When we called Sigrún up to schedule a visit, she was right on the other side of the island, in a town in the East of Iceland called Seyðisfjörður. She was staying there for a few days helping out her sister, Hrafnhildur, during the village’s annual art festival. She told us that we could collect the keys from her other sister, Bára, and just go in to take the photos, she did not see any reason she needed to be there, the house was ready for us. That did not come as a big surprise, since her sisters had already told us that she is by far the tidiest of the three of them, as well as being the minimalist in the family.
Sigrún is the eldest of the three sisters and is now living with her daughter Ilmur and Goldie the dog, in the apartment which she purchased a little over a year ago. She tells us that she has moved more times than she can count in the years since leaving her hometown Neskaupstaður, to move to Reykjavík to finish high school. She was around 17 years old at the time and was accompanied by Bára, then just 16 years old, who also had decided it was time to move to Reykjavík. After a period of frequent house moves and several phone calls to information centers, asking them how to cook different foods instead of looking up someones phone number, Sigrún thought it was time to make a change and moved to Paris where she lived for a while.
Returning to Iceland she decides one day to buy an apartment in Reykjavík. “I did not even have money for a bus fare”, she recalls and does not even remember how she managed to make that first buy. She was working at the time in Reykjavík’s most notorious bar, Kaffibarinn, and at the same time making very grown up decisions about property investment, something none of her friends even came close to thinking about at the time. Since then she has owned several apartments and is in the process of buying a new one, that we will hopefully get to visit, once she has finished renovating it.
Sigrún also lived in Barcelona and later Copenhagen, where she and her sisters opened up a store called AFTUR, after her sister’s brand, selling her clothes along with other very avant garde brands. The three sisters´ store was painted all black with gold painted counters, and to add a more dramatic touch, they used real bones and skulls as part of the decoration, something that became a trend years later. Their interior decoration skills did not go very well with the famous cozyness for which Copenhagen is renowned for, and even though Danes are considered by many as the number one environmentally friendly nation in Europe, the locals even found the store’s slogan “Recycle or Die” even a step too far.
Loving the workshop atmosphere, the sisters did not on the other hand enjoy sales work as much, and as a result they soon became known for being the worst shop assistants in Copenhagen, repeatedly closing the store to go to the cafe next door, leaving just a note telling people where they could be found. After having shaken up the danish softness a little bit, they moved back to Iceland where they now live. Sigrún’s house still breathes a little of the spirit that scared of all potential customers in Copenhagen back in the day. Dark walls are the first thing you see upon entering the apartment, but as soon as you start looking around your mind gets caught up observing her personal and warm apartment. Her sisters were right, everything is immaculate and as with her sister Bára, she has art hanging all over the house. She started out early collecting and tells us that one of her most prised artwork is by a painter called Eggert Magnússon, which she asked for as a present from her parents when she turned 25 years old, having just recently started to focus on the joy of collecting art. Since then she has continued buying and has constructed a collection featuring interesting work by artists, young and old.
All around the house you can also find work by Sigrún’s late husband Úlfur Chaka, who died far too young a few years ago, having never quite made the mark on the Icelandic art scene his talent merited. He is very present in her house and on one wall you can see a work of his hanging just besides a small wooden plate marked Bubbi, a gift from her daughter, who made this for her mother, knowing her fascination with the legendary Icelandic singer. We assume these items share both the same wall as well as equal places in her mother’s heart.
So now it is time for Sigrún to move again. She is buying a new apartment, moving closer to the old center of Reykjavík, to what she says is the best location she has lived up to now. We will keep you posted if she decides to invite us again for a visit. We know a little about the apartment and it will truly be a great project for her, maybe her definitive one, even though she says she finds that hard to believe, for once you are smitten by the high of turning a wreck into a beautiful haven, it is hard to switch of the thought.
Text: Auður Gná // Photography: Íris Ann