Features of smart saunas

By Michelle Kelly | 11 Apr 2011

Guest post by Martin Zibauer

In the May issue of Cottage Life, Susan Nerberg outlines key features to include in your sauna design. Having grown up in Sweden, with a cottage in Finland, Susan has had ample sauna experience. She’s even tried a traditional savusauna, or smoke sauna, where an open fire in a chimneyless building heats a pile of rocks. After the fire is put out, and the smoke clears, the bathers enjoy the residual heat.

Though a sauna can be as simple as a room with a fire, there’s much you can do to improve the experience and make the sauna more efficient. If you’re hungry for more design ideas, Michael Nordskog’s new book, The Opposite of Cold, looks at the history and design of saunas in North America. The book focusses on the area surrounding the western Great Lakes–northwestern Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan–where many Finnish immigrants settled, starting slowly in the mid-19th century, with large groups arriving in Canada in the 1920s and 1950s.

Click here to view the gallery.

The many photographs in the book, some archival but most by Aaron W. Hautala, depict a full range from humble cottage sauna shacks (I mean shack in the most affectionate sense) to elaborate rooms in modern spas. Architect David Salmela’s saunas feature prominently (and he offered Susan some tips for her article). He’s built more than thirty saunas, including the Emerson Sauna, which won a prestigious American prize, The National AIA Honor Award for Architecture. It’s part of the photo gallery above.

We have three copies of The Opposite of Cold to give away (but you can also find it in bookstores or order it online from the usual suspects). For a chance to win the book, leave a comment below–just tell us how you feel about the age-old cultural conundrum for North American sauna owners: Is nudity in your sauna required (it’s traditional), banned (no one wants to see Grandpa or fourth-cousin Margaret in the buff) or optional? Cheekiness encouraged.