A cosy hideout by lake Saimaa
When Finnish actor Ville Haapasalo is not travelling around the world, he is relaxing at his new cottage in Puumala, Finland. The conditions on the road can be challenging, which is why life here must be as easy as possible.
The window opens to a rugged, steep hillside full of pine trees. Lichen and moss peek out where the snow has already melted. On the opposite side the view opens over a lake. Now the lake is frozen and the opposite shore is hidden in mist, but it is easy to imagine how incredible the view is in the summer when the blue of the lake meets and mixes with the green of the birch branches.
Ville Haapasalo sits on a couch in his brand new holiday home and gazes upon the white expanse. It feels as if time has stopped. This is unusual, because Ville usually moves very quickly. When he and his wife finally made the decision to buy a cottage last summer, Ville walked straight away to one of Honkarakenne's designers with a floor plan drawn on the side of a box of pastilles.
I told them to have this finished by Christmas, that I'd already ordered the Christmas ham to this address.
Ville says he was aware of the warnings about how things might not always go as planned. However, he says this project went smoothly with both the builder and the municipality.
– The starting point was that I myself wouldn't have to do anything around here. My attention span is like that of a goldfish. If I had to build a house, it'd have to be done in a week or I'd lose interest in the project completely, Ville says.
And the construction went well even without his help. When Ville tried to ask the carpenters if there was anything he could do, they suggested that he'd make the coffee.
– Everyone should stick to what they know best, Ville ponders.
The perfect cottage lot was found in Puumala, a rock's throw away from where Haapasalo had learned to swim as a child. It is far enough from the neighbours in its own peace and quiet. The lot provided a challenge as the steep rock dictated terms for the shape of the house. In order to avoid having to blast the rock, the house had to be designed so that it could be built near the shore. This became one of the most delightful details of the place: it feels as if the broad terrace of the house leads directly into Lake Saimaa.
From the very start the Haapasalo family's wish was ease and comfort: the holiday home was to have all the amenities of their city apartment. The distance between the home in Helsinki and the cottage was not very significant as the cottage was not intended solely for weekend visits.
The family's previous holiday spot with its big yard and garden took a lot work. This time around the yard had to be easy to maintain.
– A lot on the rock and a cottage with all the bells and whistles. A home that is ready right as I step through the doorway. My camping days are over, Ville says.
Ville's idea was that a house has to be modest so that it can become a home. This idea was accompanied by the wish that everything should work.
– I don't want to think about the temperature or washing the dishes. I just want to focus on what's important: simply being there.
Technology makes things easier and saves time. Geothermal heat keeps the cottage evenly warm, the cottage's own drilled well is a source of high-quality water, waste water is cleaned, the internet connection and security systems are functioning, the stove produces extra warmth and the electric sauna turns on with the press of a button.
Initially, the electric sauna gave Ville some pause, but since the lot already had a good traditional wood-burning sauna, the cottage was fitted with an electric one. Designing and decorating the sauna was a passion project for Ville. He drew two large windows in the plan, one of which gave a view of the lake. The colours he chose were black and wood.
The decor of the cottage itself was also designed by the Haapasalos. The surface colours were pale and light, making room for the colourful furniture. Even though Ville has always liked darker tones, he wanted this place to have light so that nature and its colours can be on full display and visible even from inside the cottage. The most important thing was getting the wall-sized windows with a view over the lake.
Ville Haapasalo travels over 200 days a year and does not have much downtime. When in Puumala he tries to make the most of his time and let go of his everyday life.
– I can't really sit around and do nothing, but the things I do here I want to do at my own pace. Not like: "Now I have to mow the lawn"; but more like: "I'll chop the firewood when I feel like it, and turn the rocks when the mood strikes. I'll heat up the sauna when the time comes and make a meal when I'm hungry."
Simple, physical activities are a good way to calm down a mind when it is working overtime. In his work Ville fulfils the wishes of others, here he wants to fulfil his own.
The most relaxing thing is waking up at sunrise and watching the Sun calmly climb onto the sky. I can easily spend an hour doing that, even though it feels like minutes.
There are still things to do. The yard must be restored and the terrace needs steps. But this is probably the kind of leisurely work that can be done a bit at a time at one's own pace, just as Ville wishes. The cottage itself is already as it should be.
However, there are already new ideas brewing: next summer there could be a summer kitchen for a pizza oven, or a floating lean-to shelter, or a diving platform. In addition to a smoke sauna, Ville dreams of a special kammi sauna with an earthen floor and grass roof that is built half underground.
Last summer, when the construction project was at full swing, Ville went diving in the shores of the nearby islands to stay out of the builders' way. To pass the time, he took it upon himself to find a neighbour's lost crayfish traps.
One should find the time to just enjoy things. Next summer Ville hopes to conquer Lake Saimaa and explore its majestic, steep shores and hidden rock basins.
This is a beautiful region, it calls out to me.
- Wall structure: non-settling FXL log 204
- Living area: 108 m 2
- Number of rooms: 4
- Heating system: geothermal heat
- Year of construction: 2016
- Location: Puumala, Finland
Text: Ainomaija Lehtonen
Photos: Timo Villanen
The original story appeared in issue 3/17 of Meidän Mökki magazine.
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