As we head into the scary winter months, our admiration for everything Scandinavian seems to grow exponentially with each degree the temperature drops. How does Sweden rank among the happiest countries when it has such dark, cold winters? In search of some answers, we turned to Niki Brantmark, the blogger behind My Scandinavian Home, who lives in a townhouse by the sea in southern Sweden. Straight ahead: Her take on "hygge," how moving to Sweden changed her morning routine, and the trick to achieving that laid-back minimalist look.
Moving to Sweden:
I'm originally from London and moved to Sweden 12 years ago. I couldn't believe the innate sense of style possessed by Swedes—it pervades the home, cafes, restaurants, just about everything. They are one incredibly creatively talented nation!
The Danish word refers to an atmosphere and an experience. It's that feeling you get when you create a warm ambience and embrace the good things in life, surrounded by good people. Swedes are great at creating a cozy atmosphere at home using layers of texture: Think cozy blankets, soft sheepskin throws, natural materials and the warm glow of candlelight.
Dealing with Dark, Cold Winters (Brr...):
First and foremost, the rule "there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing" really does apply. Swedes are amazingly adept at dressing for the cold—and their homes are equally well insulated. The short days mean less natural light, and the goal is to capture as much of it as you can. This is why you'll very rarely see heavy curtains obscuring the windows in a Swedish home. At night, flickering candles take over.
Keeping a clean home (while living with kids!):
I live with my Swedish husband, my two daughters who are 6 and 8, and my stepson, who is 15. Although my home often appears pristine in the pictures, it really isn't most days! And if you look closely, you'll see little signs of family life. My youngest daughter (rather naughtily) drew a small picture directly on our dining table last year; it won't come off, but seeing it makes me smile! The most important thing is that our children feel happy and relaxed at home. People often say white is impractical around kids, but actually, we can just wipe our white walls clean with a cloth, and I am careful to choose furniture with removable covers that can be thrown in the wash.
It's been surprisingly easy to keep the house minimalist. We have lots of cupboard space, which means everything is safely tucked away with a few, favorite pieces on display. My daughters have naturally never really been into toys, preferring to do arts and crafts and role play based games which has meant less stuff around, too.
Designing with texture:
Natural, warm textures are key. I love sheepskin throws, linen, wool, etc.
We live in a very sociable neighborhood where people are always stopping by. I love informal get-togethers where everyone grabs whatever they have in their fridge and we throw it all together.
Her morning routine:
Swedes are early morning people, with work and school often starting around 8am (this was a total shock to the system when I first arrived). It used to be chaos in the mornings, but my husband and I took stock one day and decided to pack up school bags and put out the girls' clothes the night before (in the winter this involves all kinds of snow gear!), which has meant our mornings are much calmer and more organized now. Once everyone leaves the house, I make a slow-brew coffee, light a candle (in the winter) and get started with my work.
Cooking at home:
For lunch, I usually have a salad of some kind, and lately I have gotten really into raw food. I have avocado with everything! We always cook in the evenings—and if we eat with the children it'll be something like homemade meatballs (when in Sweden...), fried herrings with mash and lingonberries (another Swedish "husmans," or classic dish). If it's just my husband and I eating, we love spicy food such as a Thai massaman curry or Indian chicken bhuna. On the weekends, we often go out into the woods and barbecue (snow, rain or shine), and I love to gather round for a good old traditional English Sunday roast!
Her favorite Scandinavian home shops:
Thanks so much, Niki! Want to learn more about her beautiful Scandi-style home? Follow her Instagram
, find tips in her book Modern Pastoral
, and pre-order her upcoming title The Scandinavian Home
(CICO Books, March 7) on Amazon.