Bespoke outdoor sauna installation, Camden: Central London
Working with the space
This handsome bespoke outdoor sauna was installed into what we think was probably an old coal shed overlooking the back garden of a wonderful period property in Camden, London. The small space was fairly uneven and a challenge for our design team so we decided to add internal stud work to square off the sauna. The ceiling height was also initially too low for a Finnish sauna to work effectively and safely. Firstly, we had to ensure vertical fire safety distances from the sauna heater were met and secondly, leaving the room its original height would have meant the benches would have sat too high in the room. In turn, this would have left mainly the heads of the sauna bathers enveloped in steam and not their bodies- not a comfortable scenario for any sauna bather. We always ensure to build our saunas to strict Finnish building regulation standards and always adhere to the law of löyly. As a fix we took off the existing lead roof, heightened the structure with bricks and re-located the original door aperture. We couldn’t move the door quite as far as we first hoped because it would have meant breaking into the structural stone that was supporting part of an extension on the back of the house.
After presenting a number of design and material options our client settled on a classic L shaped bench design and chose thermo-pine wood after falling for the knots in its structure. Thermo-pine is a dark, fairly cost-effective sauna-building material and thermally treating the pine greatly increases its durability. He was keen on a full glass door but his wife was keener on a little more privacy so we suggested a compromise - a portal door. It provides ample discretion for sauna bathers inside yet still offers up a lovely view of the garden.
Due to the narrow internal space, we had to work with very specific sauna heater safety tolerances. With that in mind, the compact Narvi NC Electric sauna heater fitted perfectly and it has an ample amount of power to create a great amount of enveloping and satisfying soft steam for the users. Lighting in the backrests and bench lips gives a wonderfully warm glow and highlights the beautiful structure of the thermo pine. By mounting the benches on the two side walls we’ve created a ‘floating’ construction with no unsightly frame underneath.
A drench shower immediately outside the sauna provides the perfect place to switch from the heat of the sauna to cold water and replicates ‘cold plunge’ conditions particularly well. In Finland, saunas are often situated very close to lakes and the regular repetition of hot followed by cold is integral to the authentic Finnish sauna experience. It’s not a shock to us that the client has since commented how amazingly well he sleeps after a prolonged period of regular sauna baths of up to 4 or 5 evenings a week. Relaxation, stress reduction and sleep improvement form their own section in our well-sourced sauna health series which takes a close look at the numerous reasons why you should make Finnish sauna part of your own health regime.