Every detail at this former farm has been carefully executed to highlight the spectacular setting, a nature preserve near Norway’s southwest coast. The hotel’s nine wood cabins hover atop metal rods discreetly drilled into boulders above the Valldøla River—the architects’ solution for securing hard-to-get government permits while leaving the land virtually untouched. Purposefully spare yet stylish, each is furnished with only a bed and a couple of lounge chairs next to a wall of glass that encourage quiet meditation on the beauty of the Valldal valley and snow-capped mountains beyond. The concept continues in the spa, which is perched on a bluff overlooking the river and features a small outdoor hot tub and glass-enclosed steam room. Meals are served at a long communal table in a renovated cow barn; though breakfasts are included (the smoked salmon is to die for), three-course dinners are extra but worth the splurge thanks to locally foraged and sourced ingredients such as reindeer steaks.
Modernist Hotels: Juvet Landscape Hotel, Norway
I’m entirely too modest to walk around naked, even when I’m alone. But the first thing I wanted to do after closing the door of my cabin at the Juvet Landscape Hotel was shed anything that separated me from nature. Granted, nearly everywhere I stood in rural Norway, I was surrounded by awe-inspiring natural majesty. But somehow the Juvet managed to make all that grandeur more immediate, more mine and mine alone. Seven cabins sit in a valley between two snow-capped peaks ribboned with waterfalls. Perched above the Valldola River, each small house features a floor-to-ceiling glass pane that runs the length of one full wall. The view—swaying birch trees, the river rushing over mossy rocks, ferns sprouting from the mountain slopes—was like a scene from a Disney cartoon; almost too perfect. And each cabin is situated so that no guest can see into another’s. So if I had given into the temptation to strip down, there would have been no witnesses. The Juvet (pronounced YU-vet) is owned by Knut Slinning, who has lived for years in a cabin on the property. When the surrounding farmland went up for sale, he pounced. “For a man from a small western town,” he told me, “sitting on the two mountains I own makes me happy.” Knut seems content to keep his hotel secluded. When I found it, having gotten lost after driving past miles of strawberry farms, I felt as if I had discovered a secret hideaway. The rooms are spare: dark wooden walls, a variety of solid-colored, less-is-more modern furniture, and two beds. Low-wattage lights, heated floors, and a small wall heater are the rooms’ only “technologically advanced” items. When I flipped open my laptop, I immediately felt guilty that I wasn’t giving the space, and by extension, nature, total reverence. The most impressive building on the property is the spa, which is so well hidden that I stood on its grass roof without even realizing what was beneath me. But when I followed a small winding path, I found an open-air building with a sauna, steam rooms, a hot tub, and tables surrounding a small wood-burning fireplace. Each spa area either sits behind more floor-to-ceiling glass or opens onto nature via a wooden deck that juts out over the river. If there’s a more idyllic place to drink wine, I haven’t found it. Dinner is served in a rustic barn. Filled with antiques and lit by simple chandeliers, the barn feels decades apart from the sleek modernity that informs the rest of the Juvet, but it still fits. While I was there, Knut’s daughter, home from law school for the summer, prepared a meal of salted fish and local sausages, vegetables, and cheeses. I felt more like a friend invited over for the weekend than a paying guest. After the sun started to dip (it never gets completely dark during the Norwegian summer), I spent the next several hours on the barn’s spacious patio. I tried to read a book, but I had to stop every few minutes to take in all the scenery again. Around midnight, I finally went back to my cabin. The bed was tucked away behind a wall, offering darkness if I wanted it. Small sliding doors beside the bed let in the white noise of the river, but that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted my view of the natural world to be the first thing I saw when I woke up. I took the comforter out to the couch and picked the optimal spot. The 12:30 a.m. sunlight was a bit bright to fall asleep to, but with a view like that, why would I even want to close my eyes?