Project Ö – self-sufficient living on a remote Finnish island

Aleksi Hautamäki and Milla Selkimäki accomplished what many people only dream of: bought an island of their own and built there two self-designed cabins. The aim of Project Ö was to make the cabins as sustainable as possible without sacrificing comfort.

Project Ö exterior
The main cabin’s covered terrace provides a direct view of the Archipelago National Park. The patio chairs are from Nikari’s Arkipelago collection.

WITH AROUND 40,000 ISLANDS, the Archipelago Sea is the world's largest archipelago in terms of its number of islands. At the heart of the area is the Archipelago National Park, with its tiny, rocky islets and pine-forested islands. Despite the huge number of islands, inhabitable ones rarely become available.

Aleksi Hautamäki, a designer specializing in brand environments, and Milla Selkimäki, a graphic designer, spent five years searching for an island of their own. In the end, they discovered Skjulskäret, a small, two-hectare island south of Kemiönsaari. Skjulskäret's north-facing coves provide shelter for boats and swimmers. This peaceful island is located just off the Archipelago National Park in Southwest Finland.

Project Ö scenery
A small, peaceful cove makes it easy to land on the Skjulskäret island.
Project Ö exterior
The sauna and guest house and the workshop building are located next to each other on the island’s hilltop.
Project Ö outdoor kitchen
Modern and traditional techniques have been used concurrently at Project Ö. The outdoor kitchen’s stove is wood-burning, and electricity comes from solar panels.

Hautamäki and Selkimäki designed two cabins with gable roofs and vertical pine cladding on the northern tip of the island – a 45-square-metre sauna and guest house, and a 25-square-metre workshop. Living areas, a kitchen and a bedroom are located at one end of the guest house, and a sauna and washroom at the other. The workshop has a technical shed on one end and a small workshop on the other. The buildings are separated by an open-plan outdoor space, which serves as a covered terrace.

The two cabins with gable roofs and vertical pine cladding are located on the northern tip of the island.

The goal of Project Ö was to cram everything needed into the smallest possible space without sacrificing comfort. The cabins have running water, modern kitchen, water closet and heating. Electricity is provided by solar panels, purified water from the Baltic Sea serves as drinking water, and the hot water supply is a by-product of the wood-heated sauna. Wastewater is stored in a sealed tank emptied once a year, and greywater is cleaned by a leach field built outside.

Project Ö living room
The Scandinavian color palette of the living area adapts to the surrounding landscape.
Project Ö kitchen
The dark cabinets contrast with the warm wooden surfaces of the kitchen.

Although it took a long time to find the perfect island, thorough groundwork enabled very rapid construction.

"Construction began in spring 2018 and the buildings were ready for inhabitants by the fall. Thanks to good design, bigger surprises were avoided but, of course, minor challenges arose continuously, from the foundation building to the final stages. These mainly involved logistics and labor. The thoroughfares, terraces and sandy beaches were built, and the final touches added to the interior, in 2019. So, in principle, the construction project was completed in 2008, but such a project is never really finished in practice, which is quite intentional," says Aleksi Hautamäki.

There are certain recurring trends in modern cabin architecture: to achieve a minimalist look, eaves and gutters are omitted or made as inconspicuous as possible. However, in the northern archipelago's climate eaves are quite essential: they direct rainwater away from structures and prevent snow from accumulating against walls. Rather than hiding or omitting the eaves, Hautamäki and Selkimäki decided to design proper eaves and long, horizontal gutters that provide the cabins with a distinctive silhouette.

Project Ö bedroom
Together, the two cabins can sleep 10 people. The reading light is from the Lampe Gras collection by Bernard-Albin Gras.
Project Ö shower
Tap water comes directly from the Baltic Sea. The water is purified using reverse osmosis.
Project Ö sauna
Hot water is a by-product of the wood-heated sauna.

The interior design is dominated by pine surfaces, natural fibers and serene colors that pay homage to the spirit of the outer archipelago. Acoustic paneling made of dried peat has been added to the interiors to improve their acoustics. Architectonic lamps shedding indirect light bring a touch of industrial contrast to the interior, while selected items are accentuated by more decorative lights.

"We think that the end result is highly successful. The buildings are well positioned on the grounds, creating a natural yard and areas for various activities. Their interiors are optimized for our needs and include nothing extraneous. The materials, colors and proportions match each other visually," Hautamäki sums up.

Get inspired

Arkipelago chair
Kanto rack
Terho ceiling lamp
Buono kettle
Pirkka dining table
Fiskars Norden knife set
DCW éditions
Lampe Gras 304
Linnea duvet cover

See also:

Outdoor furniture at Finnish Design Shop >

Text: Nora Uotila Images: Archmospheres

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