Light and space in multiple zones

ARTICLE The historical parstuga inspired Martina Eriksson’s design for Villa Lake/Streich. Temperature zones and rooms that can expand outside save energy and add extra interest.

Salthamn, on the rocky west coast of Gotland, is the location of Martina Eriksson’s modern take on a classic Swedish parstuga, currently home to Lisa Streich, Joe Lake and their three children. Two volumes of different heights are connected by a third volume that forms a middle zone.

»I’ve taken this design from the old countryside parstuga. It appears across Dalarna, where I’m from, as well as in Skåne, Hälsingland and on Gotland, and is based around two volumes, with one or two storeys,« explains Martina Eriksson.

In these »cottages of two halves«, you usually enter into an enclosed central hall that makes sure heat never escapes out into the cold winter air.

»So in this case, I’ve placed a middle zone between the two sides. And in a parstuga, you tended to only heat one side of the house, with the room on the other side heated as required, like for parties or weddings,« says Martina.

Villa Lake/Streich reflects this idea, with one part just for occasional use. The lower cube has a guest room downstairs and the parents’ bedroom upstairs, while the taller cube houses a social space with living room and kitchen. From there, stairs run up to the top floor, with the children’s bedrooms and a play area. A large bathroom sitting above the central section provides access to the master bedroom.

»Both Lisa and Joe’s parents live abroad, so they often come over for quite long stays, but there are also big gaps in between stays. So the guest room can be mothballed, and then I’ve put Joe and Lisa’s bedroom on the top floor. Here the temperature can be turned down for a cool night’s sleep. In the other building, the temperature can be kept a little higher, helped by a fireplace just like in the old cottages.«

The house draws on ideas about how Swedish homes were built in the past, with each function having different temperature requirements. Not like now, when very large houses are built and everything is heated the same, according to Martina Eriksson. She prefers to design houses where sliding doors regulate how much of the space is used and heated.

In this case, the kitchen and living room are open-plan and double-height, reaching up to the roof. The kitchen, with its units and attractive open shelving in the gable window, is relatively small – but opposite the glass doors stands an outdoor kitchen. This is also part of the temperature-related design, as well as providing a social space for warmer days.

»The kitchen can be extended outwards, providing storage and somewhere for the recycling bins. Because surely not everything needs to be kept at 22 degrees? Building is expensive, so if some things can live elsewhere, like they used to in days gone by, in simpler buildings or spaces, that can bring the cost down.«

Martina Eriksson speaks warmly about the multi-building approach of old, where each building had its own function and temperature. She advocates thinking beyond large houses containing everything in one space, all heated to the same level, as they are expensive to build and to run. She also works with semi climatised zones, such as earth cellars and orangeries, that use the ground’s capacity for cooling or heating. This allows for the home to expand, and Villa Lake/Streich is already prepared for the addition of more buildings as the need arises. However, Martina is clear that temperature is not just about cost:

»I also see temperature variations as a quality. Being able to feel, when you enter the different functions, that they are adapted not just in terms of appearance and materials but also temperature. And making the garden part of the living space, like when you go to the earth cellar and get that autumnal feeling... Everything you design should be architectural and create an experience. It adds to life.«

Villa Lake/Streich can thus be considered the first instalment ready to be added to: a base station made entirely of pine, oiled in places but mainly untreated. In the kids’ section, the curtained box beds in the simple cabins of Dalarna prompted the idea of sleeping alcoves, which are like a private room within a room. This feeling is accentuated by the different ceiling heights, and Martina Eriksson has also taken great care to create intermediate zones.

»I like zones between the most private and the social spaces, where you can be present but still slightly removed. Somewhere to read, play or sit with your computer. So when the children emerge from their beds, they can do things on the landing and at the same time have contact with the kitchen below and the social space with its sofa, piano and books. But there are also nooks to hide away in.«

Whether alone or with others, everywhere offers magnificent views through the pines and on to the Baltic Sea, particularly the social space with its impressive windows.

»The aim was to emphasise the sense of living among the trees. Lisa and Joe moved here from Berlin, desperate for some trees, and the pines are good because they let light through. Plus they catch the wind,« says Martina Eriksson.

The windows also allow the play of shadows from the trees to become part of the interior. Lisa Streich, a composer, and Martina Eriksson designed the windows together.

»Lisa helped to create the window arrangement, with the shadows and the window bars forming a kind of musicality. The idea comes from La Tourette, a convent designed by Corbusier. The windows were made by the musician and mathematician Xenakis, and I was really struck by the way he took a particular musical system and ‘composed’ a work comprising shadows, window bars and light. It was like a piece of ‘frozen music’, and that’s what I went for here, too.«

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