Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Sauna

We're all back living in the house, or at least everyone except Andrew, who's off living his dream of being an American. It's a surprisingly warm Spring. We've not needed a fire for several nights. The lows have been in the mid-50's Fahrenheit, low teens Celsius.

The weather has been mostly sunny. The house and the kõrvalhoone have become very photogenic with their finished exteriors.

The best part of the property is definitely the newly-finished sauna. If you want an Estonian contractor to become enthused about a project, have them build you a sauna.

The fireplace in the esik or entry room is mostly built from old brick from a demolished fire wall in the house. The floors are done with wide planks. The wagon-wheel chandelier is one of Feliks' personal touches.

The door from the esik into the washroom is the old side door to the house. Feliks took all the old doors from the kõrvalhoone and a couple others from the house and had them refurbished in Paide by someone who knows the craft.

He also found an appropriately old-fashioned looking shower fixture. The boys originally installed the industrial/Soviet type lighting fixtures as temporary lighting, but we liked the look so much I had them keep them. The paneling for the ceiling and walls is a rough board with uncut edges. I suspect these were originally used in buildings for cost reasons. Perhaps they needed fewer cuts or were actually rejects from the mill. I notice they were used in some of the Soviet-era renovations to the house and kõrvalhoone.

The door into the hot room was the old entry door into the wood room in the house. For the benches (lava) and flooring in the sauna room and washroom we went with standard modern materials for the surfaces, though they used rough logs for the supports, which helped them blend in with the overall look and feel.

The sauna ahi or stove is a standard wood-burning model, that heats the sauna room but is fed from the esik. After about an hour of heating I was able to get the temperature to 85C, which is about as hot as we can stand. Feliks assures me this is kind of weeny by Finnish standards, but well within the traditional Estonian wet-sauna range.

The boys did a very good job on the details. Many of the door handles are made from the natural shapes of branches. We see quite a few of these on older structures here. I noticed the boys showed up one day last fall with a bag of these, so I assume there's a particular kind of tree or bush that these are harvested from now.

In a few areas that don't get hot they used the original iron handles and latches that were already on the doors.

They also re-used the old iron hinges to hang the doors.

I really like the overall look of the sauna and the kõrvalhoone generally. It gives a sense of historical continuity. There are a lot of elements such as the log construction and the old doors and fittings that date from the original construction and Estonia's initial period of independence. There are other things that recall the Soviet period, like the lighting and the rough panelling, and the use of salvaged materials for things like the fireplace. Finally the new lava and plumbing don't try to disguise that this is a building existing in the early 21st century. It's as if the building had been kept up all of these years instead of being neglected. I think it will age really well.


  1. Wow. Really, really lovely. I'm glad to see more progress on the homestead; it's really interesting. Keep 'em coming.

  2. Glad you liked it. If you're ever in Northern Europe during the summer, you should stop in and enjoy amenities. I'm hoping to get the floors finished while we're back in Sharjah for summer session, which will make the house a lot more livable.