We're a family business of sauna enthusiasts based in Tallinn, Estonia.
Anni Oviir grew up in Estonia immersed in sauna culture, while Adam Rang is a UK-born väliseestlane (diaspora Estonian) who only properly learnt about good saunas after returning to Estonia and meeting Anni.
For us, the sauna isn’t just about physical wellness. It’s an integral part of our culture and lifestyle. It’s our oldest social network and, we think, still the best one. It’s essential for understanding our history, but it’s also just relevant to our modern lives today.
Together, we’ve explored hundreds of weird and wonderful saunas all over Estonia and around the world to better understand the sauna tradition.
Many of the saunas we’ve visited have been documented on our ‘Estonian Saunas’ social media channels: our blog, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter We’ve also created our own saunas using the best of Estonian design and technology. For this, we’ve been featured in media around the world including BBC News to the Boston Globe, and even an upcoming Netflix documentary.
Why Estonian saunas?
The sauna, as most people know it today, is rooted in the culture of Finno-Ugric peoples living around the Baltic Sea, including the Estonians and the Finns. We noticed something strange though. Despite Estonia’s rich sauna heritage dating back older than records record, Estonian saunas are often mislabeled in English as ‘Finnish saunas’. We love Finnish saunas too, but we decided it’s time to tell our own story about how sauna culture evolved here in Estonia over thousands of years and resulted in wonderful sauna design and technology that we can now share with the world.
As a result, we created new saunas for visitors in Estonia, hosted discussions and sponsored initiatives about Estonian saunas (including the European Sauna Marathon in Otepää), and we invested in HUUM - our favourite sauna stove maker - and began exporting their stoves and heaters around the world.
Most of our sauna stoves go to private homes because there has been a significant increase in interest around the world in recent years towards home saunas - something that is already normal here in Estonia. We don’t just deliver to luxury homes either, but even small apartments.
We’re particularly proud though to have delivered a HUUM sauna to an English Premier League football club, which now has a sauna for players alongside their training pitch. We are not (yet) allowed to say which club it is, but we’ve been their secret supporters ever since.
We like HUUM because they combine ancient sauna building principles with smart modern design. In the 20th century, sauna stoves became very clunky and industrial with way too much metal and too few stones. Before that though, heated stones have been the most important design feature of saunas for thousands of years. This is not only more visually appealing, but also delivers a superior heat and leil (sauna steam) from the larger number of exposed stones. HUUM has also been developing and integrating smart technology so that saunas can be enjoyed with greater convenience and safety than ever before.
HUUM is a truly 21st century sauna stove maker, but also worthy of being considered the next evolutionary stage from our old smoke saunas - which we still love to visit too.
Creating our own Estonian saunas
Our first sauna for visitors was actually our first home together in Tallinn. It’s a very modest apartment in a typical wooden Tallinn townhouse, but we upgraded it with a state-of-the-art ‘e-sauna’ using the first ever WiFi-connected stove by HUUM. That home is now available to rent on Airbnb.
Visitors especially love it when we tell them to download the HUUM app and give them the log-in details before they arrive. That enables them to switch on the sauna the moment that their plane lands in Tallinn. It’s then their chosen temperature by the time they step inside.
Here's a video of Adam getting the stove set up:
For our next sauna, we wanted to help revive Estonia’s smoke sauna tradition in Tallinn. Smoke saunas are the oldest and most special type of sauna, but there’s only one in Tallinn and that’s inside a museum. We think the best way to preserve traditions is to keep doing them though.
So we contacted Iglucraft, the most iconic modern sauna builder in Estonia (and now the world) and asked them to build us a smoke sauna in their distinctive wooden shingle-covered design. We needed partners for a good location but, at the time, we couldn’t find anyone convinced that this would be something visitors would want. So we decided to open the sauna at home and call it Rangi saun.
We’ve since been inundated with visit requests and it’s been featured in media around the world, including as one of the world’s most extraordinary home spas in a new coffee table book by Gestalten. We like to provide a very homely experience here with an overview of Estonian sauna history and plenty of sauerkraut & pork soup.
Here's a video we made about Rangi saun and the smoke sauna tradition:
For our newest sauna, we wanted to use a HUUM sauna stove again but put it somewhere really unusual to show how saunas can transform any space. We already have the HUUM e-sauna so this time we wanted a wood-fired one.
While writing about saunas for our blog, we then came across a Soviet Army truck that was abandoned here in Estonia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, used by the Estonian Army after re-independence, then finally retired and converted into a cosy sauna on a farm in Võrumaa. We bought it at the start of 2020 so we could renovate it and open it up to visitors.
We first introduced our new sauna, the ZiL-131 SAUN, at the European Sauna Marathon (an event we sponsor). You can watch our full video of that here:
We just loved the idea of taking a relic of totalitarianism and re-purposing it as a place we can celebrate our culture and freedom. Just before we could officially open it though, there was one more unlikely twist of history. Due to the coronavirus crisis, we are no longer able to host visitors at any of our saunas for the foreseeable future.
Our focus today
The lockdown has generated a surge in interest towards building home saunas. And, fortunately, production is continuing safely here in Estonia and goods are still moving smoothly across borders.
As a result, we’re expanding our e-commerce service to deliver Estonian sauna design and technology around the world with good customer service and the best possible prices. Our main specialty remains the HUUM stoves and heaters, but we are also adding new products that compliment them, all of which exemplify stunning Nordic design that we use at our own saunas in Estonia. We are also partnering with our favourite sauna builders to make it easier for our customers to order entire saunas designed around HUUM stoves and heaters.
We still believe that to share our design and technology, we have to share our culture too. Many people love the idea of having a sauna, but are a bit unsure about the cultural traditions behind it and how to properly enjoy a sauna. We can’t explore other saunas or host guests anymore, but we can make content at home and continue discussing our culture online instead.
One of our missions is to get the word leil into common usage globally and make it the first Estonian word in English. Leil is the steam generated by pouring water onto hot rocks inside a sauna. There's currently no specific word for this in English so you can all use ours. Here's Anni talking about this mission on Estonian TV and not-so-subtlety wearing a t-shirt with the dictionary definition of leil printed on in English:
When not helping people build their own saunas, Anni is a green building specialist, while Adam is an entrepreneur who previously worked for the Estonian government to help develop the e-Residency programme. We both regularly speak and write publicly on these topics to encourage improved environmental standards and greater transparency in business around the world.
So, that's who we are! You can email us anytime to say tere ('hello' in Estonian) at firstname.lastname@example.org.