THE COLUMN - live more Lagom

 

Do you feel a general sense of unease about the quantity of stuff you have? Stressed by the clutter ghettos around your house? Exhausted by the pressure of not just keeping up with the Jones’s but surpassing them? If so, you may be in need of a life more Lagom

 photography Louise holt design

photography Louise holt design

 
 

If Hygge was about creating cosy ‘moments’, Lagom is more of a holistic way of living

Lagom is the new Scandi lifestyle concept about to sweep the nation. It hails from Sweden and the word itself is derived from the phrase “laget om”, translated as “all the way round”. It was first used to describe when Vikings shared mead in a cup and it had to go ‘all the way round’ the group. You don’t take too much; you take ‘enough’ so that there is something for everyone.  And so Lagom means ‘not too little, not too much, just right’.

If Hygge was about creating cosy ‘moments’, Lagom is more of a holistic way of living, and perhaps easier to sustain, not to mention easier to pronounce - ‘lah-gom’. Bronte Aurell, author and owner of Scandinavian Kitchen in London, explains, “Lagom is the middle ground, the middle class, the medium, the semi skimmed milk, the not having two cinnamon buns, but stopping after one. Pizza for lunch, but salad for dinner. It’s the dress that won’t make you stand out but makes you feel classic (COS is a good example). It’s your kids behaving Lagom, it’s using a timer on the heating in your house. It’s balance, not in a spiritual sense, but balance because it makes logical sense.”

Given this no-nonsense approach, it’s no wonder that Ikea is so beloved by the Swedes. Ikea is Lagom to its bones and has already launched a sustainability campaign called ‘Live Lagom’. “Every piece of furniture they make is functional and it is pleasing”, says Bronte. “There isn’t a ‘cool’ element on a piece of Ikea furniture that isn’t also serving a purpose. Danish design is also Lagom. It is functional and it might be expensive, but it lasts 100 years. It's all about clean lines, no knick-knacks, no bling - it’s just beautifully useful.”


ROOM TO BREATHE

 

So, if Lagom means ‘less is more’, and living simply and meaningfully with essentials, how do we bring this approach into own homes? 

“A Lagom home is one of warm minimalism and space, and that involves getting rid of clutter”, says Louise Holt of Louise Holt Design, “Cut out visual calories by doing the ‘touch test’. Run through everything you touch on a daily basis at home and ask yourself the following questions: “Is this fit for purpose, will it last, do I love it, could I live without it?” You are then able to focus on elevating the everyday and only bring in things that either have a reason to be there or mean something to you.” 

A feeling of spaciousness can be increased even in the smallest home if objects are given room to breathe and let the light flow around them. A space that is too busy can feel psychologically uncomfortable; we need visual relief in order to relax. Good storage is vital, obviously, but try to get rid of things first, rather than putting them away and creating more clutter behind closed doors.

 
 PHOTOGRAPHY - nikari design

PHOTOGRAPHY - nikari design

 photography - louise holt design 

photography - louise holt design 

RESTRAINED PALATTE

 

A feeling of spaciousness can be increased even in the smallest home if objects are given room to breathe and let the light flow around them. A space that is too busy can feel psychologically uncomfortable; we need visual relief in order to relax. Good storage is vital, obviously, but try to get rid of things first, rather than putting them away and creating more clutter behind closed doors.

Louise suggests: “Neutral, light tones on surfaces and finishes, such as pale wood flooring and natural-fibre coverings, together with walls painted in a restrained palette of off-whites, greys and soft blues, will naturally enhance space and light and create the luminous simplicity the Scandinavians do so well.” 


UNDERSTATED ENVIRONMENT

 

Joa Studholme, International Colour Consultant at Farrow & Ball explains, “We need to appreciate the subtleties of an understated environment which makes few demands on the eye. Neutrals offer infinite possibilities for making spaces airy and relaxing, refined and timeless, or elegantly sophisticated. To create pared back living spaces it is best to use just one colour in each room on walls, woodwork and ceilings. When there are no contrasts in a space they are obviously less busy.”

“Without doubt our group of Easy Neutrals is the perfect palette for a Lagom home,” says Joa. “They were designed to be so easy to live with that you barely notice them.  Wevet, Ammonite and Cornforth White can be combined in any way to create the perfectly balanced simple interior.”


LAYERING NATURAL MATERIALS

“Layering soft furnishings in natural materials adds visual interest as well as creating the sense of comfort and relaxation so important to Lagom. Think fine wools, filmy cottons, nubby linens, sheepskin and buttery leather.” says Louise.

Scandinavians have an abiding affinity with nature and natural materials; they appreciate their restorative effect. Create restful focal points with big bunches of whatever is in season that smells good. Use wood and stone. Not only do they feel good to the touch, they ground us. They are also durable, mellow with age and should, if we are applying the Lagom ethos of “not too little, not too much, just the right amount”, come from sustainable sources. 

 photography - carl hansen

photography - carl hansen

 photography - dinesen

photography - dinesen


BEYOND TRENDS

An easy way of cutting waste is to re-imagine what you already have, either by reconfiguring existing furniture and trying new compositions, or reupholstering in plain slipcovers. Mix old and new. “We source a lot of vintage pieces for our clients” explains Louise, “particularly the great Danish designers like Arne Jacobsen, Carl Hansen, Finn Juhl and Hans Wegner. Their deeply conceived, quiet pieces are not only masterclasses in the handling of materials, they are endlessly beautiful and interesting to look at. They are beyond trends.”

 photography - louise holt design

photography - louise holt design

LIVING LAGOM

For a home to be truly Lagom it must feel authentic. It must reflect what happiness, beauty, comfort and atmosphere mean to you as an individual. We can’t relax if we don’t have the psychological and physical space to be ‘ourselves’. The beauty of Lagom is that it can accommodate any taste. Just make sure you stick to your own style and only keep things that you find to be useful, meaningful and beautiful, be it books, photographs, art or collections of pebbles from favourite beaches.

Could ‘living lagom’ be the antidote to today’s scattered, complicated and crazy life, which sees many of us trapped by excessive consumerism and waste? Lola Akinmade Akerstrom, author of Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well, thinks so. “In a stressful world where we can barely catch our breath, many people are looking for ways to bring much needed order, balance and harmony into their lives. The beauty of Lagom is that we can choose which aspects of Lagom we want to adopt into our own lives. It means different things in different situations: "appropriate" in social settings, "moderation" in food, "less is more" in decor, "mindfulness" in wellbeing, "sustainability" in lifestyle choices. Lagom isn't perfect and does have some flaws, but the beauty of looking at it objectively is that we can pick and choose which elements of it we want and incorporate them into our own lifestyles.” 

Ask a Swede about Lagom and you do get the occasional eye roll. As Bronte says, “Lagom is used to describe something that is positive because it works and is functional, but it is also boring.” But, given these turbulent times, couldn’t we all do with a bit more ‘boring’ these days?  


Words by Tara Germain  - for further information and PHOTography contact Tara@LouiseHoltDesign.com