Gulla Jónsdóttir is an Icelandic Architect working across hospitality, commercial & residential design, museums & wellness worldwide, as well as having her own furniture line. Known for her sensual and dynamic forms that work in harmony with their surroundings, Gulla's environmental compassion brings unique spatial experiences that respond to nature and surrounding site, always echoing the integration of organic beauty and function.
Gulla was recently named “the next Zaha Hadid” by the Huffington Post and has in her career worked on renowned projects in Paris, Japan, Mexico, Iceland, Beirut, Bahamas, China & USA.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m designing hotels, restaurants, residential towers, and homes across the globe. My projects are spanning in locations from the Middle East to the Bahamas, Miami, and Los Angeles.
The projects vary in scale and include a 209 room, 5-star boutique hotel in Riyadh, a 205 room, 5-star luxury hotel in Miami as well as a residence in Miami.
In Los Angeles, I’m designing the interiors for the tallest residential tower in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles. This will be a unique property with 485 luxury apartments, 2 swimming pools, and an interesting lounge and working spaces. In The Bahamas I have under construction a restaurant on the beach, as well as a restaurant in Manhattan Beach, called Esperanza and a large private residence in Beverly Hills to name a few.
What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on during your career?
It’s difficult to pick a favorite project, as I get very passionate about all of them, but some are truly close to my heart as the 2 Michelin star Le Grand Restaurant by Jean Francois Piege in Paris and 2 resorts in Los Cabos, Mexico where I still like to go visit and spend some time by the Sea of Cortez; Cabo Azul and Comal/Chileno Bay by Auberge Resorts.
I thoroughly enjoyed working in Japan, as the craftmanship there is immaculate and I’m quite proud of our 400 room resort hotel project; The Macau Roosevelt, in Macau, China, which won the best resort design of the year in 2017 from Interior Design magazine.
I love staying at the Hotel G penthouse in San Francisco, which I designed a few years ago, and the current favorite project is my home away from home and usual hangout, the Kimpton La Peer Hotel in West Hollywood, across the street from my studio so the personnel there have become my extended family.
What is a typical day like for you?
Currently, I’m working remotely from Iceland so my day starts with a strong coffee in the morning, and then a nice walk around downtown Reykjavik. I grew up here and visiting old nostalgic places is quite nice. Then I’m working all day with my team who are currently working from home in Los Angeles and Serbia and we have weekly skype meetings with the Middle East and other parts of the world. My favorite time of day is sunset and usually, in non-quarantine situations, I like to enjoy a nice dinner with friends in the evening.
My typical day used to be running from one plane to the next, but that feels like a distant memory at the moment….
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
They say to be careful what you wish for, so let me think for a second…..
A superpower to convert greedy powerful people to become kind and compassionate about all human life and mother earth … how does that sound?
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Motivation is something that comes to me naturally. I’m actually in love with Architecture, Design, and Art, so in my travels I make it a point to not only see the nature and get to know the culture of that country and meet the local people but also to get to know their Art & Architecture which is always inspiring to me.
Travel is a big motivation for my career and I find constant inspiration from nature. I’m especially inspired here in Iceland with the black beaches, dramatic white glaciers, and healing hot springs.
How do you stay healthy and in shape?
To stay healthy I try to get pure oxygen by being outdoors, good sleep, and eat organic foods. I exercise with my personal trainer Kevin Branch, who transformed my shape and health belief system a few years back. I also love practicing yoga, hiking, and swimming. Above all, I’m a big believer in good friends, family, and good times that feed the soul.
What woman inspires you and why?
Zaha Hadid for her groundbreaking Architecture not only because she is a woman, but because of her genius.
Michelle Obama for her humanitarian effort, kindness, and intelligence.
What are some of your favorite travel destinations?
Beautiful soulful Italy is always at the top of my list. I also absolutely love Greece and Bali, Iceland of course, and Paris is always so graceful.
Tokyo is fascinating and I learned to love it while living there for a short time. I also lived in Mexico for a while and I truly love Mexico as a country with a huge culture that I frequently visit.
The Maldives and the Caribbean are gorgeous, and I’m really looking forward to discovering the Rocky Desert Landscape of the Middle East soon.
What are some of your travel essentials?
Bathing suits, evening dresses, and high heels are a must. I usually travel with a carry on bag only as I like to travel light with only a few key pieces.
I’m pretty low key when I travel and I have my favorite perfumes, shoes, dresses, skincare and one blazer.
The travel essentials also depend on if I had time to unpack my last bag to start the new one….
What are your three favorite Katla pieces?
The Red Frida dress, The Black Maria Slip dress & the White Butter Hoodie! Can I name the 4th? If so, I also love the Agga Skirt in that perfect Icelandic milky blue color. 😉