Iceland's tiny turf houses are cute and cozy

June 25, 2015, 11:38 a.m.
A trio of Icelandic turf houses built to withstand the weather.
Photo: Lindsay Douglas/Shutterstock

Iceland's turf houses are a weather-savvy architectural design. These little cottages keep out the cold brilliantly. The houses are made of a layer of flat stones to serve as the foundation, then typically have a wood frame over which squares of turf are piled.

The layers of turf make the house look like it is rising up from the ground, and the only exposed wood is the doorway. The doorways are often decorative and provide a bit of color and character to an otherwise camouflaged home. The superior insulation offered by the turf also helps the homes with energy efficiency as it takes little heat to make the interior toasty. Plus, unlike structures made of stone, wood or metal, there is hardly any way for warm air to leak out or cold air to leak in.

The rows of homes are part of the architectural style as well. According to Scribol, "In the 9th century turf was used in the construction of Nordic-style long houses, multi-purpose buildings where people both slept and worked. This design later changed to a collection of houses connected by a central passageway that was totally unique to Iceland... This design was used until the 1800s when the houses once again became joined, but retained their separate roofs."

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