Short of Inspiration? Visit Reykjavik, That Will Fix You

Having spent the last few nights standing on a remote snow covered lava field in Pingvellir National Park Iceland, I had hoped to be posting magnificent images of the aurora borealis but I’m afraid the famous Northern Lights did not play ball despite the near perfect conditions.

There are however, enough colours in Reykjavik city centre to melt the head of any colour lover.

Coloured facades, Reykjavik.

Iceland is well known for it’s contrasts – fire and ice, dark winters light summers but I hadn’t expected to find so many contrasts in the world of design. I didn’t spot a single international chain shop or restaurant, instead I found row upon row of individual shops/work spaces with the makers living above or behind their showrooms. The designers are using a huge range of ancient craft techniques and creating cutting edge designs to satisfy the hunger of the design conscious locals but also to ship to the best galleries and design stores in New York. In short, very traditional techniques are being used to make ultra contemporary styles.

design spaces Reykjavik

The Icelandics don’t appear to be influenced by design trends abroad, they have their own unique and extremely strong sense of design and as a result are producing some of the most exciting pieces I have seen in years. One of the most impressive workshops I visited was one which was attached to restaurant Forrettabarinn. There, four designers make and display their furniture, jewellery and textiles. It felt a little like some of the venues at London Design Festival, a smaller version of Tent London perhaps but with designers I had never come across making very powerful pieces that I would loved to have taken home with me.

Another striking contrast were the deeply minimal, squeaky clean public buildings (lots of black concrete and stainless steel) which were peppered with tiny elements of highly decorative antiques especially crockery. Oddly enough this gave the sometimes fairly austere and rather serious spaces a fantastic sense of quirky humour.

Minimal working with decorative

I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning the ridiculously cool Kex Hostel in downtown Reykjavik. It’s housed in a converted biscuit factory and is stuffed full of twentieth century design classics. It has one of Reykjavik’s best bars where jazz bands play and many a celebration takes place. It summed up Reykjavik to me – work hard, play hard and always, always creative.

Kex Hostel