Designing a Nordic summer cottage


We bought our very own Nordic summer cottage a year ago. A little red summer cottage in South West Finland. The previous owner was a little old lady who had lived there her whole life but wanted to move to a flat instead.

The cottage is located down a quiet road in a little village with a library, a couple of grocery shops, restaurants and a bank. As we don’t have a car in Finland this was exactly what we wanted. The cottage had had few improvements made since the 1930’s. So we knew it needed work before we could actually stay there for any period of time.

My parents have been incredibly helpful, and I don’t think we would have gone down this route without them. The cottage is not by any means ready yet- but one out of the two biggest jobs, repairing the suspended floors, is now done. The next building project is to make the upstairs habitable.

wood burning cooker

light blue cottage kitchen

photos via here,  here

Nordic summer cottage life

Before we talk about the actual design and inspiration for my summer house decor, I need to clarify a couple of things.

country kitchen with open shelves

grey hallway with rustic stairs

rustic cottage kitchen

photo via here, here and  here

Nordic summer cabin life is a state of mind that can’t be achieved if you surround yourself with dishwashers and general perfection. We aren’t talking about a stylish, minimalistic grey and white summer house with all modern comforts.

I need flaky pastel painted walls, dusty crochet curtains on the porch windows. Mismatch of faded patterns and recycled furniture to truly immerse myself in slow living. It’s not about not having anything to do. It’s all about having to do things that we don’t have to do anymore in our modern city lives. I need to have structure and routines to be able to thoroughly relax.

My parents have a cabin on a semi-deserted island. There are no roads, electricity, running water or central heating. It can only be accessed by boat, and the cabin is on a hill. Anything you want to have there, you get to carry for the last 200 meters.

Days are spent by making fires in the log burning stoves, chopping wood, walking around on smooth rocks, leisurely fishing in hope of freshly caught perch for dinner, going for a boat ride, making simple meals and heating up the sauna. Sitting on the deck after a Sauna, smelling the sea air, listening to the seagulls crying or old songs from a vintage radio. Always something to do, but you never have to do anything immediately.

rustic kitchen with wood burning stove

Nordic summer cottage

Nordic summer cottage

Photos via here, here and here

Designing a Nordic summer cottage

Starting point is a 1930’s wooden cottage. It has a hallway, big kitchen and a room downstairs. Upstairs is an open-plan space. The kitchen has a big old-fashioned, wooden cooking stove, free-standing painted cabinetry from similar era (or maybe from 1950’s) and painted floorboards. The hallway has a brand new wooden floor as the old one wasn’t saveable, with a ladder to the upstairs. ‘Kamari’ as we call it, or the living room, has same floor boards as the kitchen and a tall, round wood burner.

scandi summer house floorplan

What we want to have is a compact, low-maintenance holiday home for the four of us. We don’t need to do much structural work. We will remove the wall between two inner hallways and get a new staircase built. A couple of new windows to maximise light. Upstairs needs everything doing as it’s not habitable at the moment. We want to keep the space open and flowing, so we’ll have just one bedroom and two built-in beds in the eaves.


scandi summer house floorplan

The plan is to use old and existing things as much as possible. I’m hoping to rescue the existing free-standing kitchen. It also needs to be raised to make it more suitable for the taller modern day people.

Inspiration for the decor

Find loads more inspiration of shabby country cottage style from my summer house- pinterest board. Maximalist decor for minimalistic life.

It’s going to look like the polar opposite of my actual home.

red cottage with a white window

photo via here