Photo by: Helga Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir

DesignMarch is an annual design festival which takes place at Iceland’s sparkling capital of cool. Spread out across Reykjavik’s main streets, fishing harbors and the lava fields surrounding the city, this one-of-a-kind design week presents the newest developments in architecture, graphic design, fashion, furniture and product design.

Like the many Icelanders I’ve met, I found Icelandic design as something unique, alluring and bursting with creative energy. I am in awe at how much creativity, talent and output there is for such a small country. (Iceland has a population 335,000; there are more sheep – 460,000 – and puffins – 4,000,000! – than people.) There’s an intriguing, and very attractive aspect to Icelandic design which is hard to put a finger on. “This is how you do it. (This is) what makes them stand out from others. The difference is confidence,” I overheard someone say while watching Mr. Silla’s enigmatic and mesmerizing performance during the SwimSlow show. Perhaps that’s it – it’s in the way they do things (which translates so beautifully and profoundly on their work): self-assured, positive and playful, like a child’s spirit.

Perhaps this authentic character could be linked to Iceland’s almost sacred relationship with nature. One cannot miss this underlying theme as one peruses the many inspiring projects on show: an earnest search for Icelandic porcelain, hand-tufted rugs modelled on Iceland’s many volcanoes and mountains, and several works focusing solely on natural (and sustainable) materials found in the island. There’s a sense of humility and devotion, a sincere respect for nature. The theme for this year’s key event, DesignTalks – held at the majestic Harpa concert hall, designed by Olafur Eliasson and inspired by crystalline basalt columns found in the country; another grand tribute to Icelandic nature – is “Brut Nature”. By exploring our relationship with nature, with each other, and ourselves, “we set out to investigate if and how uncertainty may be reinforcing our quest for the pure, the authentic, the raw. For beauty – and perhaps ugliness too. How we increasingly seek to reconnect with nature and ourselves through heightened senses, sometimes controversially mediated through technology, while in other cases, through authentic experiences.”

As such, DesignMarch is the biggest design festival in the world (per capita) – well, it’s probably not the biggest in number, but it certainly has the biggest heart and character. Aside from the uniqueness of the projects on show, what makes it special is precisely its smallness. It is cozy and intimate; since everyone basically knows each other, you can get up close and personal with the designers, making it easy to get to know their process, inspirations and motivations. Unlike other design festivals where it can get a bit overwhelming and impersonal, here you immediately feel that you are at the heart of it.

The best of DesignMarch is the experience of being there itself: to savor it all, to witness brut nature, and to be part of this small family of brilliant and creative souls. In those four, intense days – packed with hotel parties, exhibition openings, studio visits, a dip at the dazzling Blue Lagoon and perhaps an adventurous sojourn to the mighty fjords, waterfalls and glaciers – you are truly one of them.

Presenting, a visual diary of these scintillating moments captured by my Iphone, fresh and unfiltered, just like Icelandic nature.
(Stay tuned for my DesignMarch favorites and interviews with designers! Coming soon…)

Oddsson Ho(s)tel –  a playful hotel designed by Dodlur which I’ve written about here and on Night Fever 5 – is Keen On Walls’ HQ during DesignMarch.
Such beauty.
Ahhh, Reykjavik.
A flashy picture of the amazing DesignMarch team during the welcome drinks at Canopy by Hilton.
Cozy breakfasts at Oddsson.
Smiley smile!
The Search for Icelandic Porcelain during DesignTalks at Harpa.
Fashion Rave reminded me so much of Black Mirror. That didn’t stop me from dancing in front of the projectors, see Laura’s Instagram video:

Yesterday I met Angel.

A post shared by Laura Väinölä (@joolaurajoo) on

At the FIT exhibition featuring the best works of Icelandic graphic designers and illustrators at the Reykjavik Art Museum (Hafnarhus).
Sigrun Gylfadottir’s Svartigaldur at FIT.
My fave at the exhibition: Magnus Ingvar Agustsson‘s The Oracle’s Query. All the details!
Magnus Ingvar Agustsson’s The Oracle’s Query at FIT.
Peeking into SwimSlow.
Erna Bergmann‘s dreamy SwimSlow show.
Candy-colored halls and sweet dreams at Oddsson.
Becoming a bird with Vik Prjonsdottir‘s amazing Wing Blanket at Epal.
With Brynhildur Pálsdóttir, one of the talented designers of Vík Prjónsdóttir, with our Healing Hands scarves.
Deform chair by Milena Krais (DE) at Roundabout Baltic, one of my fave exhibitions at DesignMarch!
More amazing design from the Baltic region at Roundabout Baltic at Nordic House.
Landscape Experience (FI) at Nordic House. Expressive landscapes painted on wood, and transformed into furniture, and completed with soundscapes created in sync with the entire concept. By: Choice, landscape architect and artist Lotta Jalava, and Finnish pop musician Mikko Pykäri.
Lokal (FI) at Nordic House.
1+1+1 at Hugdetta.
1+1+1 at Hugdetta.
Best DesignMarch party!
Mr. Silla DJing at the Blaeti party at Oddsson.
Blaeti x Oddsson x Angel x swan
With dear Olafur from Oddsson Ho(s)tel. Not from my Iphone! But from the talented Helga Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir.
At one of the bright green buildings of Grandi – Reykjavik’s vibrant up-and-coming area. The best ice cream shop in the city, recording studios, a historical harbor cafe, shops and restaurants plus, the newly opened Marshall House (restaurant, exhibition spaces, and Olafur Eliasson’s studio!) are all located here.
The newly opened Marshall Restaurant at the Marshall House. Really one of my favorite venues in Reykjavik! The upper floors are occupied by Kling & Bang, The Living Art Museum and Studio Ólafur Elíasson.
Olafur Eliasson at Marshall House.
Olafur Eliasson at Marshall House.
Olafur Eliasson (with my good friend and interior designer extraordinaire Dani, whose beautiful I’ve written about here and on my book, Scandinavia Dreaming) at Marshall House.
Olafur Eliasson at Marshall House.
Bad Company is an exhibition by eight young Icelandic artists at the Kling & Bang gallery, the first one at the new space at Marshall House.
Bad Company is an exhibition by eight young Icelandic artists at the Kling & Bang gallery, the first one at the new space at Marshall House.
The room smelled like pancakes! 🙂 Bad Company is an exhibition by eight young Icelandic artists at the Kling & Bang gallery, the first one at the new space at Marshall House.
Keen on Farmers Market at Grandi!
Rugged beauty.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Isobel Grad and Benjamin Farrell.
Soft Nordic light at the Museum of Design and Applied Art‘s museum shop.
Smile! You’re on Angel’s candid camera. Enjoyed Stoll a lot – an exhibition about Icelandic chairs at the Museum of Design and Applied Art.
It’s always December 4th at the Museum of Design and Applied Art.
A very extravagant watering can at Elements by Studio Eyjolfsson.
At the DesignMarch closing party at KEX Hotel.
We met the First Lady of Iceland at the reception at Bessastadir – the awe-inspiring residence of the President.
Here I am, feeling very happy at Bessastadir.
All that cheese means I’m truly becoming Dutch.
Keen on chairs at Oddsson!
The mythical Hallgrímskirkja.

Dunkin Donuts for elves.

The moment you realize that your room is the same one that’s featured on your Facebook header! 🙂 Thank you Oddsson, for being my home during DesignMarch.

The mesmerizing Blue Lagoon.
Best in Tote and Memories

Up next: my DesignMarch favorites and interviews with designers! Stay tuned.

DesignMarch was held this year from March 23–26, 2017.
The next edition will be held on March 15–18, 2018.