Creating tranquility in a summer idyll

“When heading off to the summer cabin, pack summer delicacies, swimwear and games to play outdoors – and not even a single old computer,” writes Design Stories columnist Hanna-Katariina Mononen.

Creating tranquility in a summer idyll | Hanna-Katariina Mononen
“That wonderful oasis of peace that we dream of deserves a more sensitive touch: thoughtfully chosen tableware, perhaps gradually acquired secondhand over time, long-lasting and high-quality furniture, and the best bedding for a sound night’s sleep,” says Hanna-Katariina Mononen.

SUMMER CABINS COME in all shapes and sizes, but one thing I know about the Finnish summer cabin tradition and how they are most commonly used is that they are the number one place to retreat to calmer surroundings for a slightly simpler life. The role of the summer cabin as a haven of tranquility comes increasingly to the fore in an era where there is an abundance – or even an excess – of stimuli, and where we are constantly reachable, always ready to react to things and meet new demands. At the summer house, all this is not necessary – or at least it shouldn’t be. In many cases, however, I have found that the summer cabin is also a place to where otherwise unwanted items are brought to live out their final days. Almost inevitably, this upsets the restful esthetics of the cabin.

When the place is filled with things that create uncontrollable visual distractions, it becomes increasingly hard to calm the mind. Our relationships with the objects around us are of course not all the same, and each of us has our own way of settling into our environment. So it could well be that the problem I just mentioned is mine and mine alone. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that the knowledge that a jumble of old, disused belongings is hidden in a closet somewhere would not disturb the relaxing atmosphere of the summer cabin. And if we are honest with ourselves, we might admit that we have never even used some of these things, such as mugs with jokes on the side. You might well ask how these kinds of things pile up in the first place, but I for one haven’t done enough research to figure that out.

At its best, a sparse but skillfully planned layout not only makes life more pleasant but also makes the summer cabin easier to maintain.

To be fair, a certain amount of haphazardness does have its place in the decor of a summer cabin. So easing up on the rules a little is welcome – even in one’s regular home as well, come to think of it. For when it comes to interior design, being overly strict is hardly the best route to happiness. But I also know of a summer cabin where computers and televisions that the family no longer use have been brought to die, and where the loft is filled to the rafters with furniture that was no longer wanted at home. As is so often the case, with summer cabin decor too the happy medium lies somewhere between the extremes of having too many rules and not enough of them.

I strongly suspect that at some time or other, many people have heard something along the lines of “It doesn’t suit at home; let’s take it to the summer cabin.” When setting out to their home away from home, some fill up the car with exceedingly strange things and haul them off to their carefree getaway in the country. Somehow, this just doesn’t make sense. That wonderful oasis of peace that we dream of deserves a more sensitive touch: thoughtfully chosen tableware, perhaps gradually acquired secondhand over time, long-lasting and high-quality furniture that ages gracefully, and the best bedding for a sound night’s sleep. At its best, a sparse but skillfully planned layout not only makes life more pleasant but also makes the summer cabin easier to maintain.

After I bought my own dream summer home, I spent a lot of time clearing away mountains of things that the previous owners had accumulated over the decades. They had left behind all kinds of everything: candle holders for enough candles to light up the whole island, more lace textiles than would be needed to deck out a dozen cabins, cute little sea-themed ornaments, and much, much more. Little by little, though, the atmosphere of the place became more harmonious as the clutter disappeared. Living a simple life at the summer cabin requires a bit of effort and ingenuity in taking care of everyday tasks, but that also leads to contentment. And the “funny” mugs? Well, nobody’s laughing.

Hanna-Katariina Mononen

The author, Hanna-Katariina Mononen, reflects on the issues of a beautiful and sustainable life in her monthly column for Design Stories. She thinks that just like in life, in the home, the most beautiful parts are unplanned – and often relatively ordinary as well.

Text and image: Hanna-Katariina Mononen

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