Inside Out (Australia)
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 rutkara.is/en. If you plan to visit Iceland, this barn is available to rent – go to husrum.is.