A Norwegian Family Retreat Balances Private and Communal Spaces

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By Melissa Dalton
Stinessen Arkitektur designs a compound of clustered cabins that provides opportunities for family members to relax together or apart.

"To gather at the family retreat for weekends or holidays is a beautiful tradition," says architect Snorre Stinessen of Stinessen Arkitektur, "but the challenge is often that given a few days, you also long for some privacy again." For this recently completed vacation home on the Malangen Peninsula, an hour drive south of Tromsø in Northern Norway, Stinessen addressed this need by siting two clusters of cabins to overlook a fjord. Each cluster, the first identified as the main building and the second called the annex, is comprised of separate volumes defined by their function. The main building and the annex are connected by a covered central "courtyard" with a fireplace and outdoor kitchen, which serves as the entry to the home.

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The entry to the compound is via a sliding oak door in the covered central courtyard.

The entry to the compound is via a sliding oak door in the covered central courtyard.

From this covered area, you can enter into either the main building cluster or the annex. "It functions as a protected and semi-tempered zone (without particular heating) between the main part and the annex," says Stinessen. "It also provides an additional layer to the natural ventilation during summertime, even on windy or rainy days."

From this covered area, you can enter into either the main building cluster or the annex. "It functions as a protected and semi-tempered zone (without particular heating) between the main part and the annex," says Stinessen. "It also provides an additional layer to the natural ventilation during summertime, even on windy or rainy days."

The main building consists of two volumes: one houses a children's room and a small, secondary living room, while the main bathroom and master bedroom reside in the second. These also connect to an open kitchen, dining, and living area. All of the interior volumes are linked by "in-between" spaces with concrete floors and wood-slatted ceilings.

In the open living area, interior surfaces are clad in knot-free oak, which creates a warm contrast to the exterior.

In the open living area, interior surfaces are clad in knot-free oak, which creates a warm contrast to the exterior.

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A cozy corner of the living room has access to a south-facing outdoor area where the family enjoys dinner on warm summer days.

A cozy corner of the living room has access to a south-facing outdoor area where the family enjoys dinner on warm summer days.

An "in-between" space creates protected circulation between the separate volumes. A sheet of glass frames the view outside. "The ceilings in these spaces are all made of oak slats that, through the treatment with iron sulfate, turn naturally black because of the high content of tannin," said Stinessen. "The airy and black ceilings retreat from the visual connection to the outside."

An "in-between" space creates protected circulation between the separate volumes. A sheet of glass frames the view outside. "The ceilings in these spaces are all made of oak slats that, through the treatment with iron sulfate, turn naturally black because of the high content of tannin," said Stinessen. "The airy and black ceilings retreat from the visual connection to the outside."

The annex, also comprised of two volumes, hosts utility rooms, a sauna, guest rooms, and an activity room. "Each group of rooms is done as separate volumes to achieve an additional layer of privacy," said Stinessen, "but also to enhance the main room's contact to the clearing in the forest and the contact to the outdoors in the transition spaces."

In the custom cedar sauna, the outdoors are immediately felt via the glass wall.

In the custom cedar sauna, the outdoors are immediately felt via the glass wall.

Expansive glass in every room ensures the natural site is always appreciated.

Expansive glass in every room ensures the natural site is always appreciated.

Cedar strips on the exterior (and where used on the interior) were treated with "iron sulfate and kept outside for months before assembly to achieve an even patina," says Stinessen.

Cedar strips on the exterior (and where used on the interior) were treated with "iron sulfate and kept outside for months before assembly to achieve an even patina," says Stinessen.

The compound enjoys an incredible view overlooking the fjord.

The compound enjoys an incredible view overlooking the fjord.

Project Credits:

Architect, Landscape Design, and Interior Design: Stinessen Arkitektur AS