She lives in a house with soul and history, even if it does not give that impression from the street. Walking down a wide alley, you end up at her door and predict that something different is about to be discovered. Suddenly the house changes colour, from the dark indigo-blue of the main façade, to the strong pink facing the garden façade. Once inside, Erla, the owner, greets us with a small cigar in hand, as David Bowie’s latest album plays loudly in the background. It is right after lunch and she offers us almonds and mint tea.
Erla is a well-known artist in Reykjavík, and a woman who is not easy to miss. She bought the house in 1992 when she returned to Iceland after having spent almost all her life living abroad. Raised in Sweden, where she spent her childhood up until starting high school, Erla came back to Iceland for a short while before returning to Sweden to study art and design in Stockholm. This was in the early 80’s, and the next logical step after finishing her studies in Sweden was to go to New York. She arrived there in 1984 and has memories of a place that has little to do with the city it has become today. After her Williamsburg apartment was set on fire, she decided to move back to Iceland and find a permanent place. She soon discovered this unique house, which fitted all her needs. The house was built as a work studio, later bought by a well-known Icelandic ceramic artist, Guðmundur from Miðdal, and as Erla settled in, she made the necessary arrangements to change the work studio into a living studio apartment. The newest addition was made just a few years ago when a shower was installed, something of a necessity for most, unless, like Erla, you are a frequent visitor to Reykjavík’s many public swimming pools.
The interior of the house is everything but conventional, the space itself offering a totally different experience from that of a normal house, with excess light and generous ceilings. Stacks of artwork piled up in one corner of the large living room immediately give away Erla’s occupation; and if that was not enough then two huge paintings hanging on the walls will surely do the job. A fireplace, made from Icelandic spar by previous owner Guðmundur from Miðdal, looks almost like a temple – it is a unique piece, and a work of art in itself, that gives a certain mystical feel to the space, as does the impressive mosaic dome right above Erla’s bed.
Every object has a history and a purpose, which is perhaps why Erla has never had too much interest in buying things – her furniture is part of family history or gifts from friends. The chaise lounge is the only exception, as the one piece of furniture that Erla decided to buy immediately when her friend offered it up for sale.It is now placed on top of a rug that was recently found in Istanbul, and bought due to its resemblance to a Rothko painting. The rest of the objects and art works found around the house only add to the unique atmosphere, completing the picture and filling in the gaps where needed. Everywhere you look you find interesting testimony to a life lived between many worlds.
This pink/indigo house on Skólavörðustígur is a hidden treasure and hopefully will stay that way for a long time.
Text: Auður Gná // Photography: Íris Ann