Arctic Hilltop Boutique Hotel rose from ashes to a new bloom

Interior architect Tatu Ahlroos took part in an event for interior architects organized by M.A.D. and shared the fascinating and eventful story of hotel Iso-Syöte – its design, inter design, its burning and resurgence. We return to unbelievable events in this article.

Hotel Iso-Syöte is situated in the city of Pudasjärvi in Northern Ostrobothnia – by the slope of Iso-Syöte, Finlands southernmost fjeld. The magnificent hotel has won the Finland’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel award already ten years in a row.

Tatu Ahlroos became part of the story in 2016, when hotel manager Juha Kuukasjärvi called to tell him about his plan to extend hotel Iso-Syöte by ten new suites. The hotel already had a suite with worldwide reputation, the Eagle View Suite. According to Telegraph it is the world’s fourth romantic hotel suite. The gorgeous two-story space has a glass roof that opens the view for its guests to admire the sky, the sun, and with good luck even northern lights.

Realization of ideas

The inner spaces of the hotel were previously renewed extensively in the 1990’s, so it was clear that also the interior needed enhancements to support the landscape and the friendly service. Because the world-famous suite was fully booked during the high season, there was a demand for ten new suites. To give the guests a free and magnificent view on the surrounding hills, it was decided to build the new suites into an entirely new floor on top of the old rooms. The entrance, the second bedroom and the sauna were built into old rooms on the corridor.

On a walk through the forest, the hotel manager has seen a weather-beaten reindeer fence and thought about building the walls of the suits from it. According to Ahlroos this is a great example of the ecology, the authenticity and locality of the hotel – and strengthens the image of Finland and the hotel as close to nature and authentic, what suits well to international guest.

Customers quickly get an impression of the materials, the tint and the idea from the examples chosen from the internet. However, Ahlroos warns other designers about the risks of Pinterest moodboard: “If everyone downloads the same pictures from the same service, the professionality of the business becomes narrower. The customers may have the same extracts with them in the meetings. That is why it is good to map and use also other sources, such as old materials from libraries.”

During the renovation of the spa area the walls were covered with dark micro cement and the corridors painted in a dark color. Ahlroos tells, that customers are often scared of dark tones in the design phase and at the latest after the painting has started, because people have a strong image of white being the only way to enlarge spaces. That is also why he got a wondering call from the construction site: “Are you really serious with this dark hue?” It wasn’t until all the other elements had found their place that customers figured out everything.

Dark hues dominate also in the spa area, which is, despite initial doubts, a stylish atmospheric choice. This reminds us, that while a designer should always listen to its clients, a justifiable presentation of one’s own strong vision is a big part of professionalism.

The new Bear Cave

It was decided to transform the old vodka bar into a new suite, the Bear Cave Suite. The hotel manager was inspired by a stuffed bear in the corner of a store; it could fit into the interior. However, the idea was abandoned because it would have aroused conflicting feelings in the customers. Though, the bear theme remained, but it was decided that the bear had left its cave, ergo the suite, for others to use.

In the suite you could see marks left by the bear, such as scratch marks on the micro cement of the shower wall, which were made with a real bear’s paw. In the suite were used lots of genuine natural materials such as lichen. The old slate fireplace from the vodka bar was left in place as well.

Plenty of natural materials were used in the warm, soft-toned Bear Cave Suite.

In the Bear Cave Suite, the old slate fireplace (on the left) was left in place, which was to have an unfortunate part in the hotel’s history.

The renovation was completed – and everything burned to ashes

When all renovations were finally completed, it seemed like there would be a moment to sit back. But life surprises: in December 2018, a fire broke out in the hotel, destroying half of the hotel, the new Bear Cave Suite, and the spa area. The fire started in the old slate fireplace from the vodka bar, which had thus been moved to serve the customers of the Bear Cave Suite. The Aurora View Suites and the Eagle View Suite suffered from smoke damage but were saved from the fire.

The fire caused enormous losses and left behind a tragic view – but failed to destroy the dream and ambition of the hotel’s creators.

However, you must try to recover from misfortunes, so it was soon time to start planning a new hotel. Asko Lax, an architect from Pudasjärvi specializing in wood construction, joined the design team, and Ahlroos took part as an interior designer. To benefit from the slope views even better, logs were for the third floor were ordered from Kontiotuote. The hotel was modeled in Archicad.

The new third floor was built from logs. It houses a large panoramic restaurant and lounge, as well as a surrounding balcony. It was completed in spring 2020.

Subtle details and shameless luxury

Lax planned the new roof to be wavy. It was certainly difficult to build, but as Ahlroos points out, sometimes it is good to plan for more than just the usual. Little by little, the new building rose to a new entirety.

The main theme of the new interior – along with colors natural materials – is the idea of a recurring form. For example, the size and shape of the lamps follow the battens of the headboard. Ahlroos emphasizes that the spectrum of different materials should not be a mishmash but an intact entirety. It is possible even if the hapticity of natural materials and the feel of the material are strongly present.

Interior designer Tatu Ahlroos was responsible for the interior design of hotel Iso-Syöte – and he got to do his best, what can be seen in the final result. The main themes were the frequency of the shape as well as natural materials and hues.

The HVAC installations have a significant impact on the interior designer’s word – often mainly in form of worries. Ahlroos encourages to think about how they could be used creatively in the interior design. For example, the encapsulation can be combined with the visual theme of the interior.

The large fireplace in the lobby has Tulikivi stones, which have also been used in the lobby counters. The stones continue the recycling theme as they are a surplus from the manufacturer. The history of the hotel can be sensed in the smoky pattern of the carpet, as a reminder of the fire. The furniture in the lobby is mad by Italian Arper, while Finnish know-how has been utilized in the rooms and the seminar room. The image of the lobby reveals the main colors of the interior very well: brown, dark grey and copper in different hues.

Of course, also a Phoenix Suite was designed as part of the new hotel, to symbolize a new beginning and the rise from the fire. According to Ahlroos, more black and dark colors than “allowed by law” was used deliberately in the Phoenix Suite. The suite was designed with the attitude that “even a Saudi prince would be happy with it” – pomp and luxus above all. The Phoenix Suite is also connected to the Superior Suite next door, which is intended to be used by the servants of princes and other wealthy people.

The uniqueness of the Phoenix Suite is the black shower area, which is perhaps the most photographed place in the hotel. It has gained a lot of visibility, among others, on numerous social media forums. A special, different shower experience is guaranteed.

The sleeping area of the Aurora View Suite was raised to open the view over the glass balcony with an outdoor jacuzzi. The walls are made of recycled materials: an old reindeer fence. The use of natural materials continues, among others, in lichen surfaces and twig lamps.

Look at more stunning pictures


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About Eeva Vierros

Eeva Vierros is a Digital Marketing Designer at M.A.D. She has a background in Communications and Photography and a Master of Arts degree in Photography from the Aalto University of Industrial Arts. She has an eye for fine photos and pictures and she can easily find new perspectives on things. She is enthusiastic about photography, photojournalism, art, news and technology.
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