Before modern times, the traditional building type of Iceland was the so called turf house. These small, eco-friendly homes were built using stones and wood for the main structure inside, and then this was covered with thick layers of turf on the outside. The very thick turf walls provided excellent heat insulation, which was a great benefit given the harsh climate of the island.
Only the entrance side was left free, and this was usually decorated with wood carvings and was painted. As this was the only part of the house where any doors or windows could be placed, the interior of these houses was often dark and gloomy.
This type of building can found in the architectural history of many Scandinavian countries, however, what’s unique in the case of Iceland is that the turf house was still the main type of construction well into the 20th century. Other Nordic folks have shifted to log houses centuries ago, which allowed for more openings and better flexibility with the floor plan.
The reason for this could be that Iceland is not very abundant in forests compared to other Nordic countries where wood has always been the primary building material. So instead of wood building, they eventually turned to metal and concrete construction in the second part of the 20th century.
Images: Wikipedia, Húsavík Museum Iceland