It isn’t a national requirement to have a second home in Norway, but nearly everyone does. Modest cabins dot the country’s wilderness, poised and ready for city-dwellers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Split View Mountain Lodge is one such spot; a modern gem that is neatly nestled on a slope near the village of Geilo, a popular ski destination in Hallingdal Valley in central Norway – one of the first winter resorts in the country and home to some spectacular holiday houses. A mecca for outdoorsy types, the area is also known for its white-water rafting, hiking, canoeing and mountain biking –the breath-taking Rallarvegen route a particular draw.
It was the promise of this connection to nature that attracted a busy family with three young children to Geilo to build their dream cabin four years ago. Designed by renowned practice, Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter (RRA), the timber-clad lodge is a hideaway for both winter and summer months.
“I think it’s quite rooted in Norwegian tradition and mentality that we have to have a second home, a little cabin either in the mountains or in the forest where you spend your vacations with family,” says one of the project architects, Sigurd Nørsterud.
The family was clear in their needs: four bedrooms, guest quarters, separate living and dining areas and plenty of room for the children to play. It needed to be a home away from home, not just for longer holidays, but also weekend jaunts for peace and quiet.
RRA has a reputation for homes that are innovative and beautiful, yet discreet; initially the brief was for quite a large construction, says the architect, but RRA persuaded the owners to considerably reduce the footprint, which is 130m2, and in the process create a second home that is at once magical and incredibly practical.
The defining feature is a timber skin of Norwegian pine, which over time will take on a silvery patina. “Part of the idea of using wood was to carry forward this Norwegian tradition of timber construction and connecting with the outside,” explains Nørsterud.
The lodge’s interior is lined with high-grade joinery timber, virtually knot-free, to give a smooth, sleek finish. Accessed by a door on the lower level of the house, an ascending staircase leads up to the main living quarters via a cast concrete mudroom where the family can take off their ski gear on the way in from the slopes.
Once up onto the main floor, there is a series of spaces for the family to be together, or to relax solo. Reading nooks with views are tucked here and there. At the core, where separate wings branch off from the main body of the house, is the kitchen. Its custom-made countertop of glass-fibre reinforced concrete is cantilevered into the centre of the space, and anchored by a double-sided fireplace.
“I think the kitchen is the natural heart of the building. It’s both the junction place of all the wings, and it’s considered to be the centre of family activity,” says Nørsterud. Steps lead further up into the two lounge spaces, which give spectacular views of the ski slope through two triple-glazed walls of windows.
Structurally, the main challenge was hiding all of the necessary beams of the architecture, while keeping it clean. “It was difficult,” says Nørsterud, “but we found a joiner from the local area in Hallingdal who is extremely skilled. He was a perfectionist.”
One of the clever aspects of the design is that although the lodges’ two big living spaces – the lounge and the dining room – are the focal point as one drives up to the house, they are still private and out of view.
The interior scheme has been kept simple; built-in seating and cushions, modern furniture and carefully placed accessories lend a light, Scandi feel. Nørsterud agrees: “Traditionally, Norwegians are quite toned down people. The simple interior design is part of that idea, although a contemporary expression of it,” he says. “I think the craftsmanship is the main point about this house. Luxury isn’t necessarily about having a lot of things, or a very big cabin. It’s about finding beauty in simplicity and the quality of finish,” he adds.
In the main wing, sliding doors lead into three bedrooms for the children, each with custom-designed bunk beds for visiting friends, and an austere master bedroom, which has an extruded, gable-shaped window for views of the night sky. A bathroom and a compact sauna are practical, yet in keeping with the timber theme. “There is nothing standard in this house,” chuckles Nørsterud. At the far end, next to an oversized window, is the ‘youth lounge’, perfect for games and hot chocolates before bed, and a mezzanine filled with toys is perched above.
A separate annex for guests, cleverly designed to fit a mezzanine bed over a compact bathroom, sits toward the back of the plot. In between the two buildings, a patio is the perfect spot to take in the last minutes of the afternoon sun.
All in all, the lodge has been everything the family hoped for. There is nothing unnecessary – everything has its place and purpose – and yet, no one could argue that it isn’t magnificent. “I think they’ve definitely found uses for the spaces that we’ve created for them,” states Nørsterud.
The gaping views are a particular victory, he feels. “Having views to the outside is a very contemporary idea. Although Norwegians have a connection with nature – older cabins wouldn’t have these kinds of views. That was one of the clients’ wishes, to have a good relationship with the outside.” Mission accomplished.