If you did not know that a glass cuboid has emerged a few hundred metres from the beach at Jõelähtme, you could easily walk into it while strolling along there. This house, which is made of glass panels and has 18 square metres of floor space, melts into one with the surroundings and the horizon. "It has not happened with this example house yet, but when walking in the forest with a client, the house has really sometimes revealed itself only at the last moment," says Jaak Tiik, the engineer and architect of the modular house NIGHTS (Estonian ÖÖD).
Like other hotel rooms all over the world, NIGHTS modular houses are equipped with everything necessary – a shower, a toilet, a comfortable double bed, the possibility to make coffee or tea, basic crockery. The multimedia system in the house is also fascinating, which with the help of a projector, turns the glass wall inside the house into a touch screen resembling a giant tablet.
The occupants of the house can see in all four directions, but everything inside remains hidden to outsiders. It's true however, that you cannot see the stars through the high ceilings and the roof, because cleaning the glass ceiling would prove too costly to the owner. Also, no-one forces the occupants to wake up with the sun, because protective curtains can be drawn.
NIGHTS houses are designed and manufactured entirely in Estonia, by Estonian construction workers and from Estonian materials. The décor is made by furniture manufacturers Kaissu and Estic Green, and the bed linen by Udushop, who specialize in home textiles. In collaboration with Kaissu, a new bed was made, from under which a child's bed emerges.
Jaak Tiik calls his creation, perhaps not so poetically, just a hotel room, but with good reason – the glass house's external design and internal solutions are specifically designed for accommodation services. Since the house's building area is less than 20 m², there is no need to chase a building permit – one only needs to submit a notification to the local government. This allows entrepreneurs to start offering housing services quickly and painlessly.
At the same time, Tiik says that the decision regarding how to use the house is up to the client. The house, meant for two to three persons, can be used as a summer cottage, or one can combine letting it out as a holiday home with personal use, such as the popular Airbnb business model.
Tiik sees the opportunity to grow business in providing holiday housing. The plan is to be the operating company and to create a web platform that brings together only NIGHTS glass houses. The platform will make it possible to rent glass houses located in different places. Because the sale of houses for private use continues, a kind of constantly growing hotel chain is created.
The business plan also has another side to it; the plan is to self-finance additional NIGHTS buildings next to currently operational recreation and leisure centres. "Major events such as weddings and corporate summer events require a certain number of sleeping places. The building of individual rooms, however, is expensive, mostly because it means the construction of a new building or renovation of the old. Limited lodgings, however, mean that a major event can not be held," explains Jaak Tiik. The construction of additional hotel rooms supports the already-existing infrastructure such as spas, restaurants, and beauty services.
Suitable for both nature and the city
Although NIGHTS houses have now emerged primarily in naturally beautiful places, Jaak Tiik also sees them coming to city spaces – good and financially-promising places would include the green and historical parts of the city in Tallinn, such as Kalamaja, Kassisaba, Pelgulinn or Kadriorg. In any case, the surroundings must be taken into account – in addition to the people, also the birds to which large glass surfaces are dangerous. "To take into account the security of birds, we are cooperating with OÜ Salu, who have a lot of experience in this field," says Jaak Tiik.
Given that NIGHTS came out with the first house in mid-November last year, Tiik assesses the achievements so far as surprisingly good. "One client wanted to buy as many as five houses at a time, but in most cases purchases are limited to one or a few houses. We also have interest from Asia, and by the end of the year at least one NIGHTS house will also exist in Asia," he promises. Tiik's activities have also been noticed in exotic locations elsewhere, such as Morocco and Costa Rica.
Tiik sees Central and Southern Europe and North America as the future market. " The double house model 'Suite', which will fit the US market more precisely, will be added to the current 'Executive' model," says Tiik.
The brothers prefer to remain discreet about specific marketing channels, but mention that less than 1000 euros have been spent on marketing so far.
According to Tiik, although NIGHTS' customer base is still growing, the greatest proof that they are doing the right thing, has been the customers' response and feedback. "Before seeing the building in person, many have suspected that the photographs have been photoshopped. “However, none of the nearly one hundred customers who have been on-site have been disappointed so far, "he says.
This house, which is made of glass panels and has 18 square metres of floor space, melts into one with the surroundings and the horizon.
Article was published in Nordica´s in-flight magazine Time Flies (summer 2017).