Benchgrade Maker. Thrones Extra. Wake up in the Icelandic cottage of California ex-pat, Anthony Bacigalupo.
I meet Anthony at Kex, a hostel whose Americana-inspired decor is perfectly suited to make travelers from San Francisco feel right at home. This is not a coincidence. Anthony was involved in creating the look and feel of Kex, which prominently features goods and pieces from his own workshop.
“Mornings have always been an interesting thing to me. I love the ritualistic approach we have created for ourselves in our home.”
After a short drive we arrive at the cottage Anthony shares with his wife and business partner, Ýr Kara, and their young daughter Mía. As we enter, Ýr is enjoying a cheese and jelly sandwich while typing away on her laptop. Their house is as meticulously decorated as you’d expect from a couple who runs a company creating hand-made small batch goods.
“The smell of grinding coffee beans to Chet Baker playing to the pancakes Ýr makes once a week.”
“Mornings have always been an interesting thing to me. I love the ritualistic approach we have created for ourselves in our home, from the smell of grinding coffee beans to Chet Baker playing to the pancakes Ýr makes once a week. I’ve never been one to look at the news in the morning because I like to have a positive outlook in the day ahead, not being saddened from what has transpired the day before—so usually I save that for my mid-afternoon coffee break.”
Anthony traded in California life for the Icelandic countryside in 2010. He first spent time in the sparsely populated North where he was invited to participate in an artist residency. He fell in love with the landscape and the pace and eventually settled in Reykjavík.
During early trips back and forth to California, he would bring back all sorts of items and slowly turned his downtown apartment into a representation of his love for Americana. Eventually, this would inspire the beginnings of Reykjavík Trading Co. where materials more usually found in California are combined with design grounded in Iceland.
“I didn’t relate to the city life. It wasn’t until I came to the countryside here in Iceland that I realized it.”
“Before I ran away to Iceland, I lived in San Francisco and L.A., which were both great places for a time, but I found that I didn’t fit into the “time is money” approach. It was all a bit too fast-paced for me, I didn’t relate to the city life. It wasn’t until I came to the countryside here in Iceland that I realized it. I go back to do work every few months or so and I see more and more now that my values have shifted.”
“I’ve taught my girls the art of making a good breakfast burrito.”
While Anthony feels at home in Iceland, there are still things he misses about California. “Some may find it humorous but I literally have to bring back English muffins in my suitcase when I travel back from California. You can’t get them here in Iceland. On the weekends, I make one special thing—an egg sandwich with maple ham, basil and pico de gallo. Also, since there is no Mexican food here on the island, I’ve taught my girls the art of making a good breakfast burrito. We always joke that if we were to open a cafe inside of a future R.T. Co. shop—these dishes, along with the family pumpkin bread recipe, would be the only few items on the menu.”
“I loved working very deep into the night…It’s usually when my most interesting ideas would come about.”
“Before we had R.T. Co. (and children) my day would start later than most folks. I loved working very deep into the night and sometimes into the early morning. It’s usually when my most interesting ideas would come about. There was something intriguing to me about working while everyone slept. What I have noticed after having children is that your time becomes more precious during the day. We learned very quickly that kids need to have a routine, even if ours was a bit more flexible.”
“I look back now and wonder where the hell my days went before our daughter was with us.”
“I look back now and wonder where the hell my days went before our daughter was with us. I think of how much of my time was wasted not doing much, but now I know I have this window in my day to get these leather pieces tanned or cut, or dedicated to meetings with shops or some private clients. So with that, working until 3 or 4am has faded away a bit because kids don’t care that you only got 2 hours of sleep—when their day starts, so does yours.”
As I observed this beautiful little family go about their morning, hearing two languages dancing and blending together in ways only the most fluid union could, everything felt like it was in its right place. Coffee was being ground, now with a little helper in three-year-old Mía, who coincidentally also loves Chet Baker. Mornings are good in this Californian Icelandic home.
Head over to Reykjavík Trading Co. to check out the work of Anthony and Ýr Bacigalupo.