In this blog post, we take a look at the changes Finnish apartments have gone through over the last couple of decades.
We’ve discussed home prices, both purchase and rental prices, in some previous blogs. Price is always one thing but that is not all you need to know about Finnish homes. You also need to know what you’ll get with the price you are paying. Whether that price is the rent or the purchase price.
In this blog, we’ll focus on newer Finnish apartments in apartment buildings. These homes include both those in the rental market and the private ownership market. We are going to look at some of the changes that have occurred in such apartments during the last few decades.
The blog is based on a recent report by the Ministry of Environment. Terttu Vainio, Paula Ala-Kotila and Teemu Vesanen from VTT, and Kimmo Kuismanen from Arkkitehtitoimisto Kimmo Kuismanen conducted this study. They examined changes in the quality of Finnish apartment construction in the period of 2005-2020.
Finnish apartments getting smaller all around
The report concludes that the share of studios out of all apartment types has increased significantly. At the end of the 2010s, construction companies built six times more studio apartments than between 2005 and 2007. The share of small apartments (studios and two-room apartments) of all apartments built has increased to 70 %. Earlier, they constituted about 40 % of all new apartments.
These small apartments have also changed shape. More often than before studios and two-room apartments have a kitchenette or a kitchen area rather than a separate, full kitchen. Two-room apartments with a full kitchen have practically disappeared from new developments.
Irrespective of apartment type, all apartments have also gotten smaller in size. In the late 2010s, studios (one room + a kitchenette/kitchen area) were 30 sq. m on average in size. This is 20 % less than 15 years earlier.
The size of other apartment types has shrunk by 10 %. Around 2000, new three-bedroom apartments were just over 95 sq. m. in size on average. In 2020, new three-bedroom apartments were, instead, on average only around 87 sq. m. in size.
For new two-bedroom apartments, their average size shrank from around 74 sq. m. to about 66 sq. m in the same time frame.
Overall, the average size of new apartments has decreased to about 45 sq. m. It used to be a little over 60 sq. m. This is the result of construction companies building more small (primarily studios) apartments overall and of making all apartments smaller in floor area.
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Changes in the layouts of Finnish apartments
In the report, the researchers compared layouts of new, elate 2010s apartments to those from the early 2000s. They included 133 apartments from the late 2010s and 98 apartments from the early 2000s in this comparison.
They set certain criteria for good room and layout functionality and discussed changes in relation to these criteria. Below we’ll go through each area or room.
They defined the foyer as an area directly associated with the entrance of the apartment. Through it, occupants enter the other rooms in the apartment.
The researchers emphasize that even if the apartment layout is made more efficient by combining the foyer with the kitchen or the living room, it should still include enough open space. It should also have storage space for jackets, shoes, and other outdoor clothes.
They concluded that in rental apartments dating to the early 2010s hallway-like foyers have become more common. So have foyer-kitchen combinations. Similar changes have not occured in apartments made for the ownership market.
By the definition of the researchers, living rooms are meant for leisure time.
These spaces should be flexible and able to accommodate different types of furniture configurations. They should also have enough space for furniture and movement through and in the room. It should preferably be dividable into different functional areas.
Based on their analysis, they concluded that already in the early 2000s living areas were often combined with kitchen areas. They also often gave access to other parts of the apartment such as the bedrooms. These types of floorplan solutions have increased in frequency.
They say that because apartments are now generally smaller and because living rooms have more doorways these days they are less easy to furnish. The small surface area also makes it difficult to assign different functions to different parts of the room.
Especially small apartments these days are very deep. This means that the distance from the front door through to the back windows is long.
Such apartments often also have the kitchen and the living room combined into a single room. In such a configuration, the living area is by the window(s) while the kitchen and the foyer are towards the center of the building. Thus kitchens and foyers often lack natural light. This is particularly true for small apartments built for the rental market.
The researchers define kitchens as places where we not only cook food but also eat it. The larger the apartment the larger the kitchen should also be as there are more people living in the apartment.
They conclude that new apartments built for the ownership market almost never have a separate kitchen with a dining area anymore. The same is true for small apartments built for the rental market. Large apartments in the rental market, however, still have them occasionally.
In new apartments, the kitchen area is often at the windowless back area of the main living space. Such areas lack natural light but also a window for ventilation.
New apartments either tend to have a lot of kitchen storage or very little of it.
The researchers state that a separate bedroom gives those sleeping insulation from sounds from the rest of the apartment. They also shield the sleeping person from view. Thus they make it possible to use the apartment flexibly without disturbing those sleeping.
Recently the trend has been to not assign specific functions to rooms or areas. Thus, for example, in modern loft apartments, the sleeping area can be together with the living area.
In Finland, bedrooms are at minimum 7 sq. m. in size and they have to be wheel-chair accessible. Normally, bedrooms fulfilling these requirements can also accommodate a baby cot or a desk thus increasing the usability of the room.
Although bedrooms in new apartments do fulfill the accessibility requirements, they’ve often lost their flexibility especially in small apartments due to multiple doorways.
Bathrooms, toilets, and saunas
In small apartments, the toilet is usually in the bathroom. This has been the case in Finland for a long time.
However, a separate toilet from the bathroom is more common in large apartments but there’s a significant difference between apartments built for the two different markets. In the rental market, only 36 % of large apartments built in the late 2010s had a separate toilet. In the ownership market, 74 % of large apartments had one.
Saunas used to be common also in small apartments. In 2018-2020, only about 20 % of new small apartments had a sauna. Saunas have also become rarer in large apartments.
In new developments at the end of 2010s, less than 5 % of studios had a sauna. 40 % of one-bedroom apartments and 60 % of two-bedroom apartments had it.
More about Finnish apartments and homes
We have written a few blogs about the apartment ownership system and about apartment prices in Finland.
However, we do recommend our “Renting a Home in Finland” online course to those who are currently looking for a rental home in Finland. In it, we, for example, discuss floor plans from other decades as well and suggest what you should focus on when choosing your home. But it has tons of other content as well.
Looking for a rental home in Finland? We tell you what to expect and how to do it in our video course “Renting a Home in Finland”. Available in our online store.
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