Icelandic home full of light and art

| December 1, 2010 | 0 Comments
Icelandic Ambassador Sigridur Anna Thordardottir has created a relaxed atmosphere in the home she shares with her husband,  Jon Thorsteinsson.

Icelandic Ambassador Sigridur Anna Thordardottir has created a relaxed atmosphere in the home she shares with her husband, Jon Thorsteinsson.

Iceland Ambassador Sigridur Anna Thordardottir sometimes answers the phone herself in her small embassy office. With a staff of only two, her driver acts as the receptionist in between driving her to official functions.
And this same relaxed atmosphere permeates her residence in the heart of the old village of Rockcliffe. This modern stone house’s light-filled open spaces features big windows for its more than 7,000 square feet.
It was still under construction in 2000 when Iceland bought it for its new ambassador. Built by Claridge Homes and designed by architect Douglas Hardie, its interior designer was Susan Kennedy of Griffin Kennedy Interiors. She was responsible for the pale wood floors and soft yellow walls of the reception areas and changes made to the original plan, including gussying up and enlarging the kitchen to accommodate large embassy parties.
“It’s perfect,” says the ambassador, who with her husband, Rev. Jon Thorsteinsson, has filled the house with their extensive art collection. Along with their own works by Icelandic artists, there are six paintings on loan from the National Gallery of Iceland. One of their favourites and a piece they own, is called The Raven, a hunk of carved driftwood by Icelandic artist Saemundur Valdimarsson. Several landscapes are the work of Mr. Thorsteinsson, alongside a collection of his ceramics, displayed on a table in the foyer, alongside a piece by his teacher at the Ottawa School of Art, Jim Thomson.
The ambassador’s husband was a pastor in the Icelandic Lutheran Church for 34 years and his last congregation had 8,600 members. “I was a bit tired,” he says, “and my wife gave me the opportunity to retire.”
This is the first posting for the ambassador who was a member of parliament for 16 years, minister of the environment from 2004-2006, and minister for Nordic cooperation in 2005-2006.
The house has a large entrance hall with a sweeping staircase leading directly up to a comfy space the couple uses as a TV room. The two main reception rooms are divided by a large fireplace, open on both sides. The smaller room has a piano, often used by the ambassador’s husband, who also plays guitar.

The Icelandic residence is a new building that was still under construction in 2000 when the government bought it. Interior designer  Susan Kennedy was responsible for the pale wood floors and the yellow walls in the main reception rooms, such as those pictured above. The home is full of art, including the pieces on the decorative table.

The Icelandic residence is a new building that was still under construction in 2000 when the government bought it. Interior designer Susan Kennedy was responsible for the pale wood floors and the yellow walls in the main reception rooms, such as those pictured above. The home is full of art, including the pieces on the decorative table.

“The house is very comfortable and spacious,” says the ambassador, who can entertain 200 at a reception and seat 18 for a sit-down dinner.
She admits that guests don’t get to try typical Icelandic food at the embassy table. “That’s too hard,” she says, “Most traditional food is based on fresh fish and lamb that’s too hard to import.” She uses a local caterer for formal dinners; she cooks for small groups of family and friends. Beautiful sterling silver flatware and blown glass stemware, all made in Iceland, are used for formal dinners.
For summer, the house boasts two outdoor patios, and there’s a basement with a one-bedroom apartment, another bedroom and a conference room. The second floor has four bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. One of those is the pastor’s “painting room” but there’s plenty of room when the couple’s three daughters come to Canada with their husbands and seven children.
Over coffee, the ambassador, who is wearing a bright red silk jacket, wiggles her feet and points out her stylish high heeled red “leather” shoes. “Fish skin,” she says proudly. She also digs out a handbag with grey leather fish skin detailing. “That’s the natural colour of the fish.”
It probably tasted as good as it looks. What better green product for a smartly dressed Icelandic ambassador to show to Canada?

Margo Roston is Diplomat’s culture editor.

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Margo Roston is Diplomat’s culture editor.

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