29 February 2012

outdoor essentials

One of the things that really surprised me about housing in Iceland when I first arrived was that balconies are considered a nearly essential feature of home life. In Boston, I never lived in an apartment with a balcony, and none of my friends had balconies either. What's the point when winter is so long and tedious, when you only get a few months of use out of it? And yet, when I first arrived, the balcony-free apartment was looked upon with a bit of pity despite being in a very charming old house.

The next apartment had a balcony but turned out to not be as useful as one might hope due to its northfacing seafront location. It was possible to do the occasional barbecue, well anchored with heavy stones, but wasn't really a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the day due to brisk breezes off the sea. Furthermore, it only received direct sunlight late on summer evenings when the rays were no longer particularly warming.

I've been through several other apartments since then, some with outdoor space, some frustratingly without, and I have to say that life in Iceland is definitely much better when viewed from a balcony. Where I live now, it may be a rather tiny space, a bit more than a meter square, but the southern exposure and genteel neighborhood views means it's actually almost useable. On sunny days when the breeze isn't too persistent, I tie open the door and let that marvelous Iceland air pour through the house, and on rainy days I press my nose to the windowpane and imagine the days when it'll be possible to sit out there again.

Plus, if you want to do one of the essential Scandinavian weekend chores when housecleaning, a balcony is a must. On dry days, the neighborhood blooms with duvets tossed over railings, and now I can do it too. For a while there was no railing on my tiny outdoor space, which resulted in a few mishaps where my duvet and drying rack ended up in the garden below, but I've mastered the technique now with a few well-placed clothespins. After a few hours in the sun and wind, the duvets take on the most marvelous lava-air scent that puts me to sleep instantly.

And on those winter nights when the darkness pins itself tight to the window, it's a ritual to step out into the frigid air while I brush my teeth, just to scan the sky in hopes of seeing northern lights. Somehow this is far nicer than looking through a window. Iceland's weather is always more interesting when you interact with it, and my tiny balcony is the perfect way to do that, in any season.


Jono said...

When I built our house I oriented it to the south and built a large deck for just the reasons you mention.

B. Wilkes said...

Hello, Reykjavik Harbor Watch!

Recently I found your blog while looking for housing in Iceland. I'll be moving there on or around 15 May for an internship at the Reykjavik Grapevine, and am desperately seeking housing. What do you suggest for someone looking to live as close to downtown as possible but pay as little as possible? PM me or reply here; I can't seem to find any answers online! Thanks so much!!


ECS said...

@b.wilkes. It's pretty difficult to find housing, especially in the summer, but I wrote what I know in this post:


also check leiga.is and ask everyone at your future workplace if they know anything. The best way to find housing remains word-of-mouth IME.

tsduff said...

I'm glad to see you are still living in Iceland. I still wish I did too.