe this house was designed more that 80 years ago!The house was designed as both a family home and an office and these two functions can clearly be seen from the outside. The slender mass of the office wing is in white-painted, lightly rendered brickwork. There are still clear references to Functionalism in the location of the windows. The cladding material of the residential part is slender, dark-stained timber battens. The building has a flat roof and a large south-facing terrace.

Although the streetside elevation of the house is severe and closed-off, it is softened by climbing plants and a slate path leading up to the front door. The Aalto House anticipates the Villa Mairea, a luxury residence where Aalto’s creativity was able to come into full bloom. But in contrast to its larger sister, the Aalto House is a cosy, intimate building for living and working, designed by two architects for themselves, using simple uncluttered materials.
Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto was a Finnish architect and designer, as well as a sculptor and painter. His work includes architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware. The span of his career, from the 1920s to the 1970s, is reflected in the styles of his work, ranging from Nordic Classicism of the early work, a rational, international modernist style during the 1930s to a more organic modernist style from the 1940s onwards. His furniture designs were considered Scandinavian Modern. What is typical for his entire career, however, is a concern for design as a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art; whereby he – together with his first wife Aino Aalto – would design not just the building, but give special treatments to the interior surfaces and design furniture, lamps, and furnishings and glassware.

'I tell you, it is easier to build a grand opera or a city center than to build a personal house.'

– Alvar Aalto

photography Katri Kapanen