Jump to main content Jump to navigation Jump to footer

Reuse of 100-year-old Otta roofing slate was the icing on the cake

En hytte med gjenbrukte trematerialer og gylden Ottaskifer på grunnmuren. Dørene er åpent inn til spisestuen.

With the growing focus on climate and nature, and the environmental challenges we face, it’s a paradox that we’ve never spent so much money on renovating and building holiday cabins as is currently the case. The most environmentally friendly choice you can make is to use what you already have, but for many of us, it’s hard to imagine how we can get the result we want without buying everything new. The term ‘recycling’ may give the impression of something old and slightly worn out, but this doesn’t need to be the case.

Text and photo: Marianne Vigtel Hølland

A balancing act

In 2009, we bought a small, rather old, wooden cabin in the mountains. It had no water, winter access road or room for guests.


After some years of simple living in the cabin, civilisation caught up with us and we got both a winter access road and an offer to put in water. Then it was a natural step to renovate and extend the cabin.


The project was planned, designed and built according to slow design principles. There was no question of pulling down the old wooden cabin, and losing its soul, even though that would have simplified the building process. On the contrary, we were determined to look after the quirky old wooden building and wanted the new extension to represent a visual break, with a tighter, more modern expression, without detracting from the natural charm of the old wooden cabin.


It was a bit of a balancing act and one of the strategies we used to bind the two cabin structures together visually was to use recycled materials. For example, almost all of the furniture was built on the spot with materials that were more than a hundred years old.

Cabin with extensive euse of materials. Golden rusty roofing slate from Otta Pillarguri in Norway is used as facade and as crazy paving at the entrance.
Rusty slate from Otta, Norway on a foundation wall and as a stepping stones. A milk bucket with straw stands on a table in the foreground.

A new lease of life for one hundred-year-old roof tiles from Otta

Externally, we clad the cabin in ore-pine treated with iron vitriol, which soon gave the cabin a greying and weather-beaten appearance. We built a large sliding door to close a panorama window constructed from an ancient panel from a nearby barn that was to be demolished anyway. These elements contributed to giving the cabin the sense of belonging that we wanted.


We nonetheless felt that the cabin seemed to ‘hover’ a little on the ground, as if it needed more reinforcement. The cabin is built on a slope and had quite high foundations at the front.


We tested different types of facing stone in an attempt to give the cabin the weight it needed, but nothing seemed to work.


Then we fell over a sales ad with old Otta slate roofing tiles and it all fell into place. Otta is a unique type of slate that is only found in Gudbrandsdalen. It’s a dark, almost black slate with a beautiful sheen, which, when exposed to wind and weather, attains the rust-red quality for which it is known.

Otta Pillarguri slate on the foundation of a modern cabin made of recycled materials. Outdoor area with flagstones and joints with grass and tall straw.

Old traditions in new ways

There is a long tradition for using Otta slate in Lillehammer and Gudbrandsdalen Slate roofs have been laid since the 1400s and if you drive through the valley on the E6 you can’t avoid seeing all the beautiful historical farm buildings with their characteristic slate roofs. See this beautiful slate roof at the architect’s cabin!


It was wonderful to get inspiration from this proud tradition! We drove to Lillehammer, filled the trailer and bought mortar and bricklaying tools at the same time.


That autumn, we rolled up our sleeves and after many long weekends, the foundation wall was covered with the most beautiful slate tiles, full of lives lived, moss and that warm appearance for which Otta slate is so famous. That was the icing on the cake for us.


The thickest slabs were used as paving stones around the cabin and on the steps up to the entrance. And with that, the extension became one with the landscape and we felt that the two different buildings looked good together.
It feels good to know that we were able to contribute to preserving good materials that would otherwise have gone to waste. We also made a good environmental choice by limiting consumption and our environmental footprint without compromising on the end result. And we got our homogeneous new cabin, with lovely rustic details that really stand out.


Sometimes (quite often as far as I’m concerned), the old, recycled materials give that extra aesthetic lift. It’s not difficult; it just takes a little bit longer.

A path of stepping stones in brown slate over a lush meadow. The slate slabs are old roofing slate that are being reused.
Cabin with extensive euse of materials. Golden rusty roofing slate from Otta Pillarguri in Norway is used as facade and as crazy paving at the entrance.
Details of brown golden Otta Pillarguri natural stone on the foundation wall and as a stepping stones.
Et portrett av Mariann Vigtel Holland som sitter utenfor en hytte med skifer på grunnmur og på bakken

Aesthetic recycling of slate

– That autumn, we rolled up our sleeves and after many long weekends, the foundation wall was covered with the most beautiful slate tiles, full of lives lived, moss and that warm appearance for which Otta slate is so famous. That was the icing on the cake for us.

Marianne Vigtel Hølland
Slow Design Studio

We are sorry, but you are using a version of Internet Explorer that is not supported on this site. The browser is no longer updated by Microsoft and may therefore pose a security risk. We recommend that you use a different browser. Welcome back!