Koto's first off grid eco-sauna clings to Irish headlands

Wide view of Löyly sauna cabin
Löyly – the off-grid sauna cabin, by Koto Design, 2019.
(Image credit: Photography: Joe Laverty)

Design and architecture studio Koto has launched its first ‘off grid cabin sauna’. Löyly, a naturally-powered wood-fired sauna, was a year in the works, and sparks a new direction for the studio; which hopes to produce a long line of off grid structures, and eventually homes.

Established in July 2018, Koto was formed by Jonathan Little (previously of Snøhetta), and Zoe Little, on a mission to disseminate their love of the great outdoors through highly crafted cabins and small-scale bespoke architectural commissions. After spending a decade living in Oslo, the pair were keen to acknowledge the enduring aesthetic of Scandinavian design, and the key part it has to play in the Nordic lifestyle. The duo – who are now based in North Devon, UK – recently opened a second office in Belfast, headed up by their third founding partner, architect Theo Dales.

Koto Sauna

(Image credit: Photography: Joe Laverty)

In line with its Nordic sensibility, Koto has a keen ‘fabric-first’ approach to energy efficiency, with the aim of providing long term low-energy performance, emphasising low-toxicity, natural and sustainable materials, as demonstrated by the Löyly sauna.

Seen here pictured in the rugged reaches of Donegal, Ireland, at boutique bed and breakfast and ‘headland hideaway' Breac House, Löyly not only uses wood as a primary material, but also employs wood-based products throughout the construction process. ‘These materials sequester carbon within the fabric of the building such that we can deliver carbon negative construction,' Zoe explains.

Koto picks its manufacturing partners to match. ‘We strongly believe that the construction industry needs to pay careful attention,' she continues. ‘Not just to reducing the energy consumption of new buildings but also, to the short term carbon impact that using carbon intensive materials in the construction of new stock can have.’

Its an innovative model that is easier on the environment, the eye, and – the designers hope – the mind. Their form of therapeutic architecture revolves around the Nordic concept of Friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv), an expression that translates to ‘open-air living’. Norwegian poet Ibsen described the term as the value of spending time in the remote outdoors for spiritual and mental wellbeing. The thinking? After a day digesting the extreme Donegalian landscape, fold yourself inside the hygge-heavy cabin to warm through.

Löyly – the off-grid sauna cabin, by Koto Design, 2019

(Image credit: Photography: Joe Laverty)


For more information, visit the Koto website

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.