The municipality of Siilinjärvi, a short drive from the city of Kuopio in central Finland, is home to a strikingly innovative office building built of logs for the design and branding company UNELMA Creative House.
“It was in 2016 that I first sketched out the building that would be home to my company if we were ever to build it someday. It turned out exactly as I’d planned it.”
What Jesse drew was a box, and that is what now stands, freshly completed, in the middle of a pine forest in the Harjamäki region of Siilinjärvi. The end result is a handsome affair that the locals often stop to admire.
The doors of the two-storey black log building open onto a lobby reaching all the way to the ceiling. And from the second floor, there is an expansive view downwards. The facade of the building has large windows for a close connection with the surrounding nature.
Founded by Karjalainen in 2011, UNELMA Creative House is now a three-person enterprise. And when it comes to the size of the company, the building is also ‘future-proof’, as it provides suitable space for up to six people. The company does not plan to grow beyond that. Clients visit the premises for meetings, and there is also a photography studio on site.
“Above all, we wanted a place where it’s nice to work.”
It was in 2016 that I first sketched out the building that would be home to my company if we were ever to build it someday. It turned out exactly as I’d planned it.
Creative Director, UNELMA Creative House
An exceptional building from logs
Jesse had a clear conception of the floor plan and what the building would look like from the outside. A Honka representative then developed the plan, almost directly following Jesse’s sketch. Log seemed the ideal building material from the start.
“It’s a great material, and fits the spirit of our company. I was also intrigued by the fact that – as far as I know – no other company in the creative sector in Finland has an office premises made of logs.”
The high quality of indoor air in log buildings was not originally the chief concern, but soon became an important factor when Karjalainen learnt more about log construction during the building phase.
As a major player in the industry with a solid reputation for reliability, Honkarakenne was the natural choice for building the premises. Karjalainen’s decision was also swayed by having seen a number of Honkarakenne properties at a housing fair, where they made a strong impression on him.
From idea to reality
UNELMA Creative House’s offices were previously located in a business centre, and when a suitable plot of land across the road became vacant it was time for Karjalainen to dig out the rough draft of his dream office building he had prepared some years before.
The earthworks began in the spring of 2020, and the log frame was erected in early July. When the building was completed in April 2021, Jesse’s first feeling was relief. The construction work was preceded by a lengthy planning phase and financial negotiations.
“The hardest part of all was getting the project up and running. It was such a big undertaking for a small company like ours that it was hard to get a bank loan.”
Log is a great material, and fits the spirit of our company. I was also intrigued by the fact that – as far as I know – no other company in the creative sector in Finland has an office premises made of logs.
When Karjalainen took his plans to a bank to secure funding, the first answer was a straight-out ‘no’. And not only did he have to find an understanding bank, but he had to get the support of the local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and the state financing company Finnvera. Nonetheless, Karjalainen remained firmly convinced that his project was feasible, and as an entrepreneur he also knew it to be a sensible investment. But it took a long time before financiers were on board and a suitable plot was found.
“When they finally saw and understood our vision, it only took a few days before everything fell into place. At one point, I took a step back from the whole thing and went backpacking through Cambodia.”
Success through expertise
The construction phase proceeded more or less without a hitch. This was largely thanks to the construction supervisor, Karjalainen says.
“If I had to give one piece of advice to anyone embarking on a building project, it would be to hire a project manager or construction supervisor who really knows about log construction. That was what saved our project.”
Naturally, some setbacks did occur, such as painting the panel walls in the wrong shade. The panel walls were repainted with the Tikkurila Höyhen shade of white, which goes well with the log and the window skirting. Karjalainen is very pleased with the overall result.
“I’m especially happy about the spirit of the building, both inside and outside.”
Thinking inside the box
Karjalainen had three wishes for the building: it had to be simple, clear and stripped down to the essentials. This approach is crystallised in UNELMA Creative House’s slogan: yksinkertaisesti erilainen, simply different. It is part of the company’s philosophy that solutions are to be found through the elimination of the unnecessary. In the case of Jesse Karjalainen’s company, this can be summed up as thinking inside the box, an idea reflected in the outward appearance of the building.
“To me it’s self-evident that our building had to be a box. The ground plan is almost the same size in all directions, and when looked at from the front the building is just a box, plain and simple.”
It is black on the outside and light-coloured on the inside. The minimalist interior design is thoroughly in keeping with the understated outer appearance. Light ash was used for creating accents on certain surfaces, such as the porch, indoor stairs and in the kitchen and toilet areas.
Jesse believes people’s creativity depends a lot on the work environment. The focus of the design was to create an atmosphere that facilitates creative work and is also pleasant for the company’s clients. It is easy to see that the restrained and spartan spaces of the building create ample room and calm for creative thinking.
“Sometimes you just can’t be creative, but a building like this, which is inspiring the minute you step inside, really does promote imaginative thinking.”
Working in the building is pleasant and undisturbed, Jesse says. The logs have an appealing scent, and the surrounding forest only adds to the tranquillity.
“To me, a unique log building like this will really stand the test of time. One of our clients already joked that this will one day become a listed building.”
To me, a unique log building like this will really stand the test of time. One of our clients already joked that this will one day become a listed building.
Building as part of the brand
Karjalainen also sees the building as a major part of the company’s brand.
“People typically think of a brand as a logo and certain colours and fonts, but it’s an awful lot more too. Part of a brand is also the atmosphere of the premises and what kind of feeling this gives the clients who visit.”
UNELMA Creative House also designs its own product brands, and the aspiration is to sell them abroad through an online shop. Karjalainen finds this an enticing prospect: a product designed in a log building in Harjamäki will be manufactured in the surrounding areas, and then make its way across the world. And that, too, is part of the brand.
“The way this building brings everything together – creativity, production, product testing and sales – is the way of the future. But it is already a compelling vision.”
Although the dream of the Unelma building seemed almost impossible to realise in the early days, Jesse himself firmly believed in it ever since he first roughed it out on paper several years before. Now that it has been completed, he hopes this ambitious log project will also inspire others.
“The dream existed on paper since 2016, and now it has come true. This shows that if you really want something, it can happen if you make it happen.”
- A unique office of UNELMA Creative House (site in Finnish only)
- Log: Honkarakenne non-settling lamellar log FXL 240 mm with zero corner, pine
- Floor area: 260 m2
- Surface treatment:
Facade: Tikkurilan Valtti Color Piki 5089
=> Read what to consider when choosing a dark facade colour for a log house
Interior logs: Osmo Color, kuusi / spruce
Other interior walls: Tikkurila Höyhen F487
- Year of construction: 2019-2021
- Images: Hanna Kuronen
- Location: Siilinjärvi, Finland
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