Unless you’re Scandinavian or a passionate collector of fresh-water trivia, you’ve likely never heard of Lake Saimaa, which at 1,700 square miles is Finland’s largest lake. Shoot, I’ve been to Finland and if I was forced to guess that’s how big I’d say the whole country is. But, no. Finland is much larger. And its biggest lake is just plain large.
And varied, intricate, and beautiful. Russian writer Maxim Gorky went in exile there and described it as “like a fairy tale.” Now I’m thinking we should go in exile there, too, but stay at this 600-square-foot cabin designed by Studio Kamppari.
Completed just this year, the cabin is perched on a granite ridge with a view south to the lake, near the town of Varkaus. The designer describes it thus:
This 600 square foot summer cottage is a guest cabin and owner’s retreat. Perched high on a granite ridge, the cabin has panoramic views of the high latitude forest and lake Saimaa. The boundary between the inside and outside is fluid. Sunshine flows through the building, while the floor of the interior extends out towards the water.
The double height living room pulls the outside in with over-sized operable windows on the north and south. This main space connects to a loft that is bathed in filtered light. The whimsical loft feels like a tree house; it is a perfect place to hide and read a book. Generously sized bedrooms bookend the living space to the east and west, each with a picture window to the site.
High care was taken to preserve the beauty of the site. The window assemblies and logs were manufactured off site and lofted into place with a crane. The materials palette blends with the natural surroundings. The vertical screening filters light and echoes the tall nature of the forest. Wooden walkways follow the contours of the landscape, providing a path to the cabin while keeping the surrounding nature untouched.
The design combines old ways with new technologies. The main structure is made of pine logs, like many traditional structures in Finland. The exterior is treated with iron oxide, a traditional treatment which accelerates the natural graying process of wood. The vertical screening protects the logs from sun and wind exposure. The screening is like a protective coat, it is removable and replaceable. The interior of the cabin reveals the untreated pine log walls and bare roof rafters. The gable roof form and log walls are common in Finnish cabins, while the details, volume, and quality of light are unexpected.
The owner has chosen to remain private, and no cost was given. Some things, like a view onto cold clear water in slanting northern light, are priceless.
Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape, for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.