• Designer Aleksi Hautamäki and his partner bought an island in Finland that they called Project Ö.
  • They designed everything themselves and now rent it for between $1800 and $2400 a night.
  • Luxurious island cabins have an indoor and outdoor kitchen, natural hot tub and sauna.

In 2018, after five years of searching on Google Maps, designers Alexei Hautamaki and Mila Silcimak bought their own island complete with a pine forest and three rocky peninsulas jutting out into the sea, making it look like an animal’s claw from above.

“Once I get to the island from my home in Helsinki, I feel a low pulse and slow breathing,” Hautamäki told Insider.

The rocky island that the couple bought sits on the edge of the Archipelago of Finland National Park and now has a luxury off-grid cabin, which they rent to guests for between $1,800 and $2,400 a night. In total, the purchase and construction cost, the couple reported, amounted to one million euros.

Here’s how they found the island and turned it into a peaceful haven for themselves and visitors.

Find an island for sale on Google Maps

Outdoor Jacuzzi by the ocean

External jacuzzi.

Mike Kelly Archmospheres

Utamaki said that when he was younger, he would often take his father’s boat around 2,000 islands in the Archipelago National Park. It was a hobby he carried on when he met Selkimäki six years ago. For three or four weeks at a time, the couple would cruise around the islands, riding on anchor to watch wildlife or have a picnic.

It wasn’t long before they felt the need to buy an island to live in permanently. They started calling real estate agencies, but since the islands for sale were few and far between, Hautamäki decided to turn to Google Maps to find one himself.

Island in Finland from above

Ö project.

Mike Kelly Archmospheres

He roamed the archipelago online in search of uninhabited islands. “We’ve tried real estate agencies too, but the market for buying islands isn’t huge, so I just started looking for empty islands on Google Maps and I’ll contact the owners to see if they’re interested in selling,” said Hautamäkia. “It was a long and slow process because after I found an island that seemed uninhabited, I needed to check the documents at the local city council to see who owned it.”

He eventually found the five-acre island of Skjulskäret. “As soon as we saw the island, we instantly fell in love with it,” said Hautamaki.

The previous owners had purchased a neighboring island and received Skjulskäret as part of their plot of land, and were more than happy to part with it. Hautamäki and Selkimäki made an offer, sold their apartment in Helsinki to pay for the project, and moved into a rented apartment in the city. They closed the property within a few months, and in April 2018, began work on the site.

Modern cabin Inspired by Finnish traditions

House on an island in Finland

The balcony in the Ö project.

Mike Kelly Archmospheres

Hautamäki, designer of spaces for bars and restaurants, and graphic designer Selkimäki knew they wanted to create a cabin that blended in with the landscape. “I looked at the buildings around the archipelago, and was inspired by the traditional design, while trying to make them look as streamlined as possible,” said Hautamäki. Since the archipelago’s coastline is so unique, they didn’t want the cabin to fight the landscape. They also chose materials such as timber that would help camouflage the building.

They started with drawings and putting duct tape on the floor of their rental home to see what the space could look like. Neither of them had designed a house before, so Hautamäki decided to start the project the same way he’d done with any of his clients. “At work, I always think, ‘How do you best serve a customer?’” Hautamaki said. “We treated ourselves as clients and thought about the way we live and the functions the cabin needed.”

outdoor lounge with fireplace

The outdoor lounge area of ​​the Ö project.

Mike Kelly Archmospheres

Project Ö (meaning “island” in Finnish), as they called it, included a master cabin and guest house linked by wooden walkways, an indoor and outdoor kitchen, and a sauna. The facade of the building is thermal pine wood, which will turn gray and become almost the same color as the rocks. “Island life is about spending time outdoors,” said Hautamäkia. “That’s why we wanted to have a fully functional outdoor kitchen.”

Create a home off the grid

Outdoor dining pavilion in Finland

dining suite.

Mike Kelly Archmospheres

Hautamäkia and Selkimäki completed renovations in five months. They worked quickly, so that they could finish before fall, when the weather turns unpredictable and the sun sets at 3 p.m., they hired contractors to install the timber frame and windows, and Hautamäki took three and a half months off from his work. A daily job of constructing walkways, railings, terraces, and interior decorations of buildings. “I had some background in woodworking, but nothing significant,” said Hautamäki. “So it was about asking friends for tips or using YouTube.”

sauna stove in wooden room

sauna stove;

Mike Kelly Archmospheres

They also installed solar panels, and drinking water is filtered from the Baltic Sea. The sauna stove was designed to heat the water in the cabin and serve as a source of underfloor heating, they used peat to insulate the walls – it is a great 100% natural material for sound insulation.

Since the cabin sat on the edge of the archipelago, all materials had to be delivered by boat. “Maybe ten different ships have arrived with materials,” said Hautamäki. “If something is missing from the order, you have to wait for the next ferry.” The pair also had to install a pier so that the builders could easily reach the shore.

Based on the original design

While the bulk of Project Ö was completed by August 2018, the couple continued adding to the original design.

Wanting to enjoy the scenery, they shipped 50 tons of sand to the island and turned the bay between two peninsulas into a private beach. When they found a hollow filled with mud on top of a cliff, they scooped up the ground and made a natural hot tub with the help of a wood-burning stove. “The natural hot tub was just good luck. There was this little pond near the house, which was deep enough to become a hot tub. After a lot of trial and error, we were able to get the water to circulate the right way and heat the tub,” Hautamäkia said.

Because they had permission from the local municipality to build another house on the central peninsula, they began making plans for another renovation.

Currently, the couple brings food to the island from the mainland by boat a few times a week, but now that they are off building full-time, they plan to take some fishing trips and cook what they caught for their food. Outdoor kitchen.

control Out of network coverage life

Kitchen with black cabinets and wooden walls

The kitchen at Project Ö.

Mike Kelly Archmospheres

In July 2022, Hautamäkia and Selkimäki decided to lease Project Ö on the Off Grid Hideways platform. When the island is rented, they return to their apartment in Helsinki. Guests found her through Instagram, where they have 18,700 followers, and Facebook. Both Hautamäkia and Selkimäki manage the accounts. “We first wanted to show the building process in a remote destination like this,” said Hautamäkia. “And since we were still adding to the site, we thought, ‘Why not keep followers updated?’” “.

They have already welcomed families from as far away as Switzerland and Australia.

outdoor lounge with fireplace

The outdoor lounge area of ​​the Ö project.

Mike Kelly Archmospheres

The success of the Ö project as a home and rental property prompted the couple to consider getting a job in off-grid hotels. “So far it has been very rewarding as all the guests said they enjoyed spending time on the island and it has exceeded their expectations. So we hope to have more people in the future who will appreciate what we have done here,” Hautamäkia said.

Until then, former city residents are embracing their new off-grid way of living. “Since I bought the island, I’ve seen sights and heard sounds I never expected,” Hautamäki said. “Just last week, as I was walking among the pine trees, I heard a strange cracking sound, and I realized the pinecones were opening.”

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