north star

A con­tem­po­rary barn in Ice­land that’s home to a de­sign-savvy cou­ple mixes Nordic el­e­ments with Ja­panese sim­plic­ity


Rut Káradót­tir is a dreamer. For fi­five years, the Ice­landic in­te­rior de­signer stored col­lected items from favoured Scan­di­na­vian home­wares de­sign­ers and trea­sures from her trav­els in her garage. She en­vi­sioned a sea­side getaway that she knew would even­tu­ally house her col­lec­tion. One day, her cas­tle in the air be­came a re­al­ity. Stokkseyri is a tiny com­mu­nity that stretches along the Great Thjórsá Lava shore­line in Ice­land’s south-west. Rut and her hus­band Kristinn used to visit the vil­lage, a 45-minute drive from their home in Reyk­javík, when­ever they wanted to eat a bucket of fresh lob­ster tails at their favourite restau­rant, Fjöruborðið.

“On one of our vis­its a few years ago, we spot­ted a barn be­ing built,” says Kristinn. They fell in love with it, and it’s no sur­prise that Rut be­gan her beach-house col­lec­tion around the same time. Over the fol­low­ing years, each trip to Stokkseyri not only meant a great din­ner but also a chance to check up on ‘their’ barn.

Fast-for­ward fi­five years to a leisurely Sun­day morn­ing. As usual, Rut browsed the real-es­tate sec­tion of the lo­cal news­pa­per – “More out of habit than the de­sire to fifind a new prop­erty,” she says – and stum­bled upon ‘their’ barn. “We had just ren­o­vated a prop­erty in the west of Ice­land,” says Rut. “I knew we couldn’t af­ford an­other one just yet… but at least I would fi­fi­nally get a glimpse in­side.”

They im­me­di­ately ar­ranged a view­ing and, two days later, de­spite her bud­get con­cerns, were the own­ers of their getaway by the sea. “There was a lot of in­ter­est in the prop­erty but the own­ers were in­cred­i­bly taken by our en­thu­si­asm,” says Rut.

Over the next six months, she stamped her unique Nordic style with a touch of Ja­panese sim­plic­ity on the house. “The pre­vi­ous own­ers had a strong con­nec­tion to the sea, as the hus­band was a ship en­gi­neer and had spent most of his life around ships,” says Kristinn. “They com­mis­sioned their ar­chi­tect son to de­vise a house for them that re­minded them of the hus­band’s mar­itime past.”

Lo­cated right on the doorstep of the North At­lantic Ocean, the barn feels like it’s out to sea – in fact, Rut and Kristinn still re­fer to the two flfloors as the ‘Up­per Deck’ and ‘Lower Deck’ and the bal­cony as ‘The Bridge’. The stair­case con­nect­ing the flfloors wouldn’t be out of place on an el­e­gant yacht, ei­ther. Rut and Kristinn wanted to work with the build­ing’s past, em­brac­ing nau­ti­cal de­tails, such as porce­lain cabin lights, and adding some of their own, such as a porthole mir­ror in the en­try.

And just like a ship, the barn has adapted to its sur­round­ings. The Siberian larch used for the ex­te­rior cladding has weath­ered to a soft, cloudy grey, blend­ing into the vol­canic land­scape.

“When the ar­chi­tec­ture of a build­ing is very strong, you have to en­sure that the build­ing’s in­te­rior and ex­te­rior work in uni­son,” says Rut. Through her unique style, which is so fi­firmly rooted in her na­tive Ice­land, she has en­sured just that. Rut se­lected a neu­tral colour scheme, draw­ing on the nat­u­ral el­e­ments sur­round­ing the barn, such as moss-cov­ered lava stones and the beach. As a re­sult, she has man­aged to bring some of Ice­land’s pic­turesque, un­tamed land­scape in­doors, ap­ply­ing a touch of lux­u­ri­ous el­e­gance to the barn with­out sac­ri­fi­fic­ing any of its rugged au­then­tic­ity.

What Rut and Kristinn love most about their week­end re­treat is its con­nec­tion to na­ture. “The coast­line right be­hind the house was cre­ated during the largest known post-glacial lava flflow on Earth, from a sin­gle erup­tion that cov­ered an area of 970 square kilo­me­tres,” says Kristinn. “When the tide is low, many la­goons and sk­er­ries [stretches of sea rock] can be seen from the bal­cony.”

They in­her­ited a tele­scope from the for­mer own­ers, grant­ing the pair a close-up view of the seascape, the North­ern Lights and abun­dant birdlife… even the oc­ca­sional glimpse of a seal or whale. “Up here, one truly feels alone in the world,” says Rut of the con­stantly chang­ing scenery play­ing out be­hind pic­ture-frame win­dows that truly bring this house to life. See some of Rut’s work at If you plan to visit Ice­land, this barn is avail­able to rent – go to hus­

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