At Home With Hinrik Ólafsson

The Icelandic actor, producer and location manager for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty shares what it’s like to live in this incredibly scenic Nordic country, and gives us a peek inside his minimalist yet welcoming home.

Hinrik Ólafsson

What's it like to live in Iceland? Find out from actor, producer and location manager for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Hinrik Ólafsson.

Icelandic actor, director and writer Hinrik Ólafsson is one busy guy. In addition to working on documentaries for National Geographic, SkyVision UK and Discovery Networks, Ólafsson is often called upon to location scout for feature films like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, out on DVD/Blu-ray today. Read on to find out what it’s like to film a movie in this beautiful country, and to take a peek inside Hinrik’s quintessential Iceland home.

When Ben Stiller, star of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was in town, what comments did he make about the local Icelandic homes?

He loved the Nordic minimalist style. While we were staying in a guest home, he remarked that he admired the glass windows and the way light impacts the room at different times of the day. In Iceland, houses have big windows – we want to enjoy the view. It’s like we want to be a part of the outside, but still remain inside. The country is so immense, with beautiful mountains and the ocean, we prefer our house's interior to be modest in comparison. We want to be able to sit in our living room and listen to the wind, watch the snow fall; it’s a nice contrast.

The country is so immense, with beautiful mountains and the ocean, we prefer our house's interior to be modest in comparison.
Icelandic actor and producer Hinrik Ólafsson on Nordic minimalist style

When you are on location, where do you like to stay while you are filming?

I like local homes that I can rent. Sometimes the farmers have these quaint bed and breakfast type homes the production crew can stay in that are lovely.  They offer a lot of local information about their areas, and it’s very homey. It’s much nicer to relax in a place like this versus a hotel!

Your own home is beautiful! What drew you to it?

I wanted to live out of the city. My wife and I are not city people and we wanted to build a home that incorporated a sense of peacefulness for us and our children. Most Icelanders build their homes from scratch, and we worked with the construction company to create a vision of what we wanted to do. I live by a lake surrounded by beautiful mountains and it’s so nice. Since the weather is not always good, we really have to make our home our castle.

How much did it cost to build your own home here?

Fifteen years ago, we paid the equivalent of roughly $360K for a 1,300-square-foot house.

How would you describe your design style?

I would say the Nordic minimalist style mixed with south Italian decor. I enjoy incorporating nature, i.e., bringing in fresh flowers, etc. within my house whenever possible.

Hinrik names the kitchen as his favorite room in the house. “My children and I are always there; we love to cook together,” he says. “We have great local, very fresh ingredients here and we can spend hours talking about food. And we often invite our friends and neighbors over when we have a surplus.”

What’s your favorite room in the home? Why?

I love the kitchen. My children and I are always there; we love to cook together. We have great local, very fresh ingredients here and we can spend hours talking about food. And we often invite our friends and neighbors over when we have a surplus. My brother Egill is a famous musician, and we love to have parties in our kitchen together, where we play and sing.

What are some favorite features in the room?

I love the mahogany wood dining room table. When we have people over, I will put all the different foods we have there and can get as many as 50 people standing around eating. Icelanders love that community feeling. We use a lot of lava stones, fresh colorful summer flowers and moss to decorate to make the kitchen more beautiful.

What are some of your must-have home essentials?

I love my bookcase. Books are an essential part of my life. As an Icelander, literature is so important to us; we have grown up with storytelling and fairy tales about Nordic adventures. I find it all fascinating. I also enjoy making Brazilian coffee with my Italian espresso coffee machine, Alessi. It’s beautifully designed. In the spring and summer, I love to grill my fresh fish I just caught straight from the lake on the backyard barbecue.

One of Hinrik’s must-have essentials at home is his bookcase, which is stocked with many volumes. “Books are an essential part of my life,” he says. “As an Icelander, literature is so important to us; we have grown up with storytelling and fairy tales about Nordic adventures.”

Also, I have local paintings made by personal friends. If the painting evokes feeling, I will buy it. Most Icelanders are artists; they come into the house and make suggestions as to where to hang the painting in the home. Our paintings move around the house, getting better lighting at certain points of the year. We do this to maintain the spirit of the painting.

What are some favorite colors, shapes, textures?

I love earthy tones. I have a dark brown leather couch that is very comfortable. We also have a lot of natural wood, which complements the wood floor.

Where do you like to shop for home-related products?

Predominantly, we don’t go to a store; we make a lot of our own things like knives, wood tables – the roots of the tree can be carved into wood tables – and ceramic pots. I don't have much time to shop, but when I do I want to buy quality products made by local Icelandic merchants.

More Great Homes and Fascinating People:

Zillow Real Estate Search


On TV

Home Exterior: Kapaa Home From HGTV's Hawaii Life

6 Lovely Homes From HGTV's Hawaii Life

Get a taste of island life by checking out our top six Hawaiian getaways from this HGTV series.

Fun Architecture

Lego Tour de France in Paris

25 Landmarks Made Out of Legos

Check out amazing replicas of the Arc de Triomphe, the Lincoln Memorial and other famous landmarks – made entirely of Lego building blocks.

Pin-Worthy

Mediterranean Villa in Scottsdale, AZ.

FrontDoor's Top 50 Most-Pinned Photos

Take a look at the FrontDoor pics you couldn’t resist pinning.

See Also