We spent the past decade in Oslo where Johnathon previously worked for an international design practice, Snohetta and I ran my online nightwear business noctu. Our 2 daughters were born in Norway and I believe our true love for design came from that special time in Scandinavia.
Koto started with an idea for a treehouse for the girls. It turned into more of a play space, and that sparked an idea for a design-led tiny house.
Last year we both felt it was time to come back to the UK, time to move closer to the family. Full of ideas and raring to go, we packed up our tiny car with all of our belongings and drove through Europe back to blighty.
We wanted to acknowledge not only the minimal aesthetics of Scandinavian design we had became attached to, but the Nordic lifestyle and the value of a healthy work-life balance. We’re now based back in Johnathon’s hometown in Westward Ho! North Devon, on the inspiring, rugged coast where ‘Koto Cabins’ was born.
We have found that creating minimal, clean and simple spaces is actually not as easy as it may sound. When you are creating a product that relies on it’s quality of detail, materiality and finish, there is nowhere to hide. We follow the philosophy of ‘less is more.’
Our Koto cabin’s are a sculptural interpretation of the small buildings that you see across Europe, from Bothys to Alpine huts and Norwegian Hytte. These small, pitched-roof buildings are an integral part of the landscape and provide warmth, shelter and an opportunity to fully immerse in nature.
From the outset, we wanted a form that was a modern twist on the traditional vernacular. Our wedge shaped roof line is what has separated us from the pack. This in itself has been a challenge for design, engineering and construction not least when it comes to mirroring this aesthetic into the internal spaces.
Another, fundamental detail is our concealed window frames allowing a pure connection between the charred facade and glass. Internally and in the same manner we have created frameless window lights, concealed pocket sliding doors, hidden fold down beds and storage.
Externally, we want the form to read as one continuous and unbroken envelope. This required us to conceal all gutters and downpipes. Again no mean feat.
Of course everyone has heard, (or perhaps even been bombarded,) by the Danish concept "Hygge", 'the art of coziness', whether interpreted as woolen socks and hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire, or candlelit dinner with friends, it is the impression of wrapping up, hunkering down and creating your very own snug retreat.
Although we spent many winters enjoying all of the above, (and no one can embrace cozy like the Scandinavians), regardless of the -15 degree temperature outside, we were encouraged to embrace the elements and outdoor living.
No matter what the weather, cross country skiing or ice cold fjord dips helped us to survive the long dark winters. As the Nordic saying goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”, which we certainly, very quickly found out! We've augmented the saying to “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing and poorly designed homes!”
Many of our clients are existing businesses such as hotels, estate owners who tend to share the same outlook on the high quality minimal design aesthetic. Our cabins are being employed for a whole range of uses including hotel accommodations, spa facilities, holiday homes, home offices and even yoga studios,
We’re finding 99% of businesses that approach us share our same ‘outdoor living’ ethos, offering projects that really resonate with us. We've seen a really broad demographic respond positively to our homes and cabins.
Our ambition has been to create a lifestyle brand that is centered around another Nordic concept, "Friluftsliv" ( pronounced free-loofts-liv), an expression that literally translates to: “Free Air Life” or “open-air living”.
The Norwegian poet, Ibsen, described the term as the value of spending time in the remote outdoors for spiritual and mental well being.
Another of our long-term goals is to create "Koto sites", bringing all the elements we believe in together in one place so people can really experience our vision in its entirety.
Social media has been an incredible tool for us. Telling our story through images that directly and indirectly relate to our vision helps us to connect with like-minded people. We have found that building relationships is critical to our success. When you share a passion and synergy for design, and a particular outlook on life, great things can happen once you start a conversation. We have also found that what we are doing is not just our story but the stories of those we work with. We like to share their side too.
In the end, we are creating beautiful, small buildings that allow people to connect with nature and embrace outdoor living.
This is the heart of KOTO.