Sheila Bridges’s love of Iceland began with her 50th birthday celebration. The much-lauded interior designer—whose work includes creating the iconic Harlem Toile De Jouy pattern, splashed on Williams-Sonoma cocktail shakers and Gingerlily silk caftans, as well as decorating the Vice President’s residence—organized a trip for her group of friends. The chilly July jaunt, filled with horseback riding, snowmobiling, and dog sledding on a glacier, was a smashing success—so much so that it inspired a decade-long-and-counting love affair with the remote Nordic country.
“There was something about the country that seduced me into coming back again and again until I bought a true pied-a-terre,” she says. “It’s a small, cozy apartment in downtown Reykjavik with a great view of the water and Iceland’s most iconic church, Hallgrimskirkja.”
Inside Sheila Bridges’s Reykjavik apartment.
The designer—known for her ability to seamlessly blend the classic and contemporary—is frequently on the road, bopping from her home in Harlem or the Hudson Valley to far-flung places for work, or to soak up inspiration in Milan or Mexico City or Madrid. But she’s made a home base in Iceland for reasons that go beyond the ethereal light, the Icelandic horses, and the otherworldly landscape.
“Years ago, whenever you had to fly to mainland Europe, all the transatlantic flights had to stop in Keflavik to refuel, you couldn’t make it all the way to Europe,” she says. “And so that’s kind of how I’ve always approached Iceland—it’s the place where I stop and I refuel.”
While there, Bridges spends time connecting with friends, horseback riding, shopping for art and one-of-a-kind shoes, and, sometimes, soaking in restorative geothermal water. “It’s not Paris, it’s not London, you know, the obvious places,” she says. “But for me, it really works to relax and unwind.”