How to create a bit of New York in the middle of Helsinki?

The completely renovated Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel is an exquisite retreat that provides an atmospheric setting for lunch in its lobby, an unexpected opportunity to write your name on a cow statue and to appreciate details such as black door latches – a finishing touch sought after for months.

When entering through the main entrance of Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel it is as if being whisked into another world. As the door opens you feel like you have set foot in the most charming boutique hotel in New York or Amsterdam: The reception desks resemble old travel trunks and behind them is a wall built out of a shipping container. Black bookcases are filled with old binoculars, globes and books, and people gather around wooden tables to soak in the ambience and enjoy their lunch. The colourful bar has a graffiti, This is Helsinki, sprawled across it. It is hard to believe that only a while ago this was a drafty lobby with a curved reception desk and not much else.

When Fyra was chosen to provide the interior design for the massive refurbishment of the rooms, restaurant, lobby and conference facilities of the Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel, the interior architects had heaps of ideas.

The main objective was to bring out the very essence of the concept and to clarify the interaction between the ideas and the décor. Fyra ensured an outcome that was not a hotchpotch of objects but a meticulously planned and well-balanced composition down to the last door handle.

A Nobel history

Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel is located in a harbour area and the presence of the old downtown shipyard was brought into the hotel interior. Even though the vision of the final outcome surfaced early on, the focus remained in the functional use of space: What is an ideal space like? In what kind of a lobby would people like to have lunch and hang out? How to provide service for a large number of customers while preserving the feel of a cosy venue?

Tomi Peitsalo, the Regional Director at Radisson Blu Finland, stated in the kick-off meeting that our project will be a success when someone loves it and someone hates it – as long as no one remains indifferent. It was truly amazing to work with a client who had such a bold vision”, says Eva-Marie Eriksson, Interior Architect and partner at Fyra.

The hotel consists of three buildings. The lobby and some of the rooms are situated in a building that used to be a storehouse for cheese for the dairy company Valio. There are more rooms and a restaurant located in a wing built in the 1990s and, in addition, there is a building from 1940 that accommodates the conference facilities as well as the rest of the hotel rooms. This building belonged to Valio housing their laboratories. Also the working quarters of Nobel prize winner A. I. Virtanen used to be in this historic building.

The historical background of the buildings, situated against the backdrop of the old shipyard, is depicted with subtle and refined details: For example, there is a guestbook in the lobby in form of a full-sized cow – an artwork designed by the graffiti artist Anselmi Oksman.

Welcome friends!

The interior design of the rooms and the style of the building complement each other. The rooms in the former laboratory facilities have a softer colour palette whereas those situated in the wing have a Scandinavian feel with a fresh, crisp colour scheme. The rooms in the old cheese warehouse have a slightly rawer edge to the décor. All rooms are cosy, comfortable and have a welcoming atmosphere designed purposefully by leaving out the wow factor.

“We hope people would leave their rooms and spend time in the restaurant and hang out and lounge in the lobby”, Eva-Marie Eriksson says.

Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel is a large hotel consisting of 349 rooms. The few rooms still in renovation will be finished in summer 2017 concluding the project of one and a half years. The last two years have included both large scale plans as well as finding solutions to thousands of practical puzzling questions and millions of details.

One such detail was finding just the right kind of restroom door latches. That quest took a long time. A really long time.

“God is in the details”, says Eva-Marie Eriksson and laughs.

“Many details forced us to consider whether this or that can be done until we realised that it is possible and that it will be done. For example, for a long time the plan for the sign above the reception desk was to say Reception. In the final stages of the project we came up with the idea of the sign saying Welcome friends to add a more personal touch and reflect our service philosophy. The idea of an urban, raw and gutsy interior has been executed masterfully”, says Roni Huttunen, General Manager at Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel.

There cannot be stronger proof of project success than witnessing the following: As the renovated lobby was opened and first clients poured in, they looked around gazing at the rust-coloured couches, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, colourful tiles and graffiti art, then they took out their phones and started snapping photos.

Photographer: Sampsa Pärnänen

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