The Swedish concept of lagom emphasizes simplicity.
Story by Tracy Dickinson
Featured in March/April 2022
Maybe it’s the long winter months indoors, the weeks on end of white snow and bare trees, or the days and days of little to no daylight in some parts of the region. Whatever the reason, the Nordic countries have long had a genius for design and decor that emphasizes simplicity and light.
Beginning with minimalist design concepts in the 1920s and the still popular Danish modern furniture style, the clean lines and spare look of midcentury modern and even Ikea products speak to that same philosophy.
In recent years the Danish concept of hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” has influenced U.S. home decor in everything from scented candles to paint colors. The idea has less to do with home style than with lifestyle-a belief in the importance of creating an atmosphere in which you can enjoy the people and things that really matter.
A similar idea from Sweden is popping up in design trends and search engines this year. Lagom, pronounced “lah-gum,” is based on the philosophy of moderation and balance, of not too much and not too little. Again, the underlying idea has more to do with your view of life than whether your style is modern farmhouse or postmodern.
But how you live your life should also be a key factor in how you live in your home.
So if the world outside your home seems out of control, if the list of things and responsibilities in your life feels like more than you can manage most days, maybe a bit of lagom within your home is just the place to begin.
Psychologists have told us that external clutter elevates stress levels. If your home is cluttered with things that have no designated place or with furniture and decor that overwhelm the rooms, start by taking a good long look at what you have and what you love.
Lagom isn’t an extreme, Marie Kondo “throw out everything that doesn’t bring you joy” approach.
Lagom is recognizing the life you live, the duties you have, and the people you love, then finding balance within those limitations. The items that surround you on a daily basis should be reduced to those things that have meaning and beauty.
If you have a house full of children who play sports, no matter how much that pile of sneakers and ball gloves does not bring you joy, this is not the moment in life to throw them out.
On the other hand, if it’s the pile that sets your teeth on edge, finding an attractive and practical storage solution could reduce some clutter and bring in a bit of lagom at the same time.
Like hygge, which emphasizes coziness and comfort, lagom is more about the mood than the specific items used to create it.
Because lagom emphasizes balance, the style concept can look different for everyone. Scandinavian style, which fully embraces the principles of lagom, is proof that simplicity doesn’t mean boring. Pops of color, especially blues and greens, are common today.
Those pops of color are effective because they stand out against a softer, neutral background. Soft whites, creams, and beiges throughout the home provide a consistent, soothing canvas for whatever your personal style may be.
Maintaining equilibrium between the color schemes could be a way for you to create or develop a balanced looking home. You could choose an appropriate color palette for the walls and furniture to couple with your fixtures. As you may find minimalism trending nowadays, you could come across home décor, the arrangement of interiors as well as exteriors of homes designed as such. The use of softer colors like shades of white, grey, olive, blue, maroon and more could often be found used in homes created by modern-day designers- designs with the likes of say, a washroom with mild off-white painted walls, rose gold fixtures, off-white granite or marble countertops, vibrantly printed curtains, wooden cabinets, and your choice of bathroom tiles to match. However, with thousands of design ideas that you could find flooding the internet, the decision to retain the originality of your home rests on you. It is, in many ways, an expression of you.
A home created with lagom in mind doesn’t have to be stark and minimalist. It can be a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, a little bit ultramodern, or any style that suits you. The key is to use those elements in moderation enough to reflect your taste without overwhelming the space.
Once you’ve decluttered and created a neutral canvas to express your individual interpretation of lagom, keep this principle in mind: pause first.
When you add a piece of furniture, a decorative item, or a work of art, take some time to contemplate the piece before you make a decision. Just because it catches your eye in the store doesn’t mean you need to bring it home. And just because you love it in the store doesn’t mean you’ll love it in your home.
Part of the lagom philosophy is choosing carefully the items that surround you. If you are going to seek balance and not chaos, the things you choose to include should be meaningful and lovely and incorporated in a way that reflects that. For example, if you already own antique furniture, use it as much as you can, rather than buying a brand-new one.
Fewer pieces that are given greater attention further reinforces that sense of balance whether it’s furniture that doubles as storage to hide items when not in use, decorative pieces used as individual focal points, or larger artworks in smaller numbers so key pieces stand out.
Finding balance in life is an ongoing challenge. But creating it at home is absolutely possible. Start simply. And try to keep it that way. •