Norwegian Forest Family Hideaway

In winter, the cabin looks like it belongs in a miniature snow globe, flanked by white-sugar-iced trees

Called Mylla Hytte – after nearby pristine Lake Mylla and the Norwegian word for hut, cabin, or cottage – this little home in a fairy-tale forest measures 940 square feet. It is pared-down but just large enough to be a peaceful retreat for a family of four, a trusted shelter from storms and wind and as close as the family can get to living on the land itself.

Designed as a mountain getaway for a geologist, his wife and their two children (they moved from Houston for his work), the simple structure sits on a hilltop that is staggering in its pure beauty. Cows graze, and the soil is rugged and rich. It has stood the test of time.

The blueprint was influenced by the fertile landscape. “The house breaks apart the traditional rectangular cabin building plan into a pinwheel, which radiates into the landscape to frame four distinct views: the lake, the rolling hillside, the sky and a towering forest,” says Norwegian-born Casper Mork-Ulnes, whose architecture firm has offices in San Francisco and Oslo.

As Mainers invest in fishing camps and Southerners in beach cottages, it’s a tradition for Norwegians to have second pocket homes like this in isolated areas, and to pass them down in the family.

This one is cloaked simply in untreated heart pine planks, which will register the seasons as they gray and weather with time. The compact interior, finished in plywood, can house up to 10 people, with three dedicated bedrooms and two full baths. Custom plywood furniture, including bunk beds, couch, dining table and shelves, echo the minimalist approach.

The architecture team – which includes Lexie Mork-Ulnes, a fifth-generation Californian – prides itself on projects conceived with Scandinavian practicality and Northern California’s ‘can-do’ spirit of innovation. The designers practice both playfulness and rigorous restraint. Hence, the simple couch in this cabin is formed from two mattresses, which can be separated for overnight guests. Under the small glass-door fireplace, there’s a built-in cubby to store stacked firewood.

The team used sturdy concrete in the bathrooms and for the kitchen countertops. Outdoor patios offer shelter from the elements. The exterior doors are solid pine, like the trees outside. At night, the windows glow with soft light, like a painted picture in a children’s book. In all seasons, the star show is enchanting.

When frosty flakes fall, the magic of simplicity is heightened – family and friends are safely inside, après-ski – warm, dry and connected to each other, rather than devices.

Photography Courtesy of Bruce Damonte.

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