Best of design in Iceland - What to bring back home?
We asked four renowned connoisseurs and experts to nominate exceptional examples of design in Iceland. The scope was free except that at least one item on the list should be an ideal souvenir from Iceland and could therefore not be too big to fit into a suitcase.
Eyjólfur Pálsson is the owner of Reykjavík’s best furniture and design store, Epal, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
1. Shorebirds by Sigurjón Pálsson
“The Shorebirds by designer Sigurjón Pálsson came first to my mind. Those solid oak birds with steel legs are so simple and easily understandable in their beauty. It must be the dream of all designers to create something that gets into production and then becomes a commercial success. Sigurjón’s birds did.”
The Shorebirds are produced by Normann Copenhagen.
2. Omnom Chocolate by Omnom
“Outstanding packaging, excellent taste. The Omnom chocolate is food design at the very top level.”
3. Fuzzy foot-stool by Sigurður Már Helgason
“An Icelandic design classic made out of local materials. Every stool is handcrafted and the seat is covered with Icelandic sheepskin, which comes in a myriad of colours and patterns.
The Fuzzy foot-stool has been around for more than 40 years, but its sale took off spectacularly about 10 years ago.”
4. Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre
“Harpa has become a symbol for Reykjavík, not least because of its fantastic south glass façade that was designed by artist Ólafur Elíasson and architect Einar Þorsteinn Ásgeirsson. It is a unique work of art.”
The main designers of the Harpa concert hall and conference centre are the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects collaborating with the Icelandic firm Batteríið Architects.
5. Bessi stackable chair by Erla Sólveig Óskarsdóttir
“The Bessi chair is the best and most beautiful chair that has come out of Iceland in the last 15 years. You can see this great stackable chair all around the Nordic countries.”
Bessi is available in several types of wood and many colours, either fully upholstered or partially upholstered in fabric or leather. The frame is either mirror-chromed or satin chromed steel.
Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir is the owner of Spark Design Space, the only design gallery in Reykjavík and a former professor of product design at the Iceland Academy of Arts.
1. Float by Unnur Valdís Kristjánsdóttir
“The Float cap is a great project that comes out of Iceland’s rich bathing culture. I have always considered it strange that we have not seen more innovation connected to the nation’s strong relationship with the year-round bathing and swimming culture due to the abundance of our geothermal water. The float cap truly adds a new dimension to that experience.”
3. The Silent Village Collection by Brynjar Sigurðarson
“This great furniture collection by Brynjar was inspired by the craft of a 70-year-old shark hunter and fisherman living in Vopnafjörður fjord, East Iceland. Brynjar spent a few weeks with him while he was preparing nets for the lumpfish season, and watched him, day after day, tying knots using a netting needle and a nylon string. It’s fantastic to see how Brynjar incorporated the technique into his furniture design.”
4. Urban Shape posters by Iceland-based Italian architect Paolo Gianfrancesco.
“It’s such a joy to have these graphic maps around you. They inspire you to never stop travelling. Cities are so great. Each has its own rhythm and balance. And you can sense their atmosphere by studying the maps. Just looking at Paolo’s map makes me dream of going to Athens.”
The Urban Shape series of graphic maps covers all the European capitals and seven cities in North America.
5. Omnom Chocolate by Omnom
“The Omnom chocolate is both delicious and beautifully presented. There is concern for every detail of creation and promotion. It’s a great project where everything comes perfectly together.”
Sigríður Heimisdóttir, product designer.
1. Perfumes by Andrea Maack
“I love the perfumes from Andrea Maack. I love the concept behind them, and I love their scent.”
2. 66N outdoor clothing
“The outdoor clothing from the Icelandic clothing brand 66 North is timeless, smart, and durable.”
3. Jewellery by Aurum
“Guðbjörg, a jeweller who owns and runs the boutique Aurum in Bankastræti, is a genius. Her pieces always have a reference to Icelandic nature without it ever feeling repetitive.”
4. Sherling products by Sigga Heimis for Varma
“The shearling products I designed for Varma. The Icelandic sheepskin is one of the warmest materials I know, and also one of the most exciting materials I’ve worked with. It’s a shame what little use we make of it.”
5. The Icelandic Lego by Róshildur Jónsdóttir
The Skepnusköpun model kit, made from fish bones. It’s a fantastic idea, to use material that is normally discarded to challenge children of all ages to be creative and imaginative."
David Robertsson, architect, cyclist, and owner of bicycle store Kría, located in Grandagarður 7.
1. The pedestrian and cycle bridge in Elliðarárdalur by Teiknistofan Tröð
“The pedestrian and cycle bridge in Elliðarárdalur, which connects the coast line creating a useful shortcut and an infinitely more pleasurable way of travelling in an otherwise industrial area. The steel structure of two pyramids that support the bridge creates a striking yet simple sculptural presence within the landscape, and a remember that sometimes 'less is more'.
2. Art by Siggi Eggertsson
"Art by Siggi Eggertsson. His art has an easily identifiable style, often breaking down scenes and portraits to a restricted palette of colours and shapes that vary from piece to piece in complexity. The Icelandic ‘Celebration’ series are particularly joyful renditions."
3. The Harpa Concert Hall
While the Hallgrimskirkja church that reigns atop Reykjavik is still an unmistakable landmark, it is Harpa that has brought life to the city. The building is a magnificent awe-inspiring cavern of worship to the gods of music that also performs many other roles. Completed in controversial circumstances after the economic crash of 2008, it also symbolises triumph over this time of adversity.”
4. The little house at Geirsgata 1, created by Einar Sveinsson.
"On the other end of the architectural scale, this small grey building, now housing Tommi’s Burger Joint, was built in 1945 to serve as a café for harbour workers. Dwarfed in stature by surrounding buildings, and by the ships being repainted in the dry dock, its presence far outweighs its scale.”
5. Design by Farmers Market
“Farmers Market trousers—I believe the design originally came about so that the designer’s husband, a musician, would be comfortable when seated. The subtle pattern detail around the knees, the slim cut, and the variety of fabric available have made them a design classic suitable for almost any occasion. Once you wear them, you’ll never have to look for another pair of trousers again.”
Beautiful video follows a team of photographers along the Ring Road
Ask the Expert
Why the constant earthquakes? Iceland is slowly being torn apart
Help Wanted: Swimming pool in remote North Iceland fjord can't open due to lack of workers
From the editor: What's going on in Icelandic politics?
Watch: Stunning drone video of waterfalls, cliffs and peaks from around Iceland
Meet Icelandic horses at a farm in W. Iceland: Local farm opens perfect petting- and 'selfie stop'
Hellnar on Snæfellsnes one of "25 secret European villages you should visit in your lifetime"
Beautiful video of the Aurora dancing over the Westfjords
Photos: Hraunfossar waterfall in West Iceland is even more beautiful in winter
Stunning 360°panorama from Mývatn lake wins 2nd prize in international drone contest
Follow Iceland Mag
Join our weekly hand curated newsletter to have all the latest news from Iceland sent to you
Don't worry, we won't spam you. Promise!
Beautiful video follows a team of photographers along the Ring Road
Small town café in N. Iceland fights an avalanche of criticism over overpriced sandwich
Spotting puffins: here is our map showing the best places around Iceland
An American in Reykjavik: A list of Icelandic souvenirs worth buying
Viking shield, spear points and human bones recovered from Viking boat burial in N. Iceland
Cuteness overload: A video of a litter of Arctic fox pups explore the world for the first time
Five new kittens join the cast of reality-TV show Kattarshians, as previous stars find new homes
Watch a selection of the most amazing Hollywood movie scenes shot in Iceland
Magical beauty of Icelandic landscapes captured in this award winning time-lapse video
Superb short film featuring breathtaking drone footage shot along the Ring Road One
Abandoned farm house and a gentle horse — an award winning short travel film