Finnish born and bred, I have lived in New Zealand for 15 years, but remain strongly attached to my Nordic roots. The only Finnish word to make it into everyday English is ‘sauna’. But what it is, is often misunderstood, and how much it means to Finns, is often underestimated.
While many people think of saunas as a luxury, in Finland they are an everyday necessity, an integral part of their culture. For almost every Finn, the sauna is the most important feature of their home, and the one most closely associated with their well-being.
Besides purifying mind and body, the sauna is where Finns socialise and do business, and traditionally prepare for births, deaths and marriages. In a country of about 5.5 million residents, there are an estimated 2 to 3.2 million saunas.* Which means that a Finnish builder, like me, has a lot of experience in designing and installing saunas!
Here I am, more than 40 years ago, enjoying traditional au naturel bathing in my grandparents’ sauna at their place in Lahti, near Lake Alanen, Finland.
The bathing involves either a gentle or brisk beating with a traditional vasta or vihta – a tied bundle of fresh birch twigs or a birch branch whisk – which aids circulation. And then … a roll in fresh, powdery snow, a dive into an icy lake or river, a dip in a cooling tub … whichever is on hand!
This sauna ritual has been performed across Finland for thousands of years, ever since the first settlers dug a ditch in the ground and heated a pile of stones, then covered it over with animal skins or a turf roof to create a primitive sauna cabin. Water was thrown on the hot stones along with leaves or herbs to emit waves of fragrant vapour and heat, or löyly, as is still done today.
Each sauna is considered to have its own character; its own distinctive löyly. The better the löyly, the more enjoyable the sauna, and families are fiercely proud of their saunas. For centuries, the sauna was a separate building, and then, in the 20th century, Finns started attaching them to the house itself. Today, practically every Finn enjoys a sauna at least once a week, and while on vacation at their summer cottage, many heat the sauna every day.
I am a Scandinavian trained- and qualified builder who grew up with saunas being a regular and indispensable part of my life, and I acquired unmatched knowledge about their design and structure. Now living in New Zealand, I am keen to follow my love for Finnish sauna culture and share it with others, allowing them to enjoy the many benefits of a sauna as a place of relaxation, health, cleanliness and pureness.
My building background along with my knowledge of what is required to ensure an excellent sauna installation and an optimum sauna experience, are the driving force behind FinnSauna. My aim is to pass this on to my NZ clients so they can enjoy and appreciate an aesthetic and truly relaxing Finnish sauna experience.
Having built many saunas over my working life, I realise there is no such thing as a standard sauna. Building a sauna is a personal experience for every client, and the custom design and installation takes into account your goals, requirements, style and space. I will ensure that my expertise combined with your vision creates a sauna you are delighted with.
*There are at least 2 million saunas according to official registers. The Finnish Sauna Society believes the number can actually be as high as 3.2 million saunas; https://www.sauna.fi/in-english/sauna-in-finland-today/.