You have to drive a long way to reach where Lilja lives, across the entire northern part of Iceland, to one of the most renowned fjords that exists on this island; Skagafjörður. That is where this cosmopolitan horse breeder decided to move a few years back. She did not go straight from Reykjavík to the North – she passed through several foreign cities like New York and Barcelona, before deciding to buy the land where her grandparents had lived.
After making that decision she started planning the building of a new house for her family, a house that has gained recognition even outside Iceland for excellent architecture, having already been featured in several foreign design magazines.
When you reach the land called Hof, and the village of Hofsós, the first building you see is a beautiful burgundy painted wooden house, the old house of Hof. Driving up to the house, a small beautiful rural church lies hidden just below the road. We drive up to the new house, and as we approach we are greeted by a friendly giant – Lilja’s dog. Bingo makes sure we find our way to the front door and we meet Lilja in her bright and open kitchen.
We need a moment to take in the scenery; everywhere you look there is something that catches your eye. Few homes have more character than this one, and that is not taking in to account the amazing view you have from the house – mountains and open sea everywhere you look. We sit down around the kitchen island and have a coffee – it has been a long day and a long drive. We enjoy a nice meal and then head to the old house, used as a guest house today, where we will be sleeping.The house looks perfect, all recently renovated, and from the outside it appears stunningly flawless. Once inside you discover a beautiful curated interior, everything selected with a strong sense of respect for the house. It smells of old and new at the same time, warm and personal. Lilja decided to gather furniture that used to belong to her grandparents and parents and use that to decorate the house, along with her own furniture, small objects and art. Old drawings by her mother hang on the wall in the corridor, indicating where Lilja got her artistic talent from. She could easily have ended up as an architect, which was something she always had in mind, or even an artist, having studied art in Barcelona, but now her creativity is used for breeding horses.
Everything in the house is mixed together with a peculiar harmony; textiles from India, wooden beds like those they used back in the old days in Iceland, wallpaper with a pattern that is not so conventional for a house of this style, and a sofa that looks as if it was found in an English cottage, placed beside an old record player. The magic lies in Lilja’s sense of not limiting herself to one single style; everything just ends up making sense through this careful selection of objects.Lilja even decided to use the old wood that had to be removed when fixing the house to make the kitchen cupboards, and obviously they fit right in and look distinctive in every way.
Choosing a room to sleep in becomes no easy task. Each and every room looks nicer than the last one, and there are many to choose from. We wake up in the morning to birds singing as the smell of newly cut grass floats into the room. The summer sun gives you no mercy so the only option is to start the day. Leaving the old farmhouse we go in search of a good cup of coffee at the new house, and on the way we pass a small, building where Lilja keeps her hens. The hen house looks almost like a tiny version of the old farmhouse and is just as beautiful – even the hens here at Hof live in perfect housing.
While having a cup of coffee, Lilja, who now owns a stable of around 60 horses, often grabs her binoculars to look out through the kitchen window. A few kilometers away you have a good view of the building where the stables are, making it easy to check, while having a cup of coffee, which horse is out of the stable and what exercises they are practising. She is wearing her riding outfit and we accompany her to the stables where her day begins, training and attending her horses. We enter the stables and the first thought that comes to mind is that this must be one of the most beautiful stables in the whole of Iceland. But, knowing Lilja, that should come as no surprise – she leaves her mark on everything she does, and that mark is meant to last.
Text: Auður Gná // Photography: Íris Ann