In weather-hardened Norway, we’re used to adapting to the seasons. Synne and her husband Håvard, who live by the western fjord in Askvoll, where weather extremes affect both homes and people, are a good example of what it means to incorporate seasonal use into gardens and outdoor spaces.
Using stone as the supporting element, they have laid the foundations for cosy nooks, warm baths and hot chocolate around a flaming fire pit. Everything an outdoor space needs to be just as lovely to spend time in as it is to look at.
Making the most of your outdoor space in winter is an art form. For many of us, our terrace or balcony becomes forgotten about once the summer season ends.
Synne, on the other hand, says that she had a clear philosophy when she designed her outdoor space and terrace. She wanted it to serve as a piece of furniture in its own right. She wanted the structure itself to remain beautiful and inviting even once she has tidied away furniture, decorations and other things for winter.
– When you plan in this way, it minimises how much you need to add to the terrace. For example, I’ve chosen to use evergreen plants, which are nice to look at even with a dusting of snow. It’s actually only during the Christmas period that I feel the need to add something extra to the outdoor space in terms of decoration. See Synne and Håvard’s entire spectacular terrace project here.
The beautiful outdoor fireplace and fire pit provide a natural gathering point on the terrace, tempting you out into the winter gloom. Synne and Håvard took on the job of building an outdoor fireplace themselves using Lys Oppdal slate bricks. It was originally intended as a decorative feature that would contribute to the warm atmosphere they wanted to create for their outdoor space.
– We’ve ended up using the fireplace completely differently than we initially imagined. The idea of having a fireplace in the garden was to create a visual impact, allowing us to see the flames from the lounge and the hot tub. But when Håvard made a barbecue grate to cover the flames, the outdoor fireplace instantly became much more useful,” she says. “It was a stroke of genius; suddently we had a place to cook that could fit large pots.
Synne has cooked the traditional Norwegian dish of sheep’s head as well as crab on these flames — and even prepared 15 kilos of venison for 85 guests (!) at her daughter’s wedding. And what’s more; she uses the fire pit in the garden to prepare food for winter celebrations.
– Last year I made our Christmas meal outside. It’s incredibly atmospheric, but also practical. The Christmas meal features so many side dishes that can easily take over the entire kitchen hob. If you take the lamb ribs outside, they can sit there and simmer, as long as you keep an eye on the water level. This way you’ll also avoid cooking smells inside the house, she says. Check out the Minera Slate School and how to build a dry wall of slate for your outdoor fireplace!
Living in Vestlandet, Synne and Håvard rarely see an all-white winter. But when the grandchildren came to visit for Christmas in 2022, the snow came too, and the outdoor space was transformed into a true winter wonderland.
– We set up in front of the fire pit with comfy chairs, sheep fleeces and hot drinks. We popped popcorn on the flames, grilled hotdogs and toasted marsmallows — we even cooked pancakes, says Synne dreamily.
Dreamy is certainly the right word here, because the beautiful outdoor fireplace on Synne and Håvard’s terrace represents everything we want in bitter winter — a modern outdoor space where we can relax and warm ourselves through good conversations.
As a qualified interior designer, Synne is used to working smartly and methodically. This is perhaps particularly important when planning a welcoming and practical outdoor space that can be used even in low temperatures.
– There are many things to consider. There’s what you want and need, and then there’s what type of atmosphere you want to create. But you also need to consider the house and the landscape itself. What do you want to emphasise? For us, it was the nature and stone of the garden, summarises Synne.
Because in Synne’s home, it’s the natural materials that take centre stage. She has achieved this by using wood and stone in the garden to create harmony on a rough, rocky plot. The rocky areas on the property are also very similar in colour to Light Oppdal slate, which the couple chose to use for the entire outdoor area. The slate-paved areas in the garden also have many practical qualities that Synne appreciates.
– Oppdal slate requires very little maintenance. It’s hard-wearing, easy to work with and doesn’t become slippery when it gets cold. It’s also stable and great to walk on, which was exactly what we needed.
When it comes to the outdoor area, Synne wants the focus to be on peace, harmony and zen. Calm waters are never far from view. But even though the decorative water feature is allowed to go into winter hibernation, the couple have still found a way to include a water element in their cosy winter set-up.
– We live our lives according to the seasons. We have hot water in the outdoor shower all year round, and in winter Håvard likes to fire up the hot tub, which also sees plenty of use when the grandchildren come to visit, she says.
For Synne and Håvard, autumn and winter are peak seasons for enjoying life and their outdoor shower and hot tub. A perfect way for winter-cold bodies to find warmth in the late evening, aided by a glass of something bubbly in the lovely outdoor space.
– My philosophy when we planned the terrace and outdoor area was that it should serve as a piece of furniture. It should still be beautiful and inviting even once I’ve removed the things that cannot be left out over winter. This minimises the amount of decor you need to add.”
Synne Lindgren Helle