From the frost-covered logs to its authentic location - it's actually in Lapland - this is the Christmas cottage you've always dreamed about.

"It's really nice to come here to unwind and get away from the normal humdrum together with family and friends," the homeowner says. He and his family are the latest generation to enjoy the holiday home since it was first built 30 years ago on the outskirts of a village in Lapland.

The cottage has never left the family, and for good reason - it's a favourite leisure spot year-round, and particularly during the winter - ski tracks right next to the cottage are perfect for a stint of cross-country skiing, or the whole family may opt to spend the day at the nearby downhill skiing resort. On colder days, it is cosy to huddle under a warm blanket in front of a roaring fire.

It took some work to get the home ready, however. Nothing against Santa and Mrs Claus, but a fairy-tale home straight out of a Christmas card needed updating for the modern homeowner.

When the cottage was handed over to the younger members of the family, a decision was made to lay new flooring throughout and freshen things up at the same time. They sought out Marja Huhtaniemi, a designer who happens to be a family friend, to oversee the sizeable project.

On seeing the home, Huhtaniemi was able to pinpoint the problem areas, one of which was the look and feel of the interior design. "Different elements renovated at different times over the years no longer seemed to work together, and the overall feel was rather stuffy," she says. "[I wanted to] aim for a timeless quality."

The designer saw the project as a chance to bring a harmonious feel and add some Nordic touches to the cottage, such as ancient silver logs and durable slate. For the interior, she chose durable, comfortable materials and textures that would "create a pleasant atmosphere and stand the test of time".

The wood also presented a problem. Before the renovation, the inside end walls were pine panelled and, like in many Finnish cottages, the flooring was varnished pine. The original light blue tiling and fittings in the bathroom made the space resemble public baths.

"Floor material is an important element in defining the overall look," says Huhtaniemi, who wanted to choose a shade that would match the colour of silver logs. "Finding the right hue was a challenge, but worth the extra work in the end." She also replaced the pine-panelled end walls with clay plaster, offering a reprieve from the monotony of endless wood and creating a serene backdrop to the space.

The aim was to use contrasting elements as naturally as possible. The tiny specks in the clay plaster in the TV room glisten in a certain light, and Huhtaniemi chose a bedroom rug woven from glimmering thread - the resulting glint resembles shards of ice, mimicking the sparkling snow outside.

There was also a matter of sorting out the furniture and clutter. The key, Huhtaniemi says, is to choose simple and functional solutions. "Plan the right spots for essentials and get rid of anything you don't really need," she advises.

A great deal of sports and outdoor equipment needed to be stored at the cottage, which brought its own set of challenges to the interior design. "Remember that small objects can look even smaller in a large space," the designer warns. "Think about the dimensions and angles of furniture and other pieces. Leaving plenty of space around each item creates a tranquil feel."

The hallway needed to be particularly functional, providing space for helmets, ski goggles and damp outdoor gear. The floor materials and protective rugs had to be durable enough for walking around in ski boots, while sturdy seats make it easy to get ready to hit the slopes.

All that was left for Huhtaniemi to do was to add some core furniture pieces and appliances that would cater to the family's needs.

The kitchen had been refurbished 20 years ago with elements that were ahead of their time, and the space continues to be functional today. However, new appliances were purchased, as cooking plays an important role at the cottage.

Wooden furniture, linen bedheads and blackout blinds were custom-made for the bedroom, taking into account the changing light and temperatures during the different seasons. The family invested in comfortable beds and simple but elegant Finnish linen bedding. "[It's important to] add some cosiness," the designer says. "A high-quality bed provides a good night's sleep and brings some luxury to your leisure time. Opt for natural materials."

The idea is to lay the foundations for relaxing together and to have good acoustics and an open layout, Huhtaniemi says.

"At the cottage, relaxing and doing things together are far more important than watching television, and these notions are supported by the open, unobstructed views from one area to another." Cosy nooks and soft materials, such as the made-to-measure sofa with its cushions and throws, encourage leisurely downtime and create the perfect setting for family members to curl up with a book or to listen to music. The family is certainly reaping the benefits of this makeover. "Now that the renovation is finally over, we can truly lap in the peaceful and calming atmosphere," the father says. The cottage is a tranquil haven in a winter wonderland, the logs and the snow muffling the sounds of cars and snowmobiles in the distance - you might just hear a faint sound, as someone skis softly past.

 

SPEC CHECK

Designer
Marja Huhtaniemi/ www.radiator.fi

Special Feature
The cottage is characterised by its peace and quiet, as the silver logs function as a sound barrier. Music can be played loudly in the bedroom without the noise carrying to the living room. Nevertheless, the family stresses the importance of spending time together in the family home. The television, for example, is only on for catching up on the news or watching a film when the weather is particularly bad.

Quick Tip
Invest in good lighting - dimmer lights are a good way to create different moods.

Additional reporting by Marja Huhtaniemi