Renovation of one summer cottage in the archipelago had two major objectives; the new interior surfaces needed to blend seamlessly into the old, and the interior had to fit in with the gorgeous view beyond the large windows. Birch plywood provided the means for bringing this specific vision to life.
Interior stylist and designer Minna Jones has been working as an entrepreneur for over a decade. Her educational background in clothing provided a great basis for combining aesthetics, practicality and different types of material in her work. “Furniture is not that different from clothing,” says Jones. Her interest in her job could be described as a mission: In addition to customer projects, Jones also loves to design, decorate and renovate in her spare time.
A few years ago, Jones and her family bought a log cottage in Nauvo. Built in 1973, the 46-square-metre cottage required some renovation and an extension so that the family of five could spend their spare time there all year round. Minna Jones designed a modern two-storey extension for the cottage.
“I wanted the surfaces of the old thin log structures of the cottage and the interior surfaces of the newly constructed wing to have a unified look. In addition, the atmosphere of the interior had to be harmonious with the view from the large windows. “I like surfaces that retain the look and feel of wood. That's why I chose birch plywood as the material. When used indoors, untreated plywood wears well against the weather conditions and moisture of the archipelago. It also acquires a beautiful patina as it ages,” Jones explains. The size of the cottage today is approximately 80 square metres, and the interior walls and ceiling are lined with birch plywood. The old boarded floor of the cottage was too slanted to be repaired, so a new floor was built using pine boards that were treated with lye and waxed to give them a brightened look.
“Birch plywood adds more warmth to modern decor. For example, if the interiors are designed using a lot of white, plywood softens the overall impression,” Jones says. “I love the surface of birch plywood. It is vivid and looks beautiful even without treatment. Plywood is also a traditional Finnish material. For example, Alvar Aalto used a lot of plywood in his designs, which has undoubtedly had an impact on my own taste over the years. I had such a strong vision concerning the use of wood in the interior design of the cottage that I didn't even consider using other alternatives.”
Increasing interest in plywood
Along with the walls and ceiling of the cottage, Jones used birch plywood in the floating countertops and some of the fittings and furniture. The plywood was measured and installed by a carpenter she already knew. “In an old building, the walls may not be completely straight, so having a good carpenter is extremely important,” Jones explains. She has documented the progress of her cottage renovation project in her blog and received many questions about building with wood and using plywood, some of which even came from abroad. “Wood is considered more exotic elsewhere in Europe. In Finland, we see wood as a familiar material that we may sometimes even take for granted.”
However, Jones has observed that trends in interior design are starting to move away from hard and clinical interiors towards wood and natural materials. “Even in Finland, wooden furniture has regained some of its popularity in the last ten years. Untreated wooden surfaces have also become a more common feature in interior design, and log walls are no longer being covered. Painting, waxing or using other surface treatments on wood has decreased in popularity as well,” Jones notes.
Sustainable decor — even for summer cottages
Jones and her family renovated their cottage on a small budget but without making any compromises on quality. Minna Jones explains that she purchased a lot of the furniture and furnishing textiles second-hand.
“In my design projects, I want to consider also the ecological viewpoint. In rural areas, it is not that easy to get rid of purchases that turn out to be a mistake: We only have a small bin for household waste, and hazardous waste presents quite a problem! The Artek catchphrase ‘buy now, keep forever’ really hits home in the countryside.” Jones sees room for improvement in the typical Finnish summer cottage decor.
“Many people in Finland basically use rubbish to decorate the interior of their summer cottage. They drive an expensive car, and yet they use it to bring all of their old or broken things that they don't have the heart to throw away or that no longer fit in with their decor at home to their cottage. Finnish people could use some lessons in decorating their summer cottage! The whole idea of the cottage is to have a place to rest your soul. We have a wonderful, well-functioning recycling system in Finland: You can sell or give away almost anything you no longer like. I don’t understand the logic behind using your summer cottage as a kind of recycling centre for your life,” Jones muses. She promotes sustainable and functional purchases. “Life gets much easier when you don’t constantly have to go around objects, move things out of the way, or clean cobwebs from souvenirs.”
Minna Jones loves traditional and timeless objects. “The plywood surface will still look good 10 years from now. Although the decoration may change, the walls will remain the same. They will darken with age, but that's just life.”
Building a new sauna hut and improving the shore are the next projects on the horizon for Jones. “My list of projects is endless, but the cottage is already in a very good shape!” she concludes.
Photos: Minna Jones