So we've all heard of the Danish word "hygge", which has been peppering every article about getting cosy for the last two winters. The Oxford English dictionary defines hygge as "A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being". But there's a sense that its meaning is difficult to pin down, which has resulted in it being used to describe just about every soft textile or intimate, candle-lit gathering.
This winter however, is all about the Swedish version, "lagom", a word whose meaning is similarly abstract, but more elegant and symmetrical. It can be used as an adverb or an adjective, and its root word means "balance" or "equilibrium". Pronounced "laaaw-ghom", Lola A. Åkerström, author of the book Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well, defines the word as "something that is as close to contextual perfection or satisfaction as we can get." But it's not about striving for perfection per se, but rather finding perfection in the the balance of ordinary life.
So that sounds dreamy but what does that mean in terms of design and decor? Åkerström narrows the understanding of lagom in the home to two types of objects: the practical and the emotional. Combining these two things, and removing items that don't fit into either category, will help to create a lagom ambience. "The foundation of neutrality helps put your emotional pieces and keepsakes in the spotlight within your home," explains Åkerström.
It's about picking pieces that are either beautifully designed or have some kind of sentimental value, which will ensure your home is a calm, uncluttered and welcoming space. It follows the simple idea that if something is beautifully made with function in mind, form will inevitably follow.
Here are Åkerström's tips to choosing lagom furniture:
- There are three tenets that lie behind quintessential Swedish design: function, quality and looks.
- For a piece of furniture or item to be practical, it has to be simple and very easy to use.
- For us to constantly use it to meet our needs, it needs to be made of high-quality, durable materials that last a long time.
- Because it is designed to last a long time, it is something we will look upon it time and time again so it has to be aesthetically pleasing.
- But remember functionality rules, no matter how aesthetically unusual a piece may be.
Good pillars to follow for a clean-out come January and perhaps wise words as we all feel the pull of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Lola A. Åkerström's book Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well is available in all good bookstores including Eason for €14.