City cottage in Helsinki

For the Palva family, summer paradise is synonymous with a 14-square-metre cottage by the sea in Helsinki. Efficiently designed, the small space packs all the necessities.

Inhabitants Riina and Jussi Palva, both architects, and their two children.

City cottage The 14-square-metre cottage has two entrances and combined kitchen, living and sleeping spaces.

The cottage is produced by Finnlamelli. It can be bought ready for assembly or fully fitted on a turnkey basis. verstasarkkitehdit.fi, finnlamelli.fi.  The contact information for Helsinki summer cottage and allotment garden associations is available on the Public Works Department website at hkr.hel.fi.

A light-green cottage sits by the sea, protected by bushes. It is not particularly big, but just the right size.  When Riina and Jussi Palva, an architect couple running Verstas Arkkitehdit with two other partners, began looking for a suitable summer cottage, they made a wish list for their dream cottage.  “We valued environmental friendliness and the convenience of cottage life. With small children, summer routines have to be smooth and effortless,” say Riina and Jussi.  They first thought about building a cottage farther away from the city, but changed their plans after a walk through a city cottage area in their neighbourhood.  When a suitable cabin in the area came up for sale, Riina and Jussi bought it, intending to renovate the cottage. However, the old house proved to be rotten through and through, so the couple tore it down and decided to design a cottage  of their own. City regulations set strict limitations on the size and appearance of buildings in the area. What was challenging was making the small space as functional as possible. In the end, it only took a couple of weeks to erect the new cottage, thanks to structural design building on the notion of easy assembly.  A summer cottage close to home was exactly what the family wanted. Since the cottage is only a kilometre from both the parents’ office and the children’s daycare centre, it is easy to visit anytime.  There is no need to haul big loads to the cabin, since fresh supplies can be easily picked up from home. The television also stays at home: cottage life is spent outdoors.  The cottage has attracted a great deal of interest, and it will soon be included in the range of Finnlamelli, a Finnish manufacturer. The cottage will be offered as a ready-for-assembly or turnkey package. Jussi’s and Riina’s own prototype ended up costing around 15,000 euros, but the price of an ordered cottage will depend on the degree of completion and fittings.

 The few square metres have been put to efficient use.

 “We sought space-use solutions from sailboats, where furnishings are fixed to the hull and storage spaces are concealed,” says Jussi.

The cottage has two entrances to make entry and exit as easy as possible, and the inside is one continuous space. The floor is slightly lower by the doors than in the tatami-covered living space, to prevent dirt from being brought in. The cook commands an ample kitchen space with a view of the sea, while the combined living and sleeping space is at the back.

 The cottage has been in active use, and the family has settled into a smooth summer routine.

 “Instead of being stuck in a traffic jam trying to get out of Helsinki on a Friday evening, we already have the grill going here,” says Jussi.

The well-designed cottage features combined living and sleeping spaces for a family of four. Seated on the sofa, you see both the horizon and the crackling fireplace. In a manner familiar from sailboats, storage space is concealed behind hatches and inside cupboards. The veneer fixed furnishings are made by Paattimaakarit, a Finnish woodworking company. The shade of the green house paint exactly matches that of the previous cottage.

The cook enjoys a magnificent view of the sea. The roomy kitchen features a gas range and loads of storage space. The dishes are washed outdoors in the summer kitchen. The cottage has an entrance on both sides to facilitate entry and exit.

Deko 7/2011

Jenni Juurinen Photography Pekka Holmström