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Scandinavian Sauna

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We didn’t think that after we completed the banya, we’d ever get the opportunity to design and build another. Fortunately, a client wanted to build over the remains of a collapsed guest house on his property at Lake Dunmore, and we had the perfect suggestion. Only twenty minutes from his home in Middlebury, Adam’s vacation house on Lake Dunmore was an easy escape during the summer months, but wasn’t used much during the winter. The addition of a sauna transformed the property into a place Adam and his family can now relax year-round.

We modeled this sauna after the Russian Banya we had completed in 2015. In this traditional, European style of wood-fired saunas, the fireplace is actually built right into the walls. More complex than a modern sauna, this style requires far more careful planning and execution of the interior structure that houses the heated sauna space. To achieve this, we had to pour interior concrete walls after the exterior walls had already been erected. We created molds to form each of the thick walls, and used the crown of the roof as an opening to pour bucketfuls of concrete into the molds.

Although the interior is complex, from the exterior the building initially appeared simple and square. Because it was a rather unusual building, we felt it was appropriate to give it a more unusual appearance, rather than sticking to the traditional Vermont lake-house vernacular. We covered the exterior with vertical shiplap, painted a striking matte black. The result is a modern silhouette that stands out against but still complements the surrounding forest landscape.

An unusual structure like a sauna provided a challenge and opportunity to be innovative in a different way than we were used to. In this case, prior experience and freedom from our client lended itself to greater creativity, and the finished product exceeded everyone’s expectations. ∆

Olivia Tubio