The Scandi influence doesn’t stop at pared down neutral colours and an aversion to clutter. All of a sudden, we’ve gone wild for saunas.
Indeed, major brands beloved of celebrities have been unable to keep up with demand — Iglucraft, which sold David Beckham his sauna, doubled its sales in 2020 compared with the year before; while Lady Gaga‘s favourite, Sunlighten, reported inquires surging by 50 per cent as soon as lockdown was announced.
Sweating away in a sauna is a great way to relax. Some people swear they can feel toxins pouring out their pores, while many athletes say they are highly effective in healing overworked muscles and tension in the joints. It’s also good for encouraging bloodflow.
Hot house: A typical barrel sauna suits gardens of all sizes. Sweating away in a sauna is a great way to relax. Some people swear they can feel toxins pouring out their pores
There are two main types: traditional saunas and the steam room.
Saunas of the Scandinavian design are usually made of pine, hemlock or cedar; and heated by an electric or wood-burning stove containing about 20 kg of volcanic peridotite rocks, which then produce an intense dry heat.
To increase humidity a little and bring out the sweat, cold water is poured on the rocks. Stoves usually take half an hour or more to heat up the room.
A medium-sized Finnish sauna would cost about £15,000.
Some like it hot: David and Victoria Beckham
A modern version is the infrared Finnish sauna, where panels placed around the sauna shine on you to raise your body temperature.
They don’t have the option of sprinkling water to boost humidity, but they heat up much faster, so some people find them more convenient. The heating elements are made of carbon or ceramic, with ceramic generally considered better.
They are usually more energy-efficient than stoves because they heat the body directly, instead of raising the room’s ambient temperature.
There is little difference in cost between infrared and stove-heated designs.
Steam rooms, meanwhile, tend to be more visually interesting — people often go for stylish colour designs, mosaics and expressive lighting designs. You can have aromatherapy, too — nice smells to mix with the steam.
Overall, steam rooms tend to be larger and more expensive, so you’re talking £20,000 upwards for a medium-sized design.
You don’t need much space for a sauna or steam room — you could squeeze it all into a large cupboard if you really want.
For something fun, a barrel sauna, a traditional round hut design, can be built in a reasonably sized garden. They are often cheaper than having one constructed inside the house itself.
‘It gives us time to slow down and de-stress’
Neil Hassall, who owns a waste disposal company, had a sauna and steam room installed by Anapos in December in an outbuilding of his Georgian house in Chester, where he lives with his wife and son.
They took six weeks to install. ‘It was for health reasons — especially during Covid,’ says Neil. ‘My wife, Zoe, wasn’t comfortable going to a gym, for example.
‘It gives you time out to slow down and de-stress. You definitely feel revitalised and energised after you’ve come out and had a shower.’
Neil’s sauna fits about six people and the electric stove is partly powered by solar panels on the roof.
‘We’ve only had it a week and a half, so we’ve been using it every other day, but I expect that will wane when the novelty wears off.
‘My son plays semi-professional football and he swears by it for recovery after matches.
‘After using it we have to walk from the barn back to the house, which isn’t far but you certainly feel a chill. Let’s say it livens you up.’
Feel the heat: An outdoor sauna in the garden can be cheaper to install than one inside the home – although you may face a bracing walk back inside
‘We put a barrel sauna in our London back garden’
Harpist Valeria Kurbatova and her husband, Toby Clarke, bought a cedarwood barrel sauna for their back garden in North-West London in September 2020 from the Cedar Sauna Company.
Imported from Russia, it is 2.6 m long, 2 m in diameter and made from Siberian cedar. Prices for the model, the smallest in the range, start at £8,224.
‘I grew up in Russia with saunas — banya, we call them — and this brings the memories back,’ says Valeria.
‘Ours is like a little burrow. It’s extremely cute and we went for a wood-burning stove because you get the smell and steam and you can get it really hot.
‘It fits four people comfortably, but you can get six in.
‘Mentally it’s been a saviour for us in lockdown. You sweat out all the negative emotions and relax.
‘We always make an event of it. And we use whisks — large oak or birch twigs with leaves on that you use to massage each other.
‘It’s not painful — they’re quite soft. After that you feel ultimately relaxed. Everyone should try it.’