The other day I was skimming this Lonny article about 2018 home decor trends when I came across a term I’d never heard of before: Lagom. According to the article, “Hygge may have been huge last year, but the newest Swedish trend is lagom, a home philosophy all about balance and creating the perfectly curated home.” As a chronic rearranger and organizing enthusiast, my interest was immediately piqued. This sounded like an idea I could really get behind! So I decided to do a little digging into what Lagom was all about and turn my findings into a blog post. Because it’s probably time we all move on from hygge anyway.
Hygge (pronounced hue-guh, not higg, as I incorrectly pronounced it for about a year) is a Danish concept that describes a feeling of coziness and contentment in the present moment. And for the last couple years, a glance at what was trending on Pinterest made it seem like the vast majority of us spent all our time lounging on sheepskins in front of wood-burning stoves drinking cocoa in oversized grandpa cardigans and plaid flannel. As a palm tree and 100% humidity loving lady, I’m not big on cozy, so hygge never held much appeal for me. But this lagom thing is my jam and after this I’m betting it’ll be yours too.
According to this article from The Ktchn, “The Swedish word (pronounced ‘la’ like ‘bar’, ‘gom’ like ‘prom’) translates to “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right” and encompasses the broader idea of “not too much, not too little” — more commonly recognized as balance and moderation.” First of all, let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room: Who the hell pronounces ‘la’ like ‘bar’??? So I still have no idea if I’m saying this word right. It’s like the hygge debacle all over again! Moving on. Lagom is basically the Goldilocks story applied to everyday life. And like the bed that Goldilocks rudely used without asking when she broke into the bear’s home (at least that’s how I remember the story) your space should feel just right, not too hard or too soft. It should feel so you. So let’s talk about a few ways we can apply this idea to our homes.
1) Collected, not cluttered.
Images: Nicole Franzon for Domino
Use lagom to determine when you’ve got the right amount of stuff. Lagom isn’t minimalism, but it’s not maximalism either. It’s the happy medium in the middle. How to achieve this balance? Start by thinking about function and practicality. Ask yourself what you use the space for, and if you have all the necessary furniture and pieces to make the most of it.
- Do you have enough prep space in your kitchen?
- If you sometimes work from home, do you have a designated place where you can tackle that to-do list?
- Do you have enough seating for everyone to watch TV together comfortably?
Once you know that you have everything you need for your space to be functional, you could stop there. But that’s really a minimalist approach. For that perfect balance, you want a few items that bring you joy, and it’s OK if their only purpose is decorative. So make sure your personality comes through in the decor. That’s the easiest way to curate a space that feels homey. When you can describe both yourself and your home using the same words, you know you’ve achieved your authentic space.
2) The perfect color palette
Images: Studio McGee
Use lagom to build a balanced color palette. When creating a color scheme you want to avoid going totally monochromatic- that could get boring fast. But you also don’t want to go overboard with too many colors, because your space will feel busy as opposed to restful, and you’ll likely get tired of that too. Here’s how I recommend finding your ideal lagom-approved color palette:
- Start by picking a foundation color → Identify the color you never get tired of and are consistently drawn to. Try looking at your Pinterest boards or saved images on Instagram: Is there a color that keeps coming up in almost every image? (In case you’re wondering- white totally counts as a color.) You can also assess your closet- what colors do you wear most often? For me, I have a pretty consistent uniform of jeans + white top + tan shoes. So it’s no surprise that I love neutral interiors with warm brown leathers, blonde woods, and pops of indigo. My foundation color is usually a neutral white. (Yes- whites can be cool, warm, or neutral- there are a gabillion different whites, but I’ll save that for a future blog post.)
- Next, add a few different shades of your foundation color to give some depth to your palette. (Think of this as the face contouring of interior design.) For my white foundation I’m going to add in some cream and beige.
- Now you want to balance (there’s the lagom influence again!) your design by making sure you have both warm and cool tones. Use the above image to help you decode the temperature of your color. If your foundation color is a cool blue, try adding warm brass or gold hardware. For a warm pink foundation, try some black lacquered furniture, a cool gray rug, or chrome hardware.
- The last step is to pump up your palette with an accent color. A good strategy is to pick an accent on the opposite side of the color wheel from your foundation color. This will add contrast and really make your room pop!
3) Balance the cozy with the fresh.
Thinking about lagom can help you find that sweet spot between cozy den and bright, airy loft. You want a home that works for all seasons and various moods. Finding the perfect mix is going to be personal and only you will know when it feels just right, but here are a few items I recommend incorporating:
- To amp up the coziness factor…
- Sheepskin throws (on the floor, on the bed, hung over the back of chair, on a bench…they’re so versatile)
- Pillows and throw blankets
- Rugs (You need these. They keep your feet happy, improve the acoustics of the space by eliminating that empty echoey sound, and they’re an easy way to add texture, color, and generally pull a room together.) Tip: If there’s a beautiful rug that you can only afford in a small size, try layering it on top of a larger inexpensive rug to get the pattern/color you love from the smaller rug without compromising the scale of the design. Because a too-small rug will RUIN a perfectly good room. More on that in an upcoming post on the biggest design mistakes and how to avoid them.
- Window treatments (I’m partial to natural fiber roman shades and long linen curtains, but there’s a world of possibilities out there.)
- To keep things feeling light and fresh…
- Plants! On a shelf, in the shower, on top of your washing machine, in an unused fireplace, hanging in the window… These are all places where I currently have plant friends hanging out. Plants are the most versatile decor, they’re cheaper than art, and they clean your air. They are basically perfect.
- Add a mirror to a room to reflect light and make the space feel larger.
- Choose furniture with legs. Leggy furniture is less visually bulky and this creates the illusion of more space.
4) Make cleaning & organizing a habit, not a chore.
Image: One Kin Design
Instead of letting things pile up and then undertaking a massive spring cleaning project once a year, apply lagom to the daily upkeep of your home. If you do a little bit of tidying daily, and then maybe a full cleaning (dust, vacuum, wash the sheets and towels) once a week, your home will feel pretty clean and manageable year-round. If you want to buy a bunch of new stuff, take the opportunity to get rid of some items too. If there’s a piece you haven’t used in ages or just don’t love anymore, sell it, give it to a friend, or donate it to charity. This will keep your collected interior from creeping into cluttered territory. Just remember, moderation means not going overboard, so don’t feel the need to keep things looking perfect all the time. It’s nice to come home to a bed that’s made and clothes that are in the hamper, but do you really need to be able to eat off your floor? Probs not. Applying lagom to to your housekeeping game basically means having your sh*t together, while also totally having an excuse to be a lazy slob every once in a while.
In the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks is searching for the porridge and bed that’s “just right.” With lagom, your space should feel the same, like a true reflection of you. For me, that means that although I’m constantly tinkering and rearranging, my apartment is always going to have a pretty casual feel, with warm neutrals, plenty of plants, modern art prints, and lots of global and coastal accents like baskets, seashells, and textiles from around the world. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past six months, it’s that balance doesn’t mean never changing. So far in 2018 I’ve gone from teaching, to working for an interior designer, to starting my own interior design business and it’s definitely been an emotional roller coaster. But I’ve managed to (mostly) keep my sanity by striving for moderation and work-life balance. And believe me, I haven’t always achieved it. It’s a daily struggle, but I try and remind myself of my husband’s advice “not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” So cut yourself and your home some slack and try to enjoy the process instead of just fixating on the goal. That’s my secret to interior joy. And if it takes a Swedish buzzword to make this healthy outlook trendy, so be it. I just hope we can all hold onto this idea long after the lagom trend has faded.
Until next week!