This cute fairytale-looking DIY sauna is just one of several unique creations of Bjarne Johansen, an experienced Danish master-thatcher. It is a rare craft of building a roof with dry vegetation. Building a sauna 120 miles northwest of Copenhagen sounds like a smart idea though not a completely unique one for Danish climate. What’s unique about this particular project is everything else, starting with the choice of building materials, shape, and automation.
Johansen has been a thatcher and a craftsman for over 35 years. Besides working on ordinary thatching jobs and quirkier projects, he helped thatch part of a set for a play at Copenhagen’s Østre Gasværk theater. More recently, he helped thatch the public art installation Rapture, by Danish artist Thomas Poulsen.
For many people in Northern America, the idea of building an outdoor sauna seems rather opposite to what they dream of – having their own swimming pool. For many, scientifically designed infrared sauna from Amazon is somewhat exotic. Constructing DIY sauna would be like building an Indian sweat lodge, though many homeowners in Alaska have a sauna in their backyard.
For example, after work, most people will enjoy:
In the U.S.: warm shower, a quick dip in a swimming pool, a glass of water with ice afterward.
Northern European way: hot sauna session, cold shower, hot tea afterward.
Why these Northern folks like their saunas so much? They simply know about sauna health benefits and have been enjoying them for centuries, as their ancestors did.
A few of sauna health benefits
Some studies show heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury can be excreted through the skin as well or even better than in urine.
- Improving circulation and oxygenation
A study in Finland shows that frequent use of sauna reduces the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s by 65%.
- Helping with weight loss
Far infrared sauna session of 30 minutes burns more than 600 calories.
Building an outdoor sauna was one of the most fun projects for Johansen on his own property. Before sauna, he constructed a triangular cool-looking greenhouse with a partially thatched roof, as you might guess. However, working on this DIY sauna presented him with more challenges than anything else before.
The garden is the thatcher’s playroom. If I can’t sleep at night, I come up with new ideas, which I then go out and test the next morning. The sauna was one of them.
The idea for building a sauna arose from a discussion with some of Johansen’s thatching students at a craft school in Haderslev, Denmark.
We were discussing what could and couldn’t be done. I claimed that it is possible to produce unusual designs. I have worked on thatched roofs in Holland for several years, and in Holland, they do a lot more with thatched roofs than we do in Denmark. So I knew it would be possible to make this sauna.
Building a sauna poses some difficulties because the humidity and changing temperature make it tricky to construct a stable substrate for the thatch. The round shape also complicates the thatch’s placement. Being the type of person who doesn’t make carefully calculated drawings before starting, Johansen had to adjust constructing plans on the go. That’s why the sauna reflects the influences and materials he found in his local environment – the forest. This sauna really looks like a hobbit house!
When I ran into challenges … I went into my forest and looked at what was there. For example, I might find some skewed piece of wood that might inspire new ideas. Obviously, certain things, such as ventilation, lighting, and the outdoor shower, had to be included. But when I started, I was not aware of what the final result would be.
The materials determined the final design. The sauna’s frame consists of six crooked pieces of oak that Johansen found lying in his garden. That’s why the sauna has such an asymmetrical, organic shape.
Amazingly, the sauna took only two weeks to make including all-important cold-water shower for rinsing off after a steam session.
On the inside, the sauna is paneled with willow and plastered with a mortar containing horsehair.
I spoke to both Finns and Canadians about plastering the inside of a sauna with mortar, and none of them had ever heard of doing it that way, so it was a bit of a gamble. I will never forget the first time I fired up the sauna and just expected everything to collapse onto my head. But it actually held. What’s fun about the interior willow boarding is that when the temperature reaches 176 degrees, there is such a lovely scent of willow in there.
The sauna’s position in the garden makes it look almost like a work of art, but Johansen doesn’t describe his work that way.
I give myself artistic freedom, but everything I create comes with a craftsman’s guarantee. I like to make things that will endure. The sauna will last for at least 40 to 50 years — which means I will have a maintenance-free sauna for the rest of my life.
You wouldn’t expect DIY sauna to be controlled from a cell phone, would you? Of course, Johansen’s sauna has this feature which makes it the 21st-century craftsman piece. Very cool (we mean, hot)!
When I climb down from a roof 20 miles from home, soaked and cold from the rain, I take out my phone and send a message home to turn the sauna on. This way, I can crawl directly into a 176-degree sauna. It is so cool.
* Original pictures & story source: www.houzz.com