Published September 7, 2010
Just take a peek in the windows of Fríða Frænka, the little grey corrugated metal house in downtown Reykjavík, and you’ll be hooked. This antique shop is enough to make even the most selfrespecting antique lover jizz her pantaloons. Antique dolls peer from the basement windows, coaxing visitors in, daring them to leave without dropping cash on something old, ridiculous, and beautiful. The shop is jammed with carefully organised items—cupboards stacked with china and silverware, a ceiling covered with hanging lamps (most of which actually work, I’m told), crowded Danish modern teak furniture on the basement floor, a table of faded plastic children’s toys, an alcove stuffed with fabrics, jars full of thimbles and vintage eyeglasses. Every nook and cranny is prime real estate.
Anna Ringsted is the keeper of these treasures. She is Reykjavík’s unofficial steward of cool old things. “I’ve got all kinds of everything,” Anna says when I speak to her in the shop. Her most expensive item is a piece of silverware, and her best deal? “That is difficult to say, because I’ve got loads of things,” she said. “Everything is a bargain.” Not as much a bargain as going to the flea market, I must say, but Fríða Frænka (Aunt Friða in English), isn’t about junk. This store is a whole lot of special. People usually don’t walk in looking for something specific, she tells me. They come to view the collection, to find the unexpected. That’s the joy of this beautifully curated shop, and it’s worth paying for. Anna refuses to stereotype her typical customer. There isn’t one, she says. “Some are looking for tables, some for chairs, some for jewelry, some for tablecloths, lamps.” And lots of tourists find a little piece of Iceland to take home with them.
Old things from everywhere
By no means is everything in here from Iceland, however. The antiques come from all over the world, Anna says. “A lot of them from Denmark and England.” “Sweden, Finland!” chimes in the young woman with stylised rouged cheeks working from behind the till. Even though they originate from afar, Anna mostly finds her wares locally, at small personal sales in Reykjavík— moving sales, or when a family is selling off the wares of a deceased loved one. The bits and bobs that do originate from Iceland, Anna says, are usually furniture, ceramics, and silverware. At the front of the shop are barrels of green glass fishing floats which must have come from Iceland. Perfect for tourists to take home. Everything in the store says something about Icelandic culture, not just the stuff that was produced in Iceland, Anna says. The place gives visitors a peek of what Icelanders of the 20th century chose to put in their homes. The collection also says something about Anna. Her favourite item of the moment is downstairs, a huge wooden wardrobe. “It’s too big for me to take home,” she says. Anna’s home looks like the store, of course. “I don’t go to IKEA,” she laughs. She has one item from the Swedish megachain, she tells me, “but you can’t see it.” Though she’s always been interested in antiques, her tastes and therefore her shop-curating have changed over the years as she has matured and as she sees things along the way that spark her interest. “It would be tiring to always sell the same thing,” she tells me. Still, some items in the store are old friends that have been around since Friða Frænka opened, Anna says. A Danish import herself, Anna founded the store 29 years ago because she saw a gap in the Reykjavík retail landscape. Fríða Frænka “was wanted,” she says. Anna has no background in design, “just a good eye,” she says. “Just look around and you see why.”