After relocating to Sweden, a London-born blogger learns that Scandinavian design isn’t just a trend; it’s a way of life
Photos © Quentin Bacon
Born and raised on the southwest side of London, design blogger and author Niki Brantmark was accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle and nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic found in one of the world’s busiest metropolitan areas. So when she visited a friend in Malmö—a Swedish city on the shores of the Öresund strait—14 years ago, she was captivated by the town’s relaxed, laissez-faire attitude, a stark contrast to her hometown’s hustle. “I started to realize that there was a slower pace, and an uncomplicated way of living,” she says. “I was mesmerized by it.”
Two other Swedish treasures caught her eye on that trip: a sailor named Per, who eventually became her husband, and the minimalistic yet cozy approach to Nordic interiors, which became the focus of her blog, My Scandinavian Home, and completely changed the trajectory of her career.
Now a full-time Malmö resident, Brantmark shares light-and-soul-filled Scandi-inspired spaces with a growing blog audience and more than 250,000 social media followers. She’s also written three books that make an extended case for a slowed-down lifestyle and intentional interiors, and prove that there’s much more to Scandinavian design than the color white.
How did My Scandinavian Home start?
I’ve always had this innate passion for interiors. Even when I was a young child, I was really nosy and loved looking around people’s houses. I would pretend to use the bathroom upstairs just so I could sneak around. I was fascinated by people’s environments and realized that wherever I went, whatever I did, if I had a nice environment around me, I felt happier.
When I moved to Sweden, I could not believe the homes. They were all amazing; everyone put so much effort into making their homes nice here. I thought, “I’ve got to start documenting this. I’ve got to start sharing it with people outside Scandinavia.”
A Zen bathroom in a cliffside cabin on the rugged North Zealand coast.
When did you decide to make your blog and books your full-time job?
I went full time two years ago when I got my first book deal, for Modern Pastoral. I was working for a large multinational corporation at the time, and I was so desperate to do my own thing. I was working away on the blog in the evenings, sometimes until 1 a.m. every night. When I got the phone call from my publisher saying they wanted me to do a book with them, that was the moment I realized there’s no way I can carry on my corporate job, write a book and manage the blog, so I thought it was time to give it a go. I haven’t looked back. It’s been the best decision ever.
Tell us about the homes featured in your second book, The Scandinavian Home.
I pinned it down to the three main types of dwellings: the city home, the country home, and the weekend or holiday retreat. I tried to get a collection of different Scandinavian looks within it—a whole mix of styles. We photographed homes in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, and learned what the owners’ process was and included ideas for how you can bring the look into your own home.
A Danish living room with muted color palette, as featured in design blogger and author Niki Brantmark’s second book, The Scandinavian Home.
What are your tips for incorporating Scandinavian design in the home?
The first step is to declutter. Only keep furniture and things that are useful and that you love. The Swedes never compromise on practicality. After that, light is really important. They’re so deprived of light in the wintertime, so they draw in as much natural light as possible. White or light-gray tones and light wood floors help brighten up a space too.
They’re very good about carving out zones, figuring out what a room is used for and making it a practical, usable space.
Bring nature indoors. The Swedes are really subtle about it. They live by the sea, but they won’t necessarily bring in a boat and an anchor and ropes. They’ll bring in the colors they see—the blues. Or the pebbles collected from the beach, maybe shells. Or for the forest—they won’t bring in lavish bouquets; they’ll bring in small branches and wildflowers.
A mix of modern and ornate accessories make for an eclectic hallway vignette in a Norwegian home. A light-filled study in a sleek, open-plan home just outside Helsinki, Finland.
Tell us about Lagom, the title of your new book.
It’s pronounced “lah-gum.” There’s no direct English translation, but the Swedish word is about slowing down and taking time to do things in an uncomplicated way. After moving to Malmö, I slowly started to adopt that way of life. I started to take more breaks, cycle more, finish work on time, eat a more balanced diet—that kind of thing. I became fascinated by it and found that over time I became much happier.
What are some ways to incorporate Lagom into daily life?
It starts at home. The Swedes have a very balanced home—it’s not too cluttered, and they manage to get a minimalist look while having a cozy, inviting feel at the same time. I think it’s about sorting out your environment, making sure it’s organized and fairly clean and you’re surrounded by things you use and love.
Wooden folding chairs add warmth to an otherwise all-white kitchen in a Finnish summer cottage.
What’s your design philosophy?
I think it’s important not to buy things just because they look good. Take your time, don’t rush into it just to get it done. Buy things that stand the test of time, that you really love—quality items that can even make it to the next generation. That also helps you live sustainably as much as possible and helps you appreciate each thing more.