They are known to many as Hólmgeirssystur, a term almost impossible to translate, but which means they are the daughters of Hólmgeir, while at the same time calling them his sisters. Somehow this term has become familiar in people’s minds when referring to the three sisters as one. And that is also how many see them, as a unity of three – not hard to understand when you see the physical resemblance, and, when you add their similar interests and style, it becomes more than logical to join them all under one term. But each is a different universe, despite the striking similarities. Therefore, when asking one of them if she would be willing to open up her house to us, we knew that we needed to ask the other two to complete the picture somehow. So we went on a journey that will be presented during the next few weeks.
We start this trilogy by visiting the middle sister, Bára Hólmgeirsdóttir, one of Reykjavík’s most noted fashion designers, stylist and retail wizard. Always ahead of her time, we find Bára living in an area in the old centre of Reykjavík, one that has been undergoing rapid changes, and that some would even go so far as to say is in the process of gentrification. Even though Bára grew up in a small village in the east of Iceland, called Neskaupsstaður, she carries with her a certain urban flair – just one more thing she has in common with her sisters. Moving to the capital of Reykjavík at a young age, she settled right into the old part of the city, where she still lives, getting involved in the more artistic and bohemian life Reykjavík used to offer at that time. Ever since, Bára has had strong ties with the artistic scene in Iceland, something you notice immediately when you enter her home. A carefully selected collection of art can been seen throughout her house; mostly work by Iceland’s more up-and-coming artists, as well as those who are internationally known, and, in between, pieces by artists that gained importance in Iceland during the second half of last century. A very interesting and personal collection.
When we arrive at her house, her daughter comes to the door and tells us that her mother is on her way. Shortly after Bára herself arrives following a busy morning preparing an outfit for the singer of the band Sigur rós, who are about to go on tour. She has been working with them for a while now, as she has with many other musicians in Iceland, creating garments for each project and tour. Bára has been working as a fashion designer almost all of her adult life and is the person behind the brand AFTUR, meaning ‘again’, in reference to the fact that all the clothes she designs are sustainable since they are made from second-hand clothing, which Bára collects in big warehouses in Europe and America.
After having lived in Copenhagen, where she opened up a store several years ago, she moved to a small wooden house on Reykjavík’s main shopping street, Laugavegur, where she opened up her own workshop and store in a kind of hidden location, on the second floor of the building. Since then she has moved, and now has one of the most beautiful stores in Reykjavík, selling her own creations and other carefully selected brands. So her life really is tied to the 101 neighbourhood, and for that reason she has been without a car for almost eight years, something unimaginable to many, but if your home, business, family and friends are all based on almost the same spot, as in Bára’s case, then there is simply no need for it – up until now when she has decided for practical reasons to have a car at hand.
So Bára is a person of many skills and, to add one more, it would be safe to say that she has a special talent when it comes to finding rare things – she is a true treasure hunter. Not many people would be able to just trip over an Eileen Gray table or to find the perfect suspended sofa in a store that is closing down, not to mention the beautiful kitchen table that she just happened to find while casually browsing in a second-hand furniture store. Few people also have the luck to receive as a gift lights designed by the architect Alvar Aalto, probably one of the first manufactured pieces – but these things seem to find their way to Bára’s home. So, when you have a look around her personal and beautiful house, you realize that almost everything you see is not easily found or bought in stores. A perfectly curated interior, crafted with care and sensibility.
Bára tells us she has gone through several phases when it comes to her homes and the things she has gathered in them. Starting very young buying and selling apartments, she has stayed longest in the one she lives in now, an apartment she bought after seeing a few photos online while living in Denmark, and that she ended up buying with just one phone call. After the initial shock of entering what would be her new home, she started the renovations and made it into this unique home we can see today. Now she does not feel like making any more changes, and says that she has created a kind of definitive home with this last one. When asked if there is something she would never let go of, since she seems to have no problem recycling furniture and objects, she points out immediately that she would never let go of her art collection, which will always follow her around wherever she goes.
We leave this warm and personal home after a very entertaining afternoon and say goodbye to Bára and the only other family member present and queen of the house, Pixie the cat. She quickly sneaks into Bára’s daughter’s room to have a nap when we are saying goodbye, tired of hours of exploring Bára’s backyard, never going far in case she get’s called in for a treat.
We walk out onto the street and remind ourselves that we actually are in the centre of Reykjavík and not a completely different city. Not many homes take you into such different worlds, but it should not come as a surprise when Bára is involved; everything about her says coolness, authenticity and warmth, so her house just had to be that way.
Text: Auður Gná // Photography: Íris Ann