Atelier Oslo overcame nature’s challenges when they designed Cabin Norderhov, a seasonal, eco-friendly retreat on a steep hillside overlooking Lake Steinsfjorden.
You don’t have to have read Walden to dream about owning a cabin in the woods. But what the book reveals is that nature isn’t always very accommodating. Norwegian firm Atelier Oslo experienced this firsthand when it was tasked with designing a holiday retreat on an unforgivingly steep and windy slope in southern Norway’s Krokskogen forest. Instead of trying to rework the site’s challenging topography, the architects conformed their design to it. The resulting design features four slight levels within the 538-square-foot cabin that create natural divisions for living, eating, bathing, and sleeping. Rather than feeling like separate spaces, though, these sections fit together like a geometric puzzle. Floor-to-ceiling windows further the sense of a single, continuous space while ushering in panoramic views of majestic Lake Steinsfjorden.
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The cabin’s exterior walls and roof are clad in overlapping stone plates that mimic the look of traditional wood paneling found in Western Norway. “It provides an affinity with the cabins nearby,” partner and architect Nils Ole Bae Brandtzæg explains. Solar panels cover the chimney pipe, lighting LED lamps inside.
The layout revolves around a central “campfire” that burns beneath a suspended mantel. Since it’s located at the access level, the fireplace's flickering warmth can be enjoyed throughout the house. The surrounding floor is covered with hexagon tiles cut from marble, which transition into tiles made of birch log in the rest of the house.
The cabin’s undulating curves are fixed by a prefabricated, laminated wood structure with a subdivision of Kerto CNC-milled plywood. “It defines the geometry of both the interior and the exterior,” Bae Brandtzæg says.
The architects designed the large glass expanses in the dining and living areas so that their frames are hidden from view. “I love the way the light comes into the cabin and meets the curved surfaces of the walls and ceilings,” Bae Brandtzæg says. The kitchen’s custom cabinets were designed by Atelier Oslo and constructed by the contractor, Byggmester Bård Bredesen. The gas-powered stove, oven, and fridge are by VERA.
Bae Brandtzaeg describes the cabin as “one large piece of furniture,” since the height difference between its varying levels provide built-in perches for sitting and lounging.
The hideaway grows darker as residents move through the space toward the bedroom. The only light in the sleeping space enters indirectly from the nearby glass façade, as well as from a small ventilation window in the northern corner.
Since there is no running water, the architects installed a composting, vacuum toilet by JETS that filters the wastewater in special drainage ducts. The bathroom basin is by Duravit and the cabinets are custom.