Forget Lagom – here are the Scandi trends you should be embracing


  by Kate Burt

People are abuzz about ‘lagom’, a Swedish approach to life. But are there better tips to take from the Nordic countries?

Last year, hygge, the Danish term that is described as meaning ‘creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you’, became a ubiquitous lifestyle buzzword. Perhaps no surprise, since the Scandi lifestyle is endlessly fascinating to many of us. And now, hot on hygge’s trail, comes lagom – a Swedish word meaning ‘not too much, not too little – just enough’. Suddenly, this little word is everywhere: but, in Sweden, is it really any more of a lifestyle trend than ‘middle-of-the-road’ is here?

Ulrika Hydman-Vallien, a Swedish artist and designer who is famous for her colourful glass for Kosta Boda, defines her style as decidedly non-lagom. “For me,” she explains, “lagom is: the expected; in-between; nice and boring; blandly Swedish.”

Interior designer Andre Schievink is Dutch, but lives and works in Sweden. “As a Dutch designer in Stockholm, I’ve always found the word negative. I don’t want to be called a lagom designer, nor do I want my design to be perceived as lagom. For me, lagom is not too much, not too little, just in the middle, and the most important thing in my profession is not to be in the middle – I want to stand out from the crowd and be seen.”

Swedish upholsterer Kerstin Jansson says, “For me, lagom suggests limitation. I don’t think Swedish design is lagom at all; we have so many talented designers, interior designers, architects and others who think outside the box and who are creative without losing the Nordic touch.”

We spoke to the Swedish Houzz Nordics editor-in-chief, Sara Norrman, and Houzz Denmark editor, Kasper Iversen. Here, they put lagom to one side and share their region’s best tips for life and home.

Embrace homeyness
Contemporary Scandi homes may be typically minimal and all about pale colours and clean lines, but look more closely and you might see they’re also hemtrevliga (homey) and ombonade (snuggly). These two Swedish words sum up the enviable lived-in-ness of some of our favourite Scandi interiors.

The trick is to create warmth with texture and materials rather than colourfully competing features or strong patterns. This inviting Swedish bedroom, mixing bare brick, wood, voile, crisp bed linen and soft throws – but all in muted hues – shows exactly how it’s done.

Be pale, but interesting

In another very inviting and homey Scandi space, colour – or, rather, playing it down – again comes to the fore.

We might picture the typical Swedish or Danish interior to be painted uniformly in brilliant white. In fact, it’s all about layers of monochrome. Sticking to a strict grey/white/black palette and only introducing other hues in the form of natural materials and elements can be relaxing. It’s also helpful if you’re an apprehensive decorator and stylist, since you’ll always know whether a particular item will go well in your space before you even try it.

Don’t be afraid … to blend in

In Scandi style, especially perhaps among the design-conscious Danes, pointedly standing out from the crowd is not the style aspiration it is in the UK and Ireland, where we prize individuality and, stereotypically at least, aim to outdo our neighbours rather than sync with them. So having a home that looks very similar to your neighbour’s is not quite the no-no it can be here.

The overall style – pale, pared-back and peppered with classic designer pieces and natural materials – may seem from the outside like a Scandi home’s ‘uniform’, but there are plenty of differences and variations to be had within this tried, tested and globally popular look.

Danish homes are more likely to be distinguished by the different designer pieces in them. They’re also typically more restrained than Swedish interiors, which are often less about high design and more about how a design democracy (think Ikea) can help you to have a home that’s stylish but not showy-offy.

Cherish nature

The Scandinavians are champions of the great outdoors – especially inside the home.

Whites and greys may be key design staples in Nordic interiors, but let’s not forget wood. It’s the magic ingredient that keeps Scandi style warm and inviting, even while broadly cool in tone. So bare those floorboards, or add timber in the form of furniture or accessories, such as picture frames or bowls.

Houseplants – not, of course, those featuring brightly coloured flowers – will also soften a minimal space. Layer up with vases of pale blooms, wool and jute rugs, rattan, battered leather and natural stoneware – and enjoy the feeling of slowly exhaling as you survey your relaxing surrounds.

Remove your shoes

In Nordic countries, there’s a seasonally practical reason to remove one’s shoes at the door. In a word: snow. But it’s a habit that sticks year-round. Many non-Scandinavian homes, however, have a tricksy relationship with the shoes-on/shoes-off situation in the home: is it officious to request guests bare their socks? Is it unhygienic not to? If you have guests over, should you all sit or stand around with slippers on? (Bringing your party shoes, but clean and in a bag, to don upon arrival is one Scandi-inspired tip on that last count, another is to have a bag of guest slippers by the door). It’s a debate that could run and run.
Footwear etiquette aside, there’s something lovely about only ever padding around at home in slippers or socks, knowing your floors are free from outdoor grit and ever-welcoming. It’s a habit that also has a lot in common with putting on track pants once inside the front door. It makes you feel ‘ahhhh’. And that’s a lifestyle habit definitely worth considering.

Houzz is a platform for home renovation and design, bringing homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community. These guest posts are supplied by their community of authors and first appeared on www.houzz.com.au

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