A Pinwheel-Shaped Cabin in Norway Is a Fresh Take on the Traditional Hytte

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By Lucy Wang
With four wings that branch out for distinct views, this pine-clad cabin north of Oslo offers privacy for family members despite the small space.

With over a quarter of all Norwegians owning at least one "hytte"—a countryside cottage—it seemed only fitting that the American geologist Scott Young finally take part in the cultural tradition, having moved his family to Oslo seven years ago.

After locking down a hilltop location just an hour north of the city, Scott and his wife Christine Griffin Young handed the design reins over to San Francisco– and Oslo–based Mork Ulnes Architects, who reworked the traditional hytte typology into a 940-square-foot timber cabin. Called Mylla Hytte, the outpost melds the compact and efficient nature of its predecessors with an airy, contemporary feel.

Located on the northern edges of the Nordmarka wilderness region, Mylla Cabin offers easy access to cross-country skiing, as well as fishing at Mylla Lake located just below.

Located on the northern edges of the Nordmarka wilderness region, Mylla Cabin offers easy access to cross-country skiing, as well as fishing at Mylla Lake located just below.

The architects’ departure from the traditional Norwegian hytte—which can often feel cramped and primitive—began with the rejection of the typical single-gable, rectangular form in favor of a pinwheel plan with four shed roofs that radiate out towards the landscape. The unconventional plan had the added benefit of allowing for a free-flowing layout that fits three bedrooms and two full bathrooms without compromising privacy.

The pinwheel plan also led to the creation of two sheltered outdoor spaces: the morning porch and the evening porch.

The pinwheel plan also led to the creation of two sheltered outdoor spaces: the morning porch and the evening porch.

"The pinwheel plan and sloping roof form is derived from the climate, the desire to separate the bedrooms for privacy, and to offer contrasting views from each room," explains principal Casper Mork-Ulnes. "In that sense, the building is a very straightforward response to its context, while at the same time generating a unique experience."

In summer, the cabin makes an excellent base for mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

In summer, the cabin makes an excellent base for mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

In another nod to context, the architects wrapped the exterior in untreated heart pine, which will gradually develop a handsome silvery patina to blend in with the winter landscape. The use of timber continues indoors, mostly finished in pine plywood treated with lye and white oil. 

To create a clean and minimalist aesthetic, only treated pine plywood and concrete was used in the interiors.

To create a clean and minimalist aesthetic, only treated pine plywood and concrete was used in the interiors.

The kitchen occupies the heart of the home, while the three bedrooms and the great room radiate out in different directions.

From the dining table to the bed frames, custom plywood furniture is installed throughout the home and combined with a few nature-inspired touches, like the green Kvadrat wool felt in the upholstered built-ins.

From the dining table to the bed frames, custom plywood furniture is installed throughout the home and combined with a few nature-inspired touches, like the green Kvadrat wool felt in the upholstered built-ins.

Each wing of the house enjoys views of four distinct landscape features. The open-plan living and dining area overlooks Mylla Lake; the guest room looks towards the rolling hills; the kids’ bunk room looks up at the sky; and the master bedroom looks out to the towering pine forest. 

Planning regulations required a gable roof, which the architects split into four shed roofs carefully designed to respond to heavy snow and meet spatial and aesthetic wishes.

Planning regulations required a gable roof, which the architects split into four shed roofs carefully designed to respond to heavy snow and meet spatial and aesthetic wishes.

"The cabin is so small, we wanted to make things as multipurpose as possible," explains architect Lexie Mork-Ulnes, who has over a decade of experience in product and furniture design. 

Transom glass above each door allows for light and views while reducing sound transmission.

Transom glass above each door allows for light and views while reducing sound transmission.

Space-saving furniture can be found throughout the home: the kitchen island doubles as a bench for the dining table, while the children’s playroom can be found atop the bathroom volume. Hidden storage is integrated in most of the large furnishings. The sofa for eight can  transform into two beds, making it possible for the Youngs to accommodate up to six guests.

Each bedroom has two access doors, which close completely flush for a clean appearance.

Each bedroom has two access doors, which close completely flush for a clean appearance.

Mylla Hytte also includes a small, 172-square-foot annex housing a two-person sauna as well as space for ski waxing and bike and ski storage. 

During the winter, the Youngs go on long ski tours and warm up in the sauna.

During the winter, the Youngs go on long ski tours and warm up in the sauna.

Mylla Hytte site plan

Mylla Hytte site plan

Mylla Hytte floor plan

Mylla Hytte floor plan

Mylla Hytte main house floor plan

Mylla Hytte main house floor plan

Mylla Hytte elevations

Mylla Hytte elevations

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Mork Ulnes Architects

General Contractor: Kreativ Hus