Skip to content
Call us for Exclusive Pricing | Free Shipping On Orders Over $1,000
Call us for Exclusive Pricing | Free Shipping On Orders Over $1,000
Interview with HUUM CEO Tuuli Tolmats-Aia

Interview with HUUM CEO Tuuli Tolmats-Aia

HUUM, the Estonian company taking sauna heaters to steamy new heights, is redefining the sauna experience by artfully blending traditional Estonian sauna craftsmanship with modern design and technology.  In the enchanting city of Tallinn we caught up with Tuuli Tolmats-Aia, HUUMs visionary CEO, who passionately shared their mission: to infuse centuries-old Estonian sauna wisdom, into the new sauna frontier of the US market.

What can you tell us about HUUM’s history so far?

HUUM is a family company. Siim the owner is actually a 3rd generation sauna builder.

Estonian sauna traditions go back at least 5,000 years, possibly more. For most of their history, Saunas were just a pile of rocks that were heated up. Siim’s grandfather built those kinds of saunas, his son then became the new generation of sauna builders who were starting to explore metal-built wood-stove saunas.

Siim is now the 3rd generation and really thinking about how to marry this traditional sauna experience with the technology and convenience of everyday use. HUUM is taking that challenge on, combining tradition of using large volumes of stones, putting it in a beautifully designed product, and adding the technology to operate it from a distance so you can come home and immediately enjoy your sauna.

What problem in the sauna industry is HUUM trying to solve as a company?

Many people have a lot of bad experiences with saunas. They are too dry or too hot, the ventilation doesn’t work properly, the air quality is poor. HUUM wants to make sure that you have the best experience in a sauna and get the full health benefits.

Can you tell us the story of the HUUM DROP?

HUUM DROP is in the shape of a water droplet. It wants to inspire you to think about the humidity in the sauna and the design produces this long-lasting steam. Of course, steam is a water droplet in essence, so the HUUM Drop marries the function of long-lasting steam with a beautiful design.

Siim took it as a big challenge to offer a beautiful centerpiece for the sauna because most of the products on the market were not that attractive. When you sit in the sauna and relax you want to be in a beautiful setting with a beautiful centerpiece. What’s amazing about our product is that not only is it beautiful but it also has 55 kg of stones in it. We recommend at least 50 kg of stones in order to have good, long-lasting steam in your sauna. You’re just not going to have the right experience with less than 50kg. You can also wall mount it so it works for smaller spaces as well and it’s great for everyday home saunas. 

Why should someone buy a HUUM heater, what separates you from others on the market?

We’re all about the experience. Marrying the old tradition and saying hello to the new today and convenience of everyday use. 

With the energy use of saunas, how do you balance your sustainability commitments with the sauna experience?

I look at it holistically, we always have a choice with what we do with our own energy within us and the nature and resources we have around us. We humans haven’t been too clever in the last 100 years with how we’ve used our time and effort to make the most of what we have on earth. We very often consume too much, over consuming clothes, cars or whatever’s the latest trend. Most of those things don’t give us actual happiness and quality of life, but if Ii think of the experience of sauna - it’s worth it. It’s worth that investment of energy because you’re actually getting a happier, much calmer perspective that you can take with you into the rest of your life - your family, your work, the environment. It’s good for your body and mind. It makes you a better person. We waste so many other things, this just isn’t something I’d focus on worrying about.

How has the COVID pandemic impacted the sauna industry?

Tuuli: Covid was a wake-up call for everyone. It made us question what we were doing with our lives. What do we really care about? You got your perspective back. It made us think ‘my health matters’, ‘my quality of life matters’, ‘my relationships matter’ much more than we were thinking before. Everyone had that wake-up call. It forced us to think about the quality of life we should be living. I don’t think that’s going to disappear, people actually permanently work in a much more flexible way, they work more from home, they have more time and understand how they’d like to use it . That's here to stay. There’s been a shift in their minds and they are acting in a different way. With more freedom of time, it’s much easier to use a sauna on a daily basis now, so saunas marry with this new lifestyle we’re living. People used to spend3-4 hours in the car every day, that’s just insane. And they weren't thinking that there was anything wrong with that, now everyone understands that they shouldn't be doing that. Now we can use those 4 hours a day to take a sauna and talk to close ones and do something good for the world rather than sit in a car and pollute.

What’s does your customer base look like?

The majority of our sales are for smaller commercial spaces and home sauna users. We are still a relatively young company despite being 10 years old, our portfolio is still growing and we are looking at those bigger commercial spaces constantly. We’re definitely interested in going into that market at some point but right now the biggest HUUM Hives we have go up to 18KW which is a good amount of power but if we’re talking about huge spas then it’s probably not the right product.

With the increase in energy prices in Europe how do you feel this has impacted consumer behavior?

This was a hot topic last winter as energy prices went up so much, but not really now, no. We’ve seen that people value the experience of Sauna so much that it hasn’t been the first place they’d consider cutting their energy use.  People calculate how much each sauna session will cost them and they still think it’s worth it.

What new technologies are developing in the sauna industry that you’re excited about?

I’m of the mindset that we need to offer a multi-sensory experience that's not just about a beautiful stove. When I’m in the sauna I want to have that space for all my senses. Perfect sound, light, steam, smell, the feel of the wood. What we try to do with the new HUUM saunas is to bring all those senses together and think about that experience in a more meaningful way. We are introducing new products as of this Autumn to offer new lighting solutions, sound solutions and we’ll keep working on that multi sensorial experience a lot more in the future.

What are the key differences between Estonian and Finnish sauna culture?

The Nordic region has a very similar sauna culture, so don’t worry about the difference between us. If you look at it globally, Nordics have this culture of long-lasting mild steam and really mild temperatures. You’ll have heard more about Finnish sauna culture than Estonian sauna culture because Estonia has only existed as a country for 30 years. But we’ve had 5,000 years of sauna use. Being known on the world stage for sauna has all been to do with whether or not you were able to brand products and bring them to market.

We lost our freedom from 1940 to 1991. In that time people went to saunas on a daily basis, but they had to build their own sauna or get the village sauna expert to come to your home and build it. There were no branded products and even the people that built metal-sauna stoves couldn’t brand it and sell it to the outside world.

Estonians themselves were fine - we were still going to sauna but we were never talking about it. We weren’t able to talk to the outside world, we weren’t even allowed to travel outside the country. So, of course you haven’t heard about Estonia sauna culture. But once we got our freedom in ‘91, we very quickly were able to produce our own sauna products. Siim (HUUM’s founder) also looked at what they were doing in Finland with saunas. His family love the sauna industry. He saw this opportunity to make this beautiful stove that could be the centerpiece rather than just making ‘a stove’. It would be a beautiful design and enhance the user experience.

Estonia is very much into technology, we are at this wonderful time where everyone is asking what is the best version of this, what can we do to make this the best version of this product? Whereas in Finland, as their sauna manufacturing has evolved slowly, they’re not challenging the space in the same way and are selling the same thing over again. Here, we had a cut-off and a restart. I’m so glad there’s so many others in this space and trying to make a difference.

I think everyone will win at the end of the day because it’s such a growing market so I don’t think we need to think about it in terms of the Finnish and Estonian sauna markets competing against one another.

Let’s make this a beautiful experience and offer it as well as we can, and everyone will be happy. We don’t always have to compete or compare ourselves, we can all just do our best and we’ll make the world better.

How do young people engage with saunas in Estonia? Young people often rebel against tradition. Is that true of saunas in Estonia?

No, not at all. It’s a bit like food, no one grapples against food. It’s so ingrained in our lives, you wouldn't even think to rebel against it. You might turn it from a calm space into a party space when you’re a teenager but that’s about as far as it goes. And that has happened for centuries, so no, and I don’t see that changing.

What’s your personal story with saunas?

In Soviet times you had many public sauna experiences because people didn’t have good facilities at home like we do today, so very often you went into these big communal saunas. As a 2-3 year old I saw hundreds of women bathing together, they weren’t just there to clean themselves but it was also an opportunity to socialize and relax together. It was a celebration.

My first memories were positive, I associated sauna with people relaxing and enjoying themselves. Then as I grew up to be a teenager the party scene began, a normal part of being a teenager. Now I have a family. I use it to have quality time with my children and my husband. We either have full family sauna sessions or just my husband and I. If we have friends around, we will very often have saunas together after or before dinner depending on the mood. It really is a part of everyday life, and evolves over time - either a social thing or a private time to relax.

Next article The International Sauna Association

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields

Jasper Knight the Founder of Secret Saunas photographed in an Auroom Sauna in Estonia

About the Author

I'm Jasper Knight, the founder of During my travels through Finland and Scandinavia in 2018 I was introduced to the thrilling local ritual of taking daily hot saunas and then cooling off by plunging into the dark icy waters of a frozen lake. This experience was so fulfilling that it felt like an addiction. My desire to return to the forests and lakes of Northern Europe led me to set up Secret Saunas with the mission of bringing that authentic Finnish sauna experiences home.

Browse the Secret Saunas Range