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How to Embrace Nature When Decorating Your Home, According to the Man Who Designed Iceland’s Retreat at Blue Lagoon

Sigurdur Thorsteinsson shares his best tips on how to bring natural elements into your home.


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Architects and interior designers have always been interested in creating structures and decors that are in harmony with the environment. Organic Architecture, made popular by Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, is all about the peaceful “coexistence” of natural and man-made forms. But in recent years and, especially, months, the concept has re-emerged again and gained widespread popularity not only among design professionals. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging and forcing people to hunker down in their homes, transforming the spaces where we live and work into natural sanctuaries—inspiring, relaxing, yet cozy and luxurious—has become the décor issue du jour.

And when it comes to translating nature’s beauty into actual décor ideas, Design Group Italia’s founder and chief design officer Sigurdur Thorsteinsson is without equal. While he is now based in Milan, Thorsteinsson also spends a lot of time in his native Iceland where he serves as the chief branding officer of the Retreat at Blue Lagoon, the award-winning luxury wellness hotel that sits against the backdrop of one of Iceland’s most marvelous sights and its stunning milky blue waters. Thorsteinsson, in collaboration with the Icelandic firm Basalt Architects, conceived the interior design of the property that sits in perfect harmony with the moss-covered lava fields of Reykjanes Peninsula.

In fact, he used lava as a key feature in the décor incorporating it into the front desk and the Chef’s Table in Moss Restaurant. “The lava didn’t always live up to the blueprints, and in some instances, we had to move the structure of the building to accommodate the more unique lava formations,” Thorsteinsson said.

Related: The Best New Luxury Resorts for Getting Back to Nature

And while 800-year-old lava formations may not be readily available to everyone who would like to incorporate organic elements into their home décor, Thorsteinsson has a few alternatives to suggest.

“I like to work with natural materials like stone, wood, concrete, metals in their natural colors, different stones, leathers, etc. I prefer honest, high-quality materials […] True luxury is quality—meaning, things that last, [and that] have been carefully created, and are chosen carefully over time,” he added.

Thorsteinsson is a proponent of the idea that a home—however, decorated— should reflect the personality of the people who live in it. And he firmly believes that the principles that led his design concept for the Retreat at Blue Lagoon can be applied to any other space.

“We strived to create a warm and reassuring atmosphere—a refined luxury without extravagances—by using the highest quality natural materials, colors reflecting the surrounding nature, and through “stratification”—a layering of elements that creates a sense of a real, lived-in space,” he explained.

Even if your inspiration is particularly rugged just like it was the case with the Retreat at Blue Lagoon, you can always make your interiors cozy and welcoming by incorporating woods in warm shades.

Related: How Maya Architecture Influenced Frank Lloyd Wright's Greatest Works

Textiles are another way to bring the outdoors in as well as add a pop of color to your decor.

“Talking about textiles for home, I choose wool, as well as linens, cotton, and other natural fibers,” he suggested. For high-traffic areas such as your kitchen and living room, opt for a combination of natural materials and more durable synthetic fibers.

“At the Retreat, we brought in color accents with pillows and custom designed carpets with lava and moss patterns, always reflecting the surrounding volcanic landscapes in our color palette,” he explained.

Thorsteinsson believes that working with a nature-inspired palette is not at all limited to a few shades of beige or green.

“Nature has many different colors: greens, blues, reds, blacks. When we worked on The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, we were inspired by the dozens of shades of green, changing with the weather and the seasons,” he explained. “Natural color palettes often also include desaturated shades and colors beyond the primary colors.”

Even a monochrome palette would be anything but boring or dull, according to him, since “in nature, you rarely have one surface with one uniform color.”

Finally, one last piece of advice from Thorsteinsson—don’t rush it. Take your time to design each element and choose the materials and colors well.

“A home has layers that are created over time. It develops and it’s adjusted and modified according to your changing needs, often little by little.”


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