Photos by Angela Jo Smith
Knowing that Justin Juntunen, the co-founder of Cedar and Stone Nordic Sauna, grew up with and around saunas just makes sense. His strong passion for saunas’ stress relieving benefits, his conviction that they can become the cornerstone of a family—it’s all coming from personal experience. Then when you find out his family built most of the saunas they had? It makes Cedar and Stone’s expansion into custom sauna building this past March that much more exciting.
“I remember being a 3-year-old and building a sauna in the basement with my dad, and the smell of cedarwood has locked that memory in my mind,” Juntunen says. “We’ve had a sauna in almost every home we’ve lived in: in the basement, in the backyard, in the cabin by the lake.”
Since announcing the new sauna-building services in March, he and his team (including co-founder and wife Gretchen) have been flooded with orders, so it’s a good thing they moved into a new headquarters. The company has always been based in Duluth, but now you can find it in the shared space designed 16 years ago by Salmela, an architecture firm also located in Duluth. Brands Loll Designs and Epicurean had gotten too big for the space, so they approached Juntunen and asked if Cedar and Stone wanted to take their place. His answer? “When can we move in?”
Cedar and Stone has only grown in a year where most businesses have found themselves struggling. People are feeling the stress, and consequently, investing in home wellness more than ever—potentially speaking as to why Cedar and Stone custom saunas are shining so bright. We chatted with Juntunen to learn a little bit more about his latest endeavors.
Midwest Home: Did you always have plans to add custom sauna building to Cedar and Stone’s offerings?
Juntunen: From the get-go, we’ve had a page dedicated to custom build on our website. [Before March, it highlighted Cedar and Stone’s vision and the huge community sauna it built.] Since we’ve really built that out, we’ve had over 500 inquiries from clients, and we’ve watched the pandemic ramp up people’s need and desire for wellness or stress relief at their home.
So often I think people are swindled in getting a barrel sauna because they’re cheap and you can buy them online. In my opinion, they’re more of a five-year investment before they’re not going to perform. We’re trying to work with folks who want something a little more thoughtfully designed for their space and can trust it will last them that whole time.
We know Knutson Construction worked on the first community sauna for Cedar and Stone. Do you build the custom saunas in-house?
Rather than a general contractor/subcontractor experience—one guy does the framing, the next guy puts in the electricity—we have a team who designs [the sauna] in house, and then that design team works in communication with our build team.
How big can people expect their sauna to be?
The question we always ask is, “How many people do you envision using this?” Sometimes we have people come to us and say, “Hey, it’s just going to be a few of us.” A small, two- to four-person sauna usually falls into a footprint of 6-by-9. If they say, “Oh, we have a little bit of a larger family [and] a lot of friends who are going to use this, so we’d like it to be for six to eight people.” That space should probably be around 8-by-12, which is 96 square feet. These are really efficient-use, small spaces, but we can also make ones like our community sauna, which is 34 feet long and 13 feet tall.
We can do that. We can do the tiny home version. We can do the yoga studio and sauna. We can do the artist log and painting studio and sauna, or, we can do that backyard office and sauna. It’s not all about how big and small: How do you design it or how are you going to use it? Let’s work with you on the specific vision you have and build a quality space.
Can you tell us a little more about what you mean about a place fitting your lifestyle?
We have this really amazing sauna we’re building right now at Park Point in Duluth. It’s for a family who lives out there on the lake side, and they’ve always wanted a sauna. The husband loves sauna, and the wife says, “I love Bikram and hot yoga—is there a way to do something similar?” We did an electric sauna space where the lower benches slide. We set it to a lower temperature (the 100, 105, 110 temperature range) and they’ll have the room to lay out a yoga mat and do poses. Then when the husband is ready to go into the sauna experience, you can bump it up to 160, 180, 200, and the benches come back out. The space is really geared toward both of them, and it has this huge window that looks out to Lake Superior.
So, do you build everything on site?
Yeah, we build all on site. [Headquarters] is actually a 20,000-square-foot facility. The above ground area is this beautiful glass box portion, and that’s our office. Below is the manufacturing facility. On site we do 95 percent of the build for the sauna, from metal working to wood working to electrical. Then, we build everything in house and transport it to site, wherever it is—in a backyard, at a lake cabin. We create it in ways so we can install really quickly. Rather than having us in your backyard for months, one day you have no sauna, and the next day we come in, install it, and you’re enjoying the space that evening.