Forget hygge and its cosy connotations, the Swedish concept of lagom seems so much more fitting for modern-day living. I talk to Scandi devotees on how to embrace the ‘not too much, just enough’ idea for a life of contentment.
Back in 2016 the concept of hygge reached our shores and we all went crazy for the Danish philosophy of all things ‘cosy’. From our interiors – think: cashmere throws and roaring fires – to the way we live – staying in for early nights tucked up under blankets – hygge seemed to touch a collective nerve.
Two years on, however, and the landscape has shifted and with it comes another Scandi way of life that seems a tad more apt for our times. The Swedish ethos of lagom, which translates as ‘just the right amount’, embraces moderation, balance and contentment, and it is slowly knocking hygge, and all its cute appeal, off its lifestyle perch
Niki Brantmark, the writer behind the award-winning interior design blog My Scandinavian Home, moved from London to Sweden 14 years ago, in search of a simpler way of life. Her book Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life (£9.99, Harper Thorsons) gives a taste of the philosophy behind lagom, revealing how to include some of the principles into our daily lives.
“Since moving from London to Skåne, which being by the sea, has a slow pace of life, I have been inspired by the Swedish ability to take time to do things right,” she says. “My book is about achieving a balance, easing the pressure and finding more time for the things you love without denying yourself anything.”
Food expert, Louise Hurst, based in Marlow, is another Scandi aficionado and, inspired by her Swedish mother’s approach to cooking, has created Nordic Kitchen Stories, a blog and Instagram account to showcase her own Nordic-style recipes (.
“To Swedes, lagom evokes contentedness: not too much, not too little, just right. The idea can be applied to anything in life but, when it comes to cooking, the focus is on simplicity and nourishment,” she reveals. “The approach to food in Scandinavian countries focuses on seasonal ingredients, local produce and foraging. I found this out first hand, when, every summer I was packed off to my grandparents in Stockholm where I was taught to pick ingredients. We foraged for berries, gathered raspberries and spent afternoons fishing, often smoking the fish to eat for our supper. I am now fortunate enough to have a base in Stockholm and I am a regular visitor.”
Meanwhile, making waves on the culinary scene – and encompassing a lagom sensibility – is Ekte, a new restaurant by Danish-born chef Soren Jessen, who is renowned for the already successful 1 Lombard Street, also in the City. Found in London’s latest dining destination, Bloomberg Arcade, the eaterie offers a no-nonsense approach to all-day dining, dictated by seasonal produce.
Serving up traditional Scandinavian dishes – from open smørrebrød to cured fish – the chef reveals how his northern-European roots have dictated his way of life andcooking. “It has taught me respect for my surroundings, the environment and other people,” he says, in between a busy lunch-time service. “I have reflected this in the design and atmosphere at Ekte – the interiors are made from durable-quality and locally-sourced products. We treat our staff well and, in return, they spoil our guests. That, for me, is the ethos of lagom.”
Treating others well is also the basis of the St Albans-based Aerende, an online interiors store, which offers ‘life enhancing homewares’. From stoneware cups and saucers to finely-crafted elm chopping boards – the beautiful products for the home are all made in the UK by people facing social challenges.
“The Nordic philosophy to buy less, but better, underlies almost everything we do at Aerende,” says founder Emily Mathieson. “We believe that it’s possible to shop in a way that makes a positive difference to the people who make the products, to the consumer who buys them and to the world, hence our strapline of ‘life-improving homewares’. Rather than following trends, our products are designed in timeless shapes and neutral shades to go with everything and to be loved and cherished over a lifetime, not just a season. Natural materials, craft techniques and an ability to evoke sensual pleasure are all key themes in Nordic design as they are for us. And even our name, which is Olde English for care or message, has a similar meaning in Danish.”
Based in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire, Norsk – a café and interiors shop – also brings a touch of Nordic inspiration to local homes. Believing in a laid-back yet stylish approach to interior design, Norwegian-born founder Cathrine Tjore sources a range of Scandinavian brands – such as Ires Hantverk’s wooden utensils and Klippan blankets – to improve the look of our spaces.
“Nordic style to me is very relaxed,” she says. “The idea is to encapsulate that effortlessly cool approach. Scandinavians are good at mixing old and new furniture, and having a good blend of expensive, cheap and homemade items. It’s all about having a unique touch. When it comes to my personal style,I usedifferent textures, like concrete, wood and tiles and blend earthy colours with classic white. Vintage leather furniture is juxtaposed with, wool blankets, faux furs and tactile accessories to make it balanced and cosy, or what we would call koselig.”
She continues: “The Nordic way of life is closely connected to nature and the majority of Scandinavians are into healthy eating, exercising and family values. Often combining these three things into a natural part of their daily routine. This idea of a good life balance appeals to modern-day Brits, who are in search of that for themselves.”
Having the last word is Kristina Karlsson, founder of stationery brand Kikki K, which has a store in High Wycombe. She’s also the author of the just-published book Your Dream Life Starts Here (£18, available instore and online) and says: “Kikki K blends the Swedish design principles of form and function with the ability to inspire people to live their best life, every day. And that is the very essence of lagom.”
*This article is also published in the winter issue of Wildflower Magazine