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Slate roof on an architect’s cabin – slimmer, lighter and very beautiful

The cabin has been in the family's possession for more than a hundred years, but when Helene took over, she discovered that there were plenty of improvements to be made. The result was a charming patchwork – with a maintenance-free slate roof.

– The cabin is actually an old farm building a shieling. My great-grandfather took over the building in 1904, and I’ve been told that it was the first building to be used as a cabin at Høvringen in Norway. So it’s a cabin with a lot of history in its walls, says Helene Hyllseth. She’s an architect and took over the cabin from her uncle in 2014.

When she inspected her new old cabin, she quickly realised that there were plenty of things to be fixed.

– There was a lot of rot and dirt and an abundance of mice in the walls, she says.

As an architect, Helene is very interested in building preservation and restoration and therefore wanted to retain as much of the original cabin as possible.

– I brought an expert along with me, and we quickly found that the cabin simply had to be taken down and rebuilt. Helene spent several years cleaning, dismantling and finally taking down the wooden structure, so that the carcass could be restored as the basis for the “new-old” cabin.

A modern cabin with rblack and rust coloured Otta slate from Norway,  in combination with rust-colored Corten steel.
The rust colors make the combination of Corten steel and the Otta Pillarguri slate beautiful and holistic. The chimney is made of slate wallbricks from Oppdal , Norway.

I think a lot of people would say that the cabin, as it stood, was only good for firewood, Helene laughs.

In a workshop in Heidal, plank after plank was restored by removing the rot and adding new wood. The carcass was then erected again and covered in solid wood. The result was a ‘charming patchwork’, as Helene describes it.

– It was important to retain the authentic feel, so the old and the new exist side by side. The quality of the new should be just as good as the old. Both carcass and planks are ‘honest materials’, she says.

A roof for admiration, but yet a problem

In connection with the refurbishment, Helene had a good excuse to fulfil a longstanding dream: to lay a slate roof using local Otta Pillarguri phyllite.

– I noticed all the beautiful roofs of rust-coloured slate when driving through Gudbrandsdalen.

A close-up of black and rusty colored Otta slate roofing tiles slate with a scissored edge.

The result was therefore Otta Pillarguri phyllite slate for the roof of her cabin. A roof that for more than a century has been a source of admiration, yet still a problem.

– When the cabin was built, it had a beautiful turf roof. But it eventually became very leaky. I heard that once there were as many as five buckets standing around on the floor to collect water, Helene says.

In the 1970s, the turf roof was replaced with roofing felt and the cabin was also redesigned, giving the roof a strange shape. Helene says that she considered laying a new turf roof, but decided against it.

– It was considered, but the overall assessment was that a slate roof would be much better. A turf roof will become very heavy and thick, because in addition to the turf layer, there is a layer of insulation. A slate roof is much slimmer and lighter and is at least just as beautiful, she says.

Yet she was a little disappointed at first, but thankfully this soon disappeared.

– I expected more rust colour right away. Then I realised it came from the iron in the stone as it oxidises. Now I’ve already seen some change, she says enthusiastically.

A cottage with slate roofing, slate chimney and stainless Corten steel. The slate roof has golden colors.

Holistic rust

Since she was rebuilding the cabin, she redesigned the gallery facing the road and gave it a new look. This presented a new challenge: The slope of the gallery did not allow slate to be used, and there was also the proximity to the gravel road to think about.

– There’s not much that can ruin a slate roof, but when the snowplough drives by and splashes snow mixed with gravel into the property, this wasn’t a chance I wanted to take, she says.

She therefore chose to cover the roof of the gallery with Corten steel plates. Like slate, this is a material that rusts.

– I’m really pleased with how the cabin has turned out. The combination of Corten steel and Otta slate on the roof is beautiful and they work well together, thanks to the rust colours, she concludes.

Products used in this projects: slate roofing tiles and slate wallbricks for the chimney.

Portrett av arkitekt Helen Hyllseth

– I noticed all the beautiful roofs of rust-coloured slate when driving through Gudbrandsdalen. The combination of Corten steel and Otta slate on the roof is beautiful and they work well together, thanks to the rust colours.

Helene Hyllseth
Civil architect MNAL, Kvernaas Arkitekter

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