A Design Lover's Guide to Iceland

Kirsuberjatréð, Reykjavík
Kirsuberjatréð, Reykjavík | Courtesy of Kirsuberjatréð
Photo of Camille Buckley
15 July 2017

Iceland is a great place for design lovers. Creative thinking about materials has been a mainstay with Icelandic designers as a historical lack of materials caused a tendency to experiment with innovative materials and re-use of materials. One can find fish-leather products, lambs wool covered chairs, lava rock interior decor – a nostalgic nod to folklore and heritage while inclusive of the most recent tech trends. Check out the Icelandic Design Center‘s blog for an update on news and events in the world of design in Iceland.

Good design is a gold equivalent | © Helgi Halldorsson/Flickr

If you’re in Reykjavik during the month of March be sure to check out DesignMarch, an annual festival that transforms the capital into one big venue for design with events all over the city; showcasing the best of local as well as international design including fashion, furniture, architecture, and food design.

The Museum of Design and Applied Art in the Reykjavik suburb of Garðabær, just a short bus ride from the city center, offers an informative rotation of exhibitions focusing on everything from perfume to architecture, fashion, and furniture – with a focus on Icelandic and Nordic design.

Boutique Shops

Kirsuberjatréð is run cooperatively by a collection of artists and designers. The shop features a variety of design products from fashion, ceramics, to jewelry. A unique purchase would definitely be the colorful ceramics by Ólöf Erla Bjarnadóttir.

Kirsuberjatréð, Reykjavík | Courtesy of Kirsuberjatréð

Kraum on the main shopping street, Laugavegur, offers a careful selection of design products including books, fashion, jewelry, and furniture. Check out the color-stained glass products by Kristín Sigfríður Garðarsdóttir.

Hrím, also on the main shopping street, Laugavegur, and its sister shop Hrím Eldhús – which focuses just on kitchen products, has an exciting collection of both Icelandic and international designers. Here you can find Moomin mugs, Candles by Birta, colorful Umemi knotted pillows, as well as Varma wool products.

Notknot í útskriftargjöf – 20.990. • • #hrimkringla #hrimhonnunarhus #notknot

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Aurum offers a beautiful variety of collections by local jewelry designers, featuring beautiful nature inspired, delicate designs.

Kíosk is run by a collection of fashion designers who also work behind the counter. With ecstatic, colorful prints, paired with minimal accessories, the collection offers some of the best unique Icelandic fashion. A one-of-a-kind buy would definitely be the colorful, playful print dresses by EYGLO.

KIOSK | Photo by Art Bicnick

Art Museums

The city art museums have great gift shops offering the best of Icelandic design; check out The Nordic House, designed by Finnish modernist architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) and features most of Aalto’s signature traits, including furnishings by his design. Check out The National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavík Art Museum-Hafnarhús, and Kjarvalstaðir for design products especially inspired by Icelandic art history and contemporary art.

Hafnarhús | © gamene/Flickr

Kjarvalstaðir itself is a unique design focus. Built in 1973, Kjarvalstaðir was the first structure built in Iceland solely devoted to the presentation of visual art. First intended to be a studio and home for the beloved Icelandic painter, Jóhannes S. Kjarval (1885-1972), it came to become a museum displaying a permanent collection of his artworks and now holds temporary exhibitions of Icelandic and International Art. The floor-to-ceiling windows and angular layout are a tribute to Nordic Modernism.

Harpa concert hall | © Scott1346/Flickr

Harpa Concert Hall is also a must-see for design lovers. Constructed between 2007-2011, the building was designed by the Danish Henning Larsen Architects in collaboration with Icelandic Batteriid Architects. The façade is by the Icelandic-Danish artist Ólafur Eliasson. Inspiration was taken from the natural Basalt columns found in the Icelandic landscape. Harpa has gathered numerous awards for its design and architecture, including the Mies van der Rohe 2013 Award and the Best Nordic Public Space 2011 award. The boutique design shop Epal inside offers the best of modern Icelandic design.

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