Studio Bua transforms an Icelandic barn into an artist’s studio


The ground floor has been designed as a working space containing the studio, the kitchen and the dining room. The interior has exposed concrete floors and stained birch plywood walls.

Inspired by the artist client, who works with stains on plywood, Studio Bua collaborated on a stain palette based on the colors of the surrounding landscape.

The first floor, a more private domestic space, has a subdued color palette and contains materials inspired by the local vernacular. This part of the project is made up of a new timber frame structure and has a large opening onto a small living room overlooking a beach and a fjord beyond. The walls and the floor are clad in white stained pine planks.

The living room also has a double height opening using an existing door once used to bring hay into the barn. A picture frame window sits at the end of an adjacent hallway, providing a view of the studio from above.

Salvaged materials were used where possible. The handrails on the first floor were made from pieces of plywood from the interior cladding on the ground floor, while the outdoor seating was made from reclaimed concrete. All interior doors are salvaged from the Reykjavik City Recycling Center and the room divider for the textile wool curtains in the studio was taken from the client’s previous family business inventory from the 1960s.

Earlier this year, the practice was shortlisted for the AJ Small Projects Awards 2021 for its £ 240,000 Nýp Guesthouse in West Iceland, a guesthouse and cultural retreat.

architect’s view

Hlöðuberg’s Artist Studio in Skarðsströnd is located in an old farmhouse overlooking the Breiðafjörður Nature Reserve in West Iceland. Our mission was to create a design that would house an artist’s studio as well as a home for the owners.

We have kept what was possible of the relatively stable concrete structure of the barn. The part of the barn where we have placed the new volume has a thick concrete wall but the walls where we have made a walled garden are fragile and without foundations.

On the ground floor inside the original concrete structure, we only made openings where necessary as the walls are not reinforced and an additional opening would compromise the structure. We have added two new openings to get more light in the kitchen and an entrance to the workshop, to enter great works of art. The ground floor was designed to be a workspace containing an artist’s studio, a kitchen and a dining room.

For the interior surfaces we used exposed concrete flooring and stained birch plywood on the walls and stationary furniture.

On the first floor, we have kept a palette inspired by local vernacular interiors. Upstairs we were freer thanks to the new wooden frame structure, the openings are therefore larger like that of the living room overlooking the beach and the fjord.

Sigrún Sumarliðadóttir, Principal Architect, Studio Bua

Customer view

As an artist, I appreciate the artistic approach of Studio Bua. I can sincerely recommend them for their original thinking, their precision, their professionalism and above all we really enjoyed working with them.

The Studio Bua team was always ready to respond to our comments and surprises on site without losing the main concept. They have taken the same care in following up on all issues, large and small.

Building a new house in the old barn required a good mastery of the technical aspects, which they managed to do without losing sight of the artistic purpose of the project. With original thought, meticulousness and dedication, they have succeeded in producing a unique work.

Project data

Start on the spot Spring 2020
Completion Spring 2021
Gross interior floor area 167m²
Gross floor area (internal + external) 182m²
Contract form NS8401 Norwegian Standard Contract
Construction cost £ 195,000
Construction cost per m² £ 1,072
Architect Studio Bua
Customer Private
Structural engineer Gísli Guðmundsson GÁG
M&E Consultant Gísli Guðmundsson GÁG
QS Eirikur Kristjansson
Project Manager Eirikur Kristjansson
Certified building inspector Grettir Örn Ásmundsson Strandabyggð
Main contractor Eirikur Kristjansson
CAD software used Revit
Global U-value weighted by zone 0.45 W / m².K (medium shell)


Comments are closed.