If 18th century governor of Iceland and entrepreneur Skúli Magnússon were alive today he would be a happy man. After housing numerous restaurants and bars, the oldest building in Reykjavík, originally intended by Magnússon to be a craft house, has recently been turned into a centre for Icelandic craft and design.
“The company that restores old houses invited us… they didn’t really want to have another bar or restaurant but craft and design like its previous purpose was,” the managing director of Kraum Icelandic Design, Halla Bogadóttir, explained of the restoring of the 1752-built wooden house to its original purpose.
The front rooms of the building house an exhibition detailing Reykjavík’s history since the mid-1700s, when the capital consisted of only a few farms and a couple of hundred people. The City of Reykjavík exhibition includes paintings and early photographs of the area.
The Kraum Icelandic Design store occupies the spacious back and upstairs areas of the house and holds a wide collection of design products – from children’s puzzles to woollen lamps – by around 70 Icelandic artists. The centre takes a different approach to the tourist souvenir shop by selling unique work by local artists.
“Many tourists ask ‘where is this Icelandic design that people are talking about?’ so we gathered together these products in this building to make a sort of window into Icelandic design,” Bogadóttir explains and adds that she hopes this will make Icelandic design more easily accessible to tourists.
Some of the products on sale include: creatively designed stationary items, wooden children’s toys, ceramic vases and dining ware, plastic zip-lockable handbags and raincoats, woollen and other clothing and jewellery. As Kraum represents the best in Icelandic design, the prices are on the higher end. But as Bogadóttir says, around half of the designers sell exclusively to Kraum, so you’re unlikely to find a lot of the products elsewhere.
According to Bogadóttir, the project has received a lot of support. “I sent letters to a lot of designers of clothes, jewellery and applied art and over one hundred persons sent me their products,” she said. “We formed a committee of two architects and someone who runs a souvenir store at Geysir, who knew what sells. Then thirty investors and designers put their money together to make this all come true,” she added.
“I’m a goldsmith. I owned a shop in Laugavegur and I know how difficult it is to juggle design, running a store and marketing. I wanted to make it possible for designers not to have to do all that – just to specialise in design,” Bogadóttir says and explains that the concept of Kraum is to help promote many local designers under one roof.
The building also houses the Craft and Design Exhibition Centre, which is open on weekdays.
Kraum Icelandic Design
Aðalstræti 10, 101 Reykjavík, tel: 517 7797
Weekdays 9-18:00, Thursdays open late to
22:00, Saturdays and Sundays 12-17:00