How a Couple bought a Finland island that they rent out for $2,400 per night
- Designer Aleksi Hautamäki and his partner purchased an island in Finland they call Project Ö.
- They designed everything and rent it out for $1,800 to $2,400 per night.
- The island’s luxurious cabin features an indoor and outdoor kitchen, natural spa, sauna, and a natural hot tub.
In 2018, after a five-year search on Google Maps, designers Aleksi Hautamäki and Milla Selkimäk bought their own private island complete with a pine forest and three rocky peninsulas that jut out into the sea, which make it look like an animal’s claw from above.
“As soon as I arrive on the island from my home in Helsinki, I feel my pulse lower and breathing slow down,” Hautamäki told Insider.
The couple purchased a rocky island on the border of Finland’s Archipelago National Park. It now houses an off the grid luxury cabin that they rent to guests for $1,800 to $2,400 per night. According to the couple, the total cost of the purchase and build-out was 1 million euros.
Here’s how they discovered the island and made it a peaceful getaway for visitors and themselves.
Google Maps allows you to find an island for sale
When he was younger, Hautamäki said, he would often take his father’s boat around the 2,000 islands in the Archipelago National Park. It was a hobby that he continued when he met Selkimäki six years ago. The couple would cruise around the islands for three to four weeks, stopping at anchor to see the wildlife and picnic.
They felt the need to buy an island to live on permanently. They started by contacting property agencies, but as islands for sale are few and far between, Hautamäki decided to turn to Google Maps to find one himself.
He searched the Archipelago online to find uninhabited islands. “We tried property agencies as well, but the market for buying islands is not huge, so I just started looking for empty islands on Google Maps and would contact the owners to see if they’d be interested in selling,” Hautamäkia said. “It was a slow and tedious process, because once I found an uninhabited island, I had to go through the documents at the local town hall to determine who it belonged to.”
He eventually found the five-acre island of Skjulskäret. “As soon as we saw the island, we immediately fell in love with it,” Hautamäki said.
The previous owners had bought a neighboring island and received Skjulskäret as part of their parcel of land, and were more than happy to part with it. Hautamäki and Selkimäki put in an offer, sold their apartment in Helsinki to pay for the project, and moved into a rental apartment in the city. They closed on the property in a matter of months and started work on it in April 2018.
A modern cabinInspired by Finnish tradition
Hautamäki, a spacial designer for bars and restaurants, and Selkimäki, a graphic designer, knew they wanted to create a cabin that would blend into the landscape. “I looked at the buildings around the archipelago, and I took inspiration from the traditional design, while trying to make it look as streamlined as possible,” Hautamäki said. They didn’t want their cabin to be in conflict with the unique shoreline of the archipelago. They also selected timber as a material that would camouflage their building.
They began with sketches and taped the floor of their rented apartment to visualize the space. Neither of them had designed a home before, so Hautamäki decided to start the project in the same way as he would for any of his clients. “At work, my first thought is always to ‘How can I best serve the customer?'” Hautamäki said. “We treated ourselves like customers and thought about how we lived and what functions the cabin needed.”
Project Ö (meaning “island” in Swedish), as they called it, included a main cabin and guest house linked by wooden walkways, an indoor and outdoor kitchen, and a sauna. The façade of the building is thermal pine, which will turn gray and almost become the same color as the rocks. “The island life is all based on spending time outdoors. This is why we wanted to have a fully-working outdoor kitchen,” Hautamäkia said.
A home that is off-the-grid
Hautamäkia and Selkimäki finished renovations in five months. They worked quickly to finish renovations before the fall, when weather changes can make it difficult and the sun sets at 3:00 p.m. They hired contractors to install the wooden frame and windows, and Hautamäki took a three-and-a-half month sabbatical from his day job to build the walkways, railings, terraces, and building interiors. “I had some background in woodwork, but nothing major,” Hautamäki said. “So it was a matter of asking friends for tips and using YouTube.”
They also installed solar panel and filter the Baltic Sea water. The sauna stove was designed to heat the water for the cabin and act as the source of underfloor heating, and they used peat for wall insulation — it’s a 100% natural material that’s great for soundproofing.
All materials had to be shipped by boat as the cabin is situated on the archipelago’s edge. “I had probably 10 different crafts that arrived with material. If anything is missing from the order, you have to wait for the next ferry,” Hautamäki said. Hautamaki said that the pair had to build a pier so that the builders could easily get to shore.
Based on the original design
While the bulk of Project Ö was finished by August 2018, the couple has continued to add to the original design.
They wanted to have fun with the natural landscape and shipped 50 tons of sand over to the island. The bay between the two peninsulas was transformed into a private beach. They discovered a mud-filled hollow at the top of the cliff and dug it out with the help a wood-powered stove. “The natural hot tub was luck. The pond was small enough to make a hot tub. After a lot of try and error, we managed to get the water to circulate in the right way and heat up the tub,” Hautamäkia said.
And because they have permission from the local municipality to build another house on the middle peninsular, they’ve started to whip up plans for another renovation.
The couple currently bring food to the island by boat once a week. However, now that they aren’t building full-time, they plan to go on a few fishing trips and cook what’s caught in their outdoor kitchen.
Monetizing off-the-grid life
In July 2022, Hautamäkia and Selkimäki decided to rent out Project Ö on the remote-homes platform Off Grid Hideways. They return to Helsinki when the island is rented. They have been found by guests through InstagramThey have 18,700 followers at. Facebook. Both Hautamäkia and Selkimäki run the accounts. “We wanted to show the process for building in remote destinations like this. We are still adding to the site so we thought, “Why not keep the followers up to date?” Hautamäkia said.
They have already hosted families from Australia and Switzerland.
The success of Project Ö as a home and rental property has the couple considering a career in off-the-grid hoteling. “So far, it has been very rewarding. All the guests said they have enjoyed their time on the island and it has even exceeded all of their expectations. So hopefully we will get more people in the future who appreciate what we have done here,” Hautamäkia said.
The ex-city slickers of the past are now embracing their new off grid lifestyle. “Since I bought the island, I’ve seen sights and heard sounds I never expected,” Hautamäki said. “I heard a strange crackling sound last week as I was walking among the pine trees. I later realized that it was the pine cones opening.”
Correction: November 3, 2022 — An earlier version of this story misstated that Ö means “island” in Finnish. Ö means “island” in Swedish.
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