A Perfectly Spartan Swedish Cabin by Tove Fogelström
“Scandinavia has a strong connection to summer houses,” says architect Tove Fogelström, by way of introduction. “Many Swedes have them.” Including her mother, who eight years ago bought property in Norrtälje, an hour’s drive north of Stockholm—where Fogelström lives and practices at the office of Varg Arkitekter. When she began spending lots of time there, her mom encouraged Fogelström to build her own home on the grounds. Single at the time, she began drawing plans for a small summer cabin. “It would only be for me, just big enough for a bed and a table.”
Situations change. A few months before construction started, Fogelström met her partner; they subsequently had two boys, now 3 and 1 ½ years old. So her project grew to encompass a trio of structures oriented around a pine deck. Only one is for living: a diminutive 366-square-foot multitasking room. Another is dedicated to storage; the third houses a study and guest accommodations.
As for construction materials, Fogelström and her builder-friend, architect Erik Kolman Janouch, chose utilitarian plywood panels, the type used in local barns and to board-form concrete. “The house wasn’t supposed to be pretty!” she laughs. Black-painted wood frames prevent water seepage at the seams while conferring a graphic quality.
Fogelström based the interiors on one material: birch-veneer plywood. Waxed and oiled, it clads all surfaces. That includes cabinetry, of which there’s a copious amount to store clothing, toys, and kitchen gear—such as the hot plate sitting in for a stove. “We spend all our time outside and do most of the cooking at the barbecue on the deck,” she notes.
Inside, the family dines at a table fabricated from a leftover plywood panel. “It’s narrow, so we sit close together,” Fogeltröm says. A plaster-coated concrete column with double-sided fireplace is all that separates areas for dining, sitting, and sleeping. The built-in banquette serves as a bunk for the boys; the adjacent bed is for Fogelström and her partner. What’s missing from the scheme? An indoor bathroom—and a shower. For the latter, the family visits mom.