To Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir and Tryggvi Thorsteinsson, Iceland's economic collapse last fall was more than just a sad headline. At the time, the Iceland-born, Santa Monica, Calif.-based couple were visiting family and friends in their homeland. "It was so hard to see," says Ingjaldsdóttir, AIA, Assoc. IIDA. "Everyone was so afraid of what was going to happen."

She and Thorsteinsson, Assoc. AIA, decided to try and help. After returning to California, they opened an online boutique called SKARTstore. (Along with serving as shorthand for "Scandinavian art," the word "skart" also means "something precious" in Icelandic, according to Ingjaldsdóttir.)

The store features mostly items by Icelandic artisans, including handcrafted wine glasses by Hrafnkell Birgisson and sculptural jewelry by ASBERG Design. It gives these and other designers an opportunity to sell their work outside of Iceland and gain international publicity for their brands.

As a companion to SKARTstore, Ingjaldsdóttir and Thorsteinsson have started an avant-garde art gallery in the offices of their firm, Minarc. Known as SKART Gallery, the space features work by artists from all over the world. "It creates a good atmosphere in the office," Ingjaldsdóttir notes. Its latest show, opening April 11 and running through May 17, is An Intimate View of Los Angeles, a digital exhibition by the photography consortium GROUPLA 2008.

Ingjaldsdóttir says the SKART projects are Minarc's way of keeping up with the times. "With all the changes happening in the world, this is part of our change: to be a multifunctional space," she says. "We're fascinated by [the idea of] using things differently."

For more on Minarc's work, please see residential architect's May 2008 issue

and look for coverage of its "Lava Living" project in the upcoming March/April 2009 issue.