Wednesday, July 31, 2013

STEP LADDER AND OTHER CLEVER AMENITIES

The woodsy summer home (ett torp, torpet, torpet, torparna), owned by five siblings and their families, has many clever accommodations, while preserving rustic and earthy authenticity. These innovative solutions tickle the mind while streamlining daily tasks. Unique and functional hand-crafted items grace shelves and walls. The decorative goal is rustic and beautifully artistic, rather than castoffs from their winter homes. They've thought of everything; they've anticipated needs and wants; they're many steps ahead of the curve.

The concept of "step ladder" is personified (forgive the human metaphor) by innovative access between the first and second floors. Judiciously located at one end of a narrow entrance room, three steps lead to a landing, then seven more steps to the sleeping loft, the angle exactly like a steeply-tilted ladder. The "ladder rungs" are actual stairs--similar to an indoor metal step ladder--except narrower both  in depth and in the space between the steps. To navigate upward requires holding tightly to trim boards and then to higher steps. Returning to the first floor is best accomplished backwards, like coming down a ladder. Just for fun, the final three steps can be accomplished by placing feet in a perpendicular position on each step. The wooden structure is ecological in function and beautiful in construction, incorporating decorative Swedish-red trim as well as safety strips along the front edges.

At the top of the stairs is a window with an accompanying fire escape rope--echoed at the other end of the room. Also near the top landing is a hand-crafted protective fence to prevent children from falling down the staircase. This clever contraption accordions down to floor level, a fully-functioning child barrier. When collapsed again, the fencing angles up into a narrow panel that is out of the way of access to the sleeping loft. 

Although no modern plumbing, the outhouse has a complex yet straight-forward pump and hose system which yields lake water to the outhouse sink as well as to the outdoor shower and the kitchen sink. After each usage and after returning the handle from angled (yielding water) to vertical position, several pulls on the pump handle replace the water used. Wondering where to place my towel when showering, I rounded the corner to find a basket strategically attached to the wall next to the shower. The outhouse door has a clear communication format: a two-sided wooden heart hangs from a nail; green side signals vacancy, red side signals occupied.

The latch on the gas refrigerator is augmented by a tight metal coil stretched toward a screw, guaranteeing a tight closure. The hand-made stucco kitchen stove includes an overhang, a vintage metal wood-burning stove, storage for wood, and, around the corner, a small waist-high fireplace.

Ubiquitous cushions on all seating surfaces attest that the five siblings have arrived at their fifth and sixth decades. Multitudes of candles in a wide range of decorative holders offer a soft glow when night finally falls during Swedish summers. Even during the day, candles are often lit while eating. Meals, which are organized several times during the day, can be eaten in a variety of settings: two outside tables, a long table in the sun porch, or a small dining table in the living room. Variety of venue is valued and accessed.

The main building, the torp, has an addition in the back: a large, well-organized storage shed with necessary tools, dry wood, a variety of fishing and boating gear, and a reservoir for pumped water for kitchen usage. In addition to torpet, two free-standing smaller cabins (en stuga, stuga, stugor, stugorna) offer additional sleeping space. One stuga is the private space for the siblings' mother, who freshly painted the white trim this summer. The second stugan, with two beds, provides additional and private sleeping space--and easier/closer access for mid-night trips to the outhouse.

I spent three days in this idyllic environment, involved in marvelous conversations, introspective contemplation, and reflective writing. 

Heaven on earth! Himlen på jorden.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 31, 2013

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