What makes a happy life? This question, central to all human experience, is timeless and perpetually relevant. While the connection may not be immediately apparent, the search for answers to this query often does consider the ‘where’ of life — and, thus, can involve real estate. Having a home of one’s own — a space for for nesting, for safety, for the self and family — is widely accepted as an important factor in living well. So, what makes a happy home? Different eras in histories have proposed various theories; each contemporary culture provides its version of an answer.
Today, we focus on the Scandinavian. These Northern European interior concepts are enjoying much attention and popularity this year, with Hygge and Lagom books becoming coffee-table staples around the world. As we get ready to turn over the new leaf of 2018, let us examine the many philosophies that can contribute to the creation, construction, and care of a ‘cozy’ home. As the Swedish proverb goes: “Borta bra men hemma bäst” — “Away is good but home is best”.
THE DANISH HYGGE
© Country Living UK
Hygge is a Danish term that brings to mind a merry mood of comfortable conviviality, complete with feelings of wellness and contentment. Revealed about a year ago as the “secret to Danish happiness”, Hygge inspires its followers to savor each and every minute, spend more time at home, read books while nestled in blankets of merino wool, meditate while counting the snowflakes as they cascade outside the window (… or, if you live in Los Angeles, perhaps opt instead to count the palms on the horizon). Hygge also calls upon us to appreciate what we have right now and to seek happiness in the simple things of life. Adherents of the Hygge approach tend to spend more money on “life experiences” than on purchases, eliminate clutter and all that is unnecessary, invest trust in unfamiliar people, and work on developing our inherent inner strengths that will allow us to change our life for the better.
Hygge and its principles have made quite an impression on residents of Denmark. Its followers are convinced that prioritizing the home leads to happiness — and advocates of the Hygge concept espouse that the cultivation of a “home, sweet home” can improve life in numerous, surprising, and uplifting ways.
How to achieve a Hygge paradise at your own home:
• Decorate minimally, by displaying only things that hold personal value and emotional connection for you; hang up a photo from a memorable trip, place out a ceramic hand-made by a friend, display a token of affection given to you by a relative.
• Select furniture pieces with clean and simple lines, in a calming color scheme.
• Creative patterns for maximum cozy appeal: consider a throw on the armchair, or a pair of beautifully printed curtains.
• Include a place to gather the whole family: a large dining table, awaiting the next holiday feast; or a roomy sofa in the living room to lounge on with friends.
THE SWEDISH LAGOM
© My Scandinavian Home
Following in the footsteps of Hygge’s incredible success, the Swedish phenomenon of Lagom has also begun to capture the imagination of home-owners. As in the case of Hygge, Lagom does not have an exact English translation: its meaning falls somewhere near to concepts of “just the right amount”, “golden mean”, and “in balance”.
When we Americans think of Swedish design, we can’t help but think of IKEA — and the pragmatic concept of Lagom is very much a part of what makes this epic Swedish furniture giant an international success. The 2017 IKEA catalog is titled “Live Lagom”, further popularizing the term and introducing this philosophy through the prism of the products it offers.
To practice Lagom is to maintain a sense of balance, comfort, and practicality. A “lagomer” passes up luxury in order to be closer to nature, and, therefore, maintains a humble countenance — would a truly peaceful and happy person need to shout about it to the whole world? It is enough to be at home, in still tranquility.
Lagom in the interior:
• Furniture items in the home should not be disposable or change with the seasons; buy sturdy and dependable pieces that will last for many years and age alongside you.
• Employ simple design solutions, include minimal decorations, and maximize free space.
• Opt for a muted color palette to promote serenity.
• Purchase lush bedspreads, blankets, and sheepskins that you can disappear into, snugly and safely.
THE NORWEGIAN FRILUFTSLIV
Freedom, nature, life — these are the most important components in the Norwegian philosophy of Friluftsliv. Norwegians claim that the word “Friluftsliv” captures the essence of the Norwegian soul, suggesting a ”life in the open air” that emphasizes the wonders of the outdoors and encourages a comfortable environment where living and thinking come breezily. For the Norwegians, the landscape represents an important spiritual anchor of the national culture.
Friluftsliv has not yet attained the level of popularity enjoyed by Hygge and Lagom, but we think its ethos is quite close to the way we feel about nature here in Southern California: Friluftsliv is intimately and conceptually linked to the environment, and promotes human care for nature — drawing, in response, inspiration from this nature. We Californians are known for our similar outlook, which makes us, in our sunny way, Friluftsliv-ers ourselves.
Make Yours A Friluftsliv Home:
• Decorate with arrangements of wooden branches, carefully laid firewood, and various DIY-compositions.
• Integrate natural materials into the interiors: for instance, a stump can make a great stool — or can a wall be overlaid with logs to suggest a forest den?
• Bring nature indoors: surround yourself with plants, cultivating herbs in the kitchen, flowers on the porch, leafing greenery in the living room.
• Swap heavy drapes for gauze curtains to let in the sunlight and expand the interior space.
THE FINNISH SISU
Photo: Arsi Ikäheimonen / Courtesy of Linda Bergroth
Not to be outdone by its neighboring countries, Finland, too, is investigating happiness in the home, turning to a unique local approach called the Sisu, a point of national pride. The Sisu is not yet widely known, but the concept has every chance of making it to the headlines of lifestyle magazines in the coming year. Get ahead of the curve and get some Sisu into your home ASAP!
The concept of Sisu stands for will, determination, perseverance, and rational action in the face of adversity. It is summed up in the old Finnish saying: ”What needs to be done will be done, no matter what”. This reliable, if stoic, philosophy has flourished in response to the harsh climate of some parts of Finland; the Finnish people responded with an uncharacteristic take on Scandinavian minimalism. The result is an unexpectedly colorful style of design, especially evident in the bright palette of national textiles often placed out for viewing.
The Sisu Tenets:
• Bring in timeless objects: nothing is too old; if it is dear to you, it should be on display.
• Embrace the rainbow: splashes of color and bright accents; colorful ceramics; patterned weavings.
• Home-made rugs are often found in the Finnish interior; they also are a source of national pride.
• Finally, one can never go wrong with a decent supply of licorice sweets in the kitchen.
We hope this short survey of Scandi design ideas is helpful as you re-imagine your home and design your ideal haven for the new year. Whether your goal is to live in the now (Hygge); achieve balance and harmony (Lagom); embody the inspiring landscape surrounding you (Friluftsliv); or celebrate heritage through craft, pattern, and textile (Sisu) — integrating one (or more) of these philosophies into your home may be just the key to bringing on more joy in other areas of your life. Let your home reflect your values; it is your sanctuary, and — as the Scandinavians have shown us — you can live your philosophy through your design choices.
As always, if you are searching for that perfect place to call your home — so that you can delve into decorating accordingly — do get in touch! We are just an email or phone call away. We do believe that a happy home contributes to a happy life; we are confident we can help you find the right place to help you on this path.