Spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, Tanja and Harri decided to make their retirement dream come true ahead of schedule. The couple had a Honka Halti log cabin built to the family’s needs on their beloved island plot in the Pihlajavesi basin of Lake Saimaa. The windows offer a wonderful view of Lake Saimaa, where the Saimaa ringed seal is a familiar sight.
Tanja and Harri had a dream. Once they retired, they would build a year-round residence at their beloved summer retreat, where they could spend half of the year. As it turned out, their dream came true fifteen years early.
“As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m now able to do most of my work remotely, which changed our plans,” Tanja says. “So we thought: why wait when we could actually fulfil our dream earlier?”
The island in the Pihlajavesi basin of Lake Saimaa is a place Tanja has known and loved since childhood. Her parents bought the island even before they had their own home together. Back then the island could only be reached by boat, but nowadays a car ferry goes there too. Tanja spent most of her childhood summers on the island. Initially, Tanja, Harri and their three children stayed in a log cabin built by Tanja’s parents. Later, they renovated a small rustic, no-frills cabin on the same island for themselves, and spent their holidays there for the following fifteen years. They had the new cottage built on the same plot.
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Honka Halti, Perfectly Placed on a Rocky Plot
Everything happened quickly once the decision was made. They had two clear wishes.
“The cottage had to be made of log, and it had to have excellent natural lighting. Log was an obvious choice, as it not only blends with the landscape and surroundings but is also eco-friendly and durable, lasting for generations.”
The couple went through what various providers had to offer. After narrowing these down to two options, Honka won out.
“Honka’s long experience in log construction gave us confidence. Given the unstable global situation at that time, a financially stable company gave us reassurance that our project would be successfully completed.”
The couple were impressed with Honka’s Halti model, which featured the large windows they wanted and also suited the rocky plot well.
The floor plan of the original Halti model, with two bedrooms and a utility room, was modified based on Tanja’s drawings to include three bedrooms. In addition, the separate kitchen was changed into an open living room-cum-kitchen space.
“As a family of five, it was important for us to have enough bedrooms. We also wanted the main bedrooms to have stunning lake views. In terms of appearance, we wanted the cottage to blend into nature, and the black surface complements the grey rocks beautifully.”
Honka’s long experience in log construction gave us confidence. Given the unstable global situation at that time, a financially stable company gave us reassurance that our project would be successfully completed.
Tanja, the customer
Building with Respect for Nature
The construction was carried out by local contractors. Even though the family lives in Espoo, they could rest assured that things would progress as agreed throughout the process. Thanks to remote work and the old summer cottage, Tanja was able to be onsite frequently to oversee the construction. She also helped out in cleaning up the construction site when needed.
“Among other things, when Honka’s assembly team arrived, I heated up the old beach sauna for them and carried washing water from the ice hole.”
The house assembly took place in winter, with the final inspection the following autumn.
“Since we didn’t have previous building experience, it was difficult to picture the end result in our minds. But we were very pleasantly surprised: the cottage turned out to be lovelier than we could have imagined!”
When it comes to building a log home, Tanja advises first-timers to seek help with budgeting. Tanja and her family had not been able to anticipate or calculate everything on their own.
The island and the surrounding waters are part of the Natura 2000 nature conservation area. This is a unique environment, as quite many of the endangered Saimaa ringed seals inhabit the Pihlajavesi basin. Respecting nature was important during the construction phase as well, and winter turned out to be an excellent time to build. Thanks to the snow cover, the surroundings remained nearly untouched during the construction process.
“In addition, we aimed to disturb the seals as little as possible. When the seal pups were born, the interior work was already underway.”
Since we didn’t have previous building experience, it was difficult to picture the end result in our minds. But we were very pleasantly surprised: the cottage turned out to be lovelier than we could have imagined!
Tanja, the customer
A Long-Term Holiday Home
Although the family enjoys complete peace in the archipelago, they are still close to the services and culture on offer in Savonlinna. This ensures that even young adults enjoy their time there.
“The short ferry ride to the island is an adventure in itself. That’s when it truly feels like the mind and body switch to leisure time, and ‘cottage time’. As soon as we board the ferry, we take pictures and keep an eye out for a glimpse of the Saimaa ringed seal.”
Although the family was not new to cottage life, now they spend even more time in their beloved archipelago, throughout the year.
“Our hope is that someday it will be a second home, and to some extent it already is. The cottage was designed to be single-storey and as accessible as possible, allowing for comfortable living in our old age.”
The cottage was designed to be single-storey and as accessible as possible, allowing for comfortable living in our old age.
Tanja, the customer
Equipped with modern amenities, Tanja and her family wanted the leisure home to have a cottage-like feel that sets it apart from their main home.
“Not a single indoor wall is painted or wallpapered – all the walls are wood, creating a lovely warm atmosphere. The nature seen through the windows takes centre stage indoors as well, and the atmosphere changes with the seasons.”
Overall Wellbeing in A Leisure Home
Tanja enjoys working remotely from the cottage. The surroundings create a wonderfully tranquil work environment, and nature is close at hand at the end of the workday.
“Being able to look up from my laptop from time to time out over Lake Saimaa gives a boost to my work.”
In Tanja’s view, a log cabin provides an excellent atmosphere to breathe, and the nights are exceptionally restful. The family rent out the cottage when not using it themselves.
“My view is that renting it out is a good deed for the environment. There is an enormous number of cottages in Finland that stand empty most of the time, and not everyone wants to own their own cottage.”
The family rented out the old cottage one summer, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“We had lovely tenants who fell in love with the place. Renting out also makes life easier when it comes to expenses.”
Nature is very much present everywhere. The covered terrace is a good vantage point for watching an approaching storm, and the living room furniture is easily rearranged to suit the season. The leisure home has helped the whole family thrive, Tanja feels.
“We’ve cut down on our travelling for environmental reasons, and since our cottage is suitable for year-round living we don’t have to holiday abroad. Winters always felt very long to me in the past, but now even wintertime is more enjoyable since I know I can go to the island. Here I can light a fire in the fireplace and admire the scenery, which is beautiful even in winter.”
We had lovely tenants who fell in love with the place. Renting out also makes life easier when it comes to expenses.
Tanja, the customer
- Resident: Tanja, Harri & their children
- Online booking: https://mokkivuokra.fi/mokit/2793/villa-saimaansaari
- House: Honka Halti model that has been customised based on customer needs
- Log: Honkarakenne lamellar log FXL 204 mm, zero corner, spruce
- Floor area: 100 m2
- Living area: 89 m2
- Rooms: 3 bedrooms, living room + dining area + kitchen, toilet, sauna + washroom
- Log surface treatment: interior; Helo Solana wax, exterior; Rubio Monocoat (70% black 30% chocolate)
- Fixtures: Puustelli & Ikea
- Location: Savonlinna, Pihlajavesi
- Year of construction: 2021-2022
- Honka ID: 4005464