At designer and stylist Anna Pirkola's summer cottage, the focus is on spending quality time with the family and unwinding from daily routines. Together, in their freshly completed summer kitchen, they create seasonal delicacies and let time become a blur.
ANNA PIRKOLA and her family find joy in shared activities – board games and baking are a part of their daily life, even in the city. But come summer, they pack up their favorite recipes and games and head to the cottage together. Design Stories had the privilege of visiting, and we also took note of Anna's top tips for decorating a summer cottage.
Hello Anna! How is your summer going?
“Hey there, thanks for asking! My summer has been pretty laid-back so far – I've been taking it easy after a hectic spring. Nowadays, the best part of a vacation is when you can admit at some point, 'I'm bored.' Although, I'm sure the kids might disagree with that.”
Cottage life is the cornerstone of Nordic summer culture. What does having your own cottage mean to you?
“For me, having my own cottage is primarily about finding peace and quiet. It's not about being idle – quite the opposite, tinkering around truly is soothing – but more about embracing a slower rhythm. Things take more time and even the simplest tasks gain a whole new dimension. It compels you to adopt a more laid-back attitude and embrace imperfections, like unwashed dishes.”
“At the cottage, you have the freedom to craft your own timetables, cherish moments with your loved ones, and find solace in nature.”
How does daily life unfold at your cottage?
“We plan and cook meals together, wander through the forest, take refreshing swims, and indulge in various hobbies. The kids put on their own theater performances, and my partner finds joy in woodcarving. I treasure the way time becomes a blur, and the days flow by effortlessly without rigid schedules.”
Care to share your best tips for decorating a summer cottage?
“It really depends a lot on the style your cottage represents, but the first tip is to follow and emphasize the existing style. Another essential aspect is not to bring all the furniture and items you want to get rid of from your city home to the cottage.
“At the cottage – of all places – it's worth investing in practical items that make everyday life easier.”
Embracing the legacy of different generations in the cottage decor adds ambiance. Despite being just four years old, our cottage proudly features furniture passed down from the previous owner and a beautifully refurbished wardrobe made from my parents' cherished kitchen cabinets. Each layer weaves a tale of its own to the decor.
At the cottage – of all places – it's worth investing in practical items that make everyday life easier, like tea towels. They're in heavy use daily and always within sight, so it's nice to splurge on them not only for their appearance but also for their quality.”
Your summer cottage exudes a warm, nostalgic charm that's truly irresistible! What's your favorite spot at the cottage?
“Oh, thank you! Our cottage is quite small and modest, a typical grandma's cottage. But I love its wooden and somewhat minimalistic atmosphere, which can be easily transformed and restyled. It's tough to pick just one favorite spot, but we've recently completed the summer kitchen, so I'll go with that. The terrace and summer kitchen also offer stunning views of the beautiful nature around us.”
“Nowadays, the best part of a vacation is when you get bored.”
What delectable delights come to life in your summer kitchen?
“We go with the flow, from savory summer soups to my partner's ultimate passion – pizza! We indulge in grilling an abundance of seasonal veggies and work wonders with tofu in the smoker. As late summer approaches, the real treat is cooking with wild mushrooms: they elevate risottos, pastas, and pizzas to divine levels, not to mention how delightful they are when sautéed and served atop a crusty slice of bread.
Our kids are budding bakers, and we've finally cracked the code to using the cottage's gas oven – no more partly burnt and partly undercooked results in our baking endeavors!”
I'm sure many folks are pondering the classic summer cottage conundrum as we speak: what to bring as a gift when visiting a cottage?
“In my books, the ultimate choice would be food. Treats like locally harvested heirloom tomatoes, sweet strawberries, fragrant herbs, or an irresistible dessert, beautifully displayed on a lovely plate or pie dish.
Moreover, long-lasting perennial plants, stylish dish towels, or enchanting candles for those cozy, dusky nights are tried-and-true options – something that will undoubtedly find a special place in their everyday life. Oh, and we've even wished for a sauna ladle as a gift!”
Anna's TOP 3 tips for experiencing Finnish summer
TAMMISAARI. It has become a cherished annual tradition for us to visit the YLP! pizzeria in Tammisaari with our dear friends – followed by a treasure hunt at the local flea markets. This year, we're excited to add a visit to the new Chappe Art Museum to our itinerary.
- PAIMION PARANTOLA, or any other Alvar Aalto destination. It's also delightful to explore the surrounding areas, drive along small country roads, and admire the beauty of Finnish summer.
SEILI ISLAND. A few summers back, we ventured there with friends, uncovering the island's captivating history. The scorching heat made it a day to remember, with even the island's cows taking a refreshing dip in the sea.
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Text: Mira Ahola Images: Anna Pirkola