Through the eyes of a designer: Iceland

Through the eyes of a designer: Iceland

This summer, my husband and I had the opportunity to take a short but fantastic vacation to Iceland.   Even with just three and a half days, it is such a worthwhile and unspoiled destination.   I could go on and on about the natural beauty, and about the Reykjavik architecture that so sensitively interprets that natural climate into the built form.   But before I get carried away with the lava mounds, green mountains, black sand, and basalt cliffs, I want to highlight the spot that’s the most relevant to my readers, a spot that was truly a study in the best Icelandic interior design of the 1950’s.

On our way to the Golden Circle (a collection of heavily toured sights that include a waterfall, a geyser, and the continental divide), we decided on a whim to stop at Gljúfrasteinn, the Halldor Laxness museum, which turned out to be the highlight of the whole day for me. Halldor Laxness won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the only person from Iceland ever to do so.   We took a brief audio tour of his home. Pulling up to the front and seeing the white Rolls that matches the white exterior, in front of green and brown hills and sparkling streams, we knew there would be so many things to appreciate at Gljúfrasteinn.

In addition to the gorgeous setting, we admired the interior design, the art and book collection, the rhythm of household life that allowed him to maximize his creative productivity, and some hints as to what his writing might be like. We were on the fence about whether to make this stop, but the opportunity to see some Icelandic interior design from the 50’s (and maybe a chance to blog about it) pushed me over the edge and we were both so glad we went.   Below are photos and notes about what I found so inspirational about each space:

The living room was a comfortable place for reading by the fire or hearing musical concerts. The herringbone pattern of the wood floor looks as fresh as ever (as herringbone is huge in interior design right now). Laxness’s wife Auður Sveinsdóttir was the visionary behind the interior design, and personally made the tapestries you see on the wall. The simplicity of the Scandinavian modern furniture pairs beautifully with the wild zebra pattern on the sofa.


IcelandLivingRoom Gljúfrasteinn

Gljúfrasteinn, Iceland Interior Design | Source Pinterest

IcelandLivingRoom Gljúfrasteinn

Gljúfrasteinn, Iceland Interior Design | Source Pinterest


Iceland Couch Scandinavian Design

Iceland Interior Design | Image via YouTube

I’m finding the teal sheer drapes particularly inspirational.   My dining room features an oriental rug that is rust and navy, with white walls and lots of wood and black metal.

Gljúfrasteinn, Iceland Interior Design | Source Pinterest


Amy’s Dining Room

Teal had never occurred to me, but after seeing this space, fabrics in the teal family became real contenders for window treatments in my space, such as the DW16178-23 pattern in color “peacock” from Duralee, or this Hutan fabric from Caroline Cecil Textiles in “teal/oyster.”

Derring Hall Hutan-Teal | Source

Duralee Peacock Fabric | Source

Another bit of Iceland inspiration is making it’s way into my dining room as well – my collection of rocks from the black sand beach, aligned on my windowsill and a smooth, warm reminder of our lovely, golden trip:

Not surprisingly, the study was my husband’s favorite room at Gljúfrasteinn.   Like Halldor Laxness, my husband is also a guy who spends a lot of time working, and I think the comfy chairs and the plethora of books created an environment where he imagined holing up for hours.   I also love the fern color of the ceiling, another on-trend gesture we see in many interiors these days.


Gljúfrasteinn Icelandic Interior Design | Image Source

Gljúfrasteinn Icelandic Interior Design | Image Source

Laxness had views outside his study window to the glorious glacial streams that surround the property. The views in general were quite incredible and I share a few of them here.

River Iceland_SceneryRiver interior Design Inspiration

Iceland_SceneryRiver interior Design Inspiration

Pathway on Hiking Trail in Iceland, Interior Design Inspiration

Iceland Landscape, Interior Design Inspiration

I have to admit, I don’t have a clue what they’re saying in this video, but it does give you a three-dimensional sense of the house and it’s glorious setting in a way that still photography simply cannot.   I strongly urge you to visit, or check out the video below to pick up some cues for your own cozy, down2earth retreat.

If you have any trouble with the video player above Click Here to view.

1 Comment
  • Hilary Bonta
    Posted at 10:54h, 04 December Reply

    I would love to see Iceland. Thanks for sharing part of your trip with us!

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