As we approach the midway point of our renovation project, I thought it might be helpful to our readers if I provide background information and perspective about what the project is and where it’s headed.
A rintamamiestalo is a “front-line soldier home” constructed by returning WWII soldiers. These detached single-family homes dotted the Finnish landscape as economical housing after the war. The homes were usually drawn on a matchbox or other scrap of paper on the battlefield – formal plans did not really exist until many years later, once some of these homes came into existence.
There are a few variations in the basic design, and each finished house is somewhat distinctive as a result of the builders’ expertise in carpentry. The home style is small, typically only 60-80 sq. meters, (645-860 sq. ft.) and simplistic in design, which reflected the culture and the times. Being relatively uncomplicated, nearly everyone possessed the necessary carpentry skills to build this type of house back then. Building supplies were also rather basic; due to shortages nails were either short or very long, but wood was plentiful.
Without exception, almost all rintamamiestalo were built completely by hand without aid of electric tools. Most, including ours, did not come equipped with indoor toilet/bath. An outhouse has been in use with this house since it was constructed in 1952. Saunas are a very distinctive part of Finnish life and culture. Construction of a large out-building in 1963 included a chicken coop, sauna and shower room, outhouse and tool garage; all of which are still in use today except the chicken coop! We don’t know whether a sauna existed before 1963.
Our rintamamiestalo sits on 3000 sq. meters of property (approximately .75 acres) and includes multiple varieties of mature apple, cherry, and plum trees as well as red, white, and black currant and Finnish gooseberry. That’s a lot of fruit! It’s my goal to tame the property and introduce structured gardening by clearing 12+ years of weed and scrub growth, trimming all the trees back into proper form, and liberating the aesthetic potential hidden under years of neglect.
Our plans have always been to remodel the original structure and bring it into a current/modern standard of living. The home is a well-built 1.5 story – very sturdy. We’re thankful the builder of this old house had adequate carpentry skills! Everything is level and properly constructed. There are thousands of meters of board length in and out, thousands of cubic meters of sawdust as insulation (and wool too), solid wood tongue & groove flooring, and it came with all the elements of a Finnish 1952 house – except no toilet inside!
The house originally had 3 rooms downstairs, living room, kitchen and a small bedroom, with a central chimney stack located in the middle of the house which was standard for all rintamamiestalo. Heating was generated through the use of cylindrical heat-retaining wood-burning stoves in various rooms. Both the living room and bedroom had a cylindrical stove, and the kitchen had a wood-burning oven/range.
Tearing down the wall that separated the bedroom from the living room was my genius idea, and it allowed full circular flow among all the downstairs spaces. We re-purposed the bedroom into a dining room. We added new construction to this old house which includes in-house sauna, toilet & shower, laundry and a guest bedroom on the 1st floor and a master bedroom and walk-in closets on the 2nd floor.
The upstairs consists of a mostly unfinished attic space and a small, insulated bedroom. The insulated room also uses a cylindrical stove as a heat source and has the large block masonry chimney that runs cellar to roof. The insulated room is 16.36 sq. meters / 176.17 sq. ft. – and is where we currently ‘live’ while we do this renovation. When the new construction project is finished, the entire attic space will be re-insulated and re-purposed for living. The original upstairs space will include an office, toilet, and a TV/family room.
We kept the windows, floors, most of the walls, and all but one of the stoves (we removed the stove in the downstairs bedroom/ now dining room) – everything else was demolished. The whole house will be re-designed, re-built and/or re-purposed inside and out to create the re-birth of this old house.
This is our mission. Welcome! Thank you for your interest! Tervetuloa!!
Vanha Talo Suomi ❤
*Architect specs including new construction bring the livable space to: 143 sq. meters / 1540 sq. ft. *