A vacation home in Iceland with front row seats for a rare sight: greenery

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With its waterfalls and glaciers, Iceland offers views that are hard to beat. But that’s exactly what Tina Dico and Helgi Jonsson have managed to do with their new holiday home, built on land where the view is made even more spectacular by a rare green setting.

Less than an hour’s drive from the couple’s main house in greater Reykjavik, their half-acre property above Thingvallavatn, one of Iceland’s largest lakes, offers unobstructed views of Skjaldbreidur , a 3,500-foot mountain formed by an extinct volcano, and, just beyond, the summit of the Langjökull Ice Cap, Iceland’s second largest glacier. But what sealed the deal was a number of spruce, pine and birch trees.

“When you’re used to not having trees around, which is pretty much what it is here in Iceland, this place is like stepping into a green haven,” says Ms. Dico, a Danish singer. 43 years old and songwriter.

Ms Dico, who performs as Tina Dickow in her homeland, and her husband, a 41-year-old Icelandic musician and painter, purchased the property in 2013, shortly after moving to the subarctic island. They paid $ 226,800 for the property, which included a 500-square-foot A-frame house from the 1970s. Ready to take advantage of recent zoning laws allowing taller buildings, they decided to replace the structure with one. 1,600 square foot house with three bedrooms, a full bathroom and a mezzanine on the second floor. It also has a deep soaking tub in the main living room that converts into a daybed. The couple share the house with their three children: Emil, 9, Jósefína, 7 and Theodór, 4.

The couple worked with KRADS, an architecture studio with partners in Reykjavik and Copenhagen, but, helped by their families, they ended up building much of the house themselves. The couple estimate they saved up to $ 156,400 doing everything from applying the Siberian larch siding on the facade to installing their own doors.

The dining room has access to the terrace.


Photo:

Marino Thorlacius

Construction began in 2015, and the house was completed in the summer of 2020.

Iceland, with its rapidly declining glaciers and sea level rise, is on the front lines of climate change, and there is no bigger story for the country, Mr Jonsson said.

The Langjökull ice cap, the top of which is visible from the family room, is getting smaller and smaller, like so many Icelandic glaciers. Mr Jonsson compares it to the current state of a glacier in southeast Iceland, where he hiked as a child. “Before, it took 10 minutes to get to the edge of this glacier,” he says. “Now it takes an hour. “

The sustainability and carbon footprint issues of the project were on the couple’s mind when they planned the house.

Tina Dico and her husband Helgi Jonsson at a concert in 2019 in Berlin. The musicians write and perform their own songs.


Photo:

Redferns

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Instead of just tearing down the original A-frame, which was still in good condition, the couple gave it away. It is now used as a guest house by the father of one of their contractors, who had it lifted by crane and then transported by flatbed truck.

They also opted for an environmentally friendly thatched roof, which according to their architect, KRADS founding partner Kristján Eggertsson, is more expensive to build. The compacted soil, he says, “filters out impurities from the rainwater before it returns to the ground.”

The house is close enough to their primary residence – a 5,000-square-foot four-bedroom equipped with a recording studio – for a quick day trip, but offers a radical change of scenery.

In summer, the lush moss adds to the area’s unearthly greenery. “But it’s even more amazing in the winter,” says Ms. Dico, when there is more snow than in the coastal region, where they live.

Icy country roads and thick snow can make access difficult, she says, but the family don’t hesitate to make the trip to enjoy atmospheric nesting.

When the kids get older, says Ms Dico, she plans to take advantage of their access to Skjaldbreidur – which she calls “the old volcano across the lake” – and go cross-country skiing and winter hiking. .

Right now, “we do a lot of sledding and drink hot chocolate, all the while enjoying the view, the peace and the fireplace,” she says.

Right now, “we do a lot of sledding and drink hot chocolate, all the while enjoying the view, the peace and the fireplace,” she says.

This fall, the couple are busy recording an album – their first since the vacation home was built – and they take stock of how the new hideaway may affect their creativity. Ms. Dico is eagerly awaiting a double dose of artistic stimulation. She says the drive to the house traverses a generally treeless stretch of landscape, which she compares to the moon, and then ends in what she describes as the fairytale setting of the house. “Everything is incredibly inspiring,” she says.

KRADS, the couple’s architects, gave the house an eco-friendly thatched roof made from two layers of local turf.


Photo:

Marino Thorlacius

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