The name Kristín Guðmundsdóttir has not had a prominent place in Icelandic design history, despite the fact that she was the first Icelander to educate herself abroad in interior design.
Author: Halldóra Arnardóttir / Photographer: David Frutos
Kristín, who chose to call herself híbýlafræðing [home expert], paved the way for the designers that came after. She pioneered many innovations in interior design, especially with regard to kitchen facilities and the use of color schemes. While it is still possible to find original fixtures designed by Kristín, unfortunately many were torn down. In a new book, Kristín Guðmundsdóttir, híbýlafræðingur/interior designer, which is soon to be published, Kristín finally receives the recognition she deserves as a pioneer in her field. So who was this notable woman?
Kristín Guðmundsdóttir (born 1923) was the first Icelander to educate herself in interior design at university level. In June 1943 she stepped aboard the ship Brúarfoss, which made its way across the Atlantic Ocean, docking in New York. Travelling from Iceland to New York took a month, with a stop in Scotland, and Brúarfoss was one of a 70-ship convoy. This way of travelling was symbolic of the dangers of the war, but also of the changes in Icelandic policy, as British, and then American, army occupation resulted in a shift away from Europe and towards the United States…
…When Kristín returned from her studies there was a small group of professional architects and furniture designers who were enthusiastically working to modernize society. Kristín’s education was well suited to this debate as the aim of interior design studies was to guide the aesthetic organisation of the home through practicality, while prioritising the well-being of the inhabitants. This included having an eye for colour and form, good lighting, the arrangement of furniture, and being able to draw up spaces and fittings.
“I have always been of the opinion that beauty lies in simplicity and efficiency“, says Kristín, and understanding the elements of good planning and colour schemes were a fundamental part of her education. Kitchen tasks were divided into two main phases, preparation and finishing up, and activities that went together were focused on one work area for maximum efficiency. Kristín passed this knowledge on and also taught people the effect of colour schemes on comfort and the way people felt in a room. When choosing colours it was necessary to think about the position of the room in relation to the sun and what it would be used for. The kitchen was no exception and planning needed to take into account shapes and dimensions, as with an abstract painting…
Read the full article in the first issue of HA magazine.