There is no need to question Auður Gná’s impeccable taste in all things home related, after all she is the founder of the Islanders website where she takes us on a journey through homes with unique style and personal touch. The site opens a different kind of window into the homes of people. It is not so much about curiosity as giving tribute to those who nest in their own way. Even though we can’t deny our thirst to see how other people live, and to get the opportunity to be inspired by their individual, particular and sometimes idiosyncratic ways and visions.
Auður gives the cafés of Reykjavik a run for their money when she serves a perfect Americano, soft and lifesaving on a Sunday morning, and you just know she is not the type to settle for a bad cup of coffee.
Her apartment, which lies in the quiet part of the inner city, was initially meant to be a working space. It was originally built for an Icelandic publishing house in the 60s and designed by one of Iceland’s most renowned architects, Hannes Kr. Davíðsson, most known for the building that now houses the Kjarvalsstaðir museum. When Auður Gná bought it she started the project of tearing down all the walls and making it an open space with a perfect flow between all parts. Her style is sophisticated and unique as she carefully curates an effortless harmony between all the things there, while at the same time everything seems to have its own deserved breathing space. It doesn’t matter which corner, there is always something that catches the eye. Old and new mixed with bright colours, beautiful teak and unique pieces – everywhere you look you get intrigued. Three years ago Auður founded the brand Further North, which focuses on locally made and handcrafted decorative pieces for the home. The materials should feel close to home for most Icelanders as they are from our nearest surroundings, wool, wood and glass produced by skilled people around the island. Just like with her coffee she makes no compromises in the quality of what she designs and produces. The brand’s colourful pillows, and perhaps most of Further North’s line, can be seen around the house, like a dot over an impressive “i”.
“A lot of the stuff I have has followed me throughout the years,” she says and points at a chair which was a birthday present from before she turned twenty. So the chair, and more of her furniture she still owns, has travelled with her to Barcelona where she was living and studying interior design. She still keeps a tight bond with the city, and a part of her professional roots lie there, so she visits frequently. You can tell that she has lived outside of Iceland because she brings this worldly perspective to the table. She has made it her life’s work to better the homes of others, so no wonder hers is quite spectacular. She says her style has stayed more or less the same over the years, which means that she can just add onto the collection and keep bettering it.
We all have our preferences in where and what we need to feel like home. Þingholtin, the older part of the inner city of Reykjavik, is the only place Auður has wanted to live in Iceland. There she is surrounded by friends that have the same preference of wanting to live in this beautiful, vibrant but still quiet part of town. It makes her daily meetings and greetings that much easier when she is right in the middle of everything, while still undisturbed by the growing tourism. Much like Þingholtin in Iceland, she opted to live in the older part of Barcelona, choosing a “village” in a big city. Neighbourhoods like Þingholtin and old Barcelona make one feel like a part of a smaller community in a way, and that is what Auður was seeking.
One of her favourite things to do is to visit antique stores and go scavenger hunting for old things looking for new lives and purposes.
“Most of my stuff I have found that way, – it is mostly second-hand pieces mixed with a few new items.” Her biggest soft spot, she says, are lamps and ceiling lights, those she tends to fall for in their original packaging. She looks for things that have been taken good care of and are in excellent condition to give them a new home, and it’s obvious that she is good at it. “Changing the scenery is key, there are things that completely change aesthetics when given a new environment.”
Her interest in fine art has increased over the years and her collection keeps growing. “In a way I have to like the artist personally for me to want to hang their work on my walls. It’s this connection to the piece that is important for me.” In her profession she meets a lot of creative people and a lot of them have become her friends. That makes it easier for her to make that connection. She reveals that she has a personal relationship with every single artist behind the pieces on her walls, and many of them are her neighbours and close friends. One of them even owned the apartment and used it as a working space before she bought it – now he is proudly hanging above her kitchen table, so a part of him got to stay. “I’m not collecting anything particular or looking for a specific style, I base my choices purely on what I like and the emotions it brings up in me.”
Auður has this ease over her, everything about her is so effortless but somehow extremely elegant. This is the case with all her work and the Islanders project is no exception.
Text: Anna Sóley
Video: Sveinn Orri