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Swedish Design & Your Thoughts

Let’s talk about design, some common stereotypes and other things that were on my mind when I hopped out of bed this morning. First of all, I decided yesterday that I seriously need to go back to Sweden again for vacation because I love to shop there and find so many things that appeal to me. I am inspired by Swedish magazines too because whenever I look at them I’m reminded of why I love certain elements of Scandinavian design so much. Of course, like any country, the rooms featured in magazines are not entirely representative of the average family home and how all people live in Sweden, or any other country for that matter. When you look at Elle Decor in the U.S. do you think of your friends house? Most likely not. But the design found in magazines is representative of what the “ideal” home may be in the minds of the majority living in that particular part of the world — based on culture, available products, local architecture, what people use, don’t use, etc. And so from the homes I see in Swedish magazines, I take it that there is a more relaxed mentality when it comes to decorating and though the design is thought about and well edited, comfort is more important than perfection. Do you mind if together we spend a moment to consider this topic as we examine a few rooms that I found in Hus & Hem, a popular Swedish decorating magazine? Oh good, I was hoping you’d say yes!


I’d like to share something with you that I feel is important to consider. I had the chance a few years back to visit Stockholm where I met a number of bloggers, one who stood out was Emma who authors Emmas Designblogg because she asks a lot of good questions and is as bold as she is charming and fun to be with. I would define her as a hot ticket. :) She’s also a gracious host, she gave my travel partner, Danielle, and I a great run around her city. That is why when Emma recently wrote about Swedish design on her blog, I took note. I’ll quote part of what she said, “I’ve received quite a lot of comments and emails lately about Swedish style, that it is so wonderful and everybody here must be born with a great sense of aesthetics and so on. Well, that is not the case. The pictures I show here are in no way representative of what an average Swedish home looks like! If I were to show average homes, no one would want to read this blog. Most people live in common boring apartments and haven’t changed their sofas since 1998. They have curtains with ugly flowery prints, apricot walls and IKEA posters on their walls.”


Interesting point she makes, right? What she said makes us all feel a little better because often we think design in this or that country is so amazing and often we assume that the majority who live there have these slick, high fashion homes. Partly this comes from the magazines we read but also the film industry. Whenever you think of NYC you imagine the massive industrial loft or classic brownstone architecture, right? I do. But let me assure you because I’ve visited many apartments in Manhattan in my lifetime, the average person does not live in million dollar property. Lots of my friends in Germany have this impression of Manhattan that doesn’t fit what it really is. I mean, how many single journalists could ever live (and shop) like Carrie Bradshaw? And how many live in an apartment like those kids had in that film Cloverfield? And Will Smith and his monster-size brownstone in I Am Legend or Meg Ryan and her flat in You’ve Got Mail. Those are the dream apartments but they are not the way most New Yorkers live because spaces like that are either not available and privately owned by the super rich or if they are available, they run in the thousands per month to rent and who in the world has that kind of money in your social circle, right?

Then again, not even celebs have massive flats in New York. Remember Nate Berkus’ apartment featured in Oprah magazine a few years back? It was a two room apartment. Or even Lisa Loeb in that reality show she once had (that I loved) — she’s loaded and yet she did not live in a massive townhouse. Of course, some do live large in cities all over the world and I’m not saying otherwise, but the norm in films or the norm in magazines is not the norm in real life. It’s a lifestyle, a dream, smoke and mirrors, not a reflection of daily life lived by the entire population. So the next time you look at a foreign decorating magazine keep in mind that those living there aren’t all design aficionados who have posh flats. (pop pop bubbles are bursting, I hear them!) Even the posh flats you see were styled to perfection and given a thorough cleaning before the crew arrived to shoot. These homeowners weren’t caught with their pants down in other words – preparations were made. I try to remember this whenever I’m standing in my own tiny apartment flipping through my mass loads of glossies thinking my home doesn’t even compare. Ring! Ring! Reality calls!



But overall, the design that comes out of each country is coming out for a reason so it’s not that it doesn’t exist. There is a background — history, culture, art schools and artists all influence it, the designers coming out of that country influence it and the average homeowner and their tastes and needs influence it. And of course, the super rich influence it as well as the most stylish apartment and home owners who have their spaces featured in magazines, on television, etc. So there is something to the design we are seeing — there is a reality to it all though it’s not how every single person decorates or lives. It’s interesting to think about all of this and to discuss it, don’t you think?


So back to these lovely rooms and what we know as Swedish modern design. I really like how each of these spaces shown above feel accessible and within reach. And is it just me, or does black seem to be part of nearly every room shown above? I read once that there is design rule that states to always add a shot of black somewhere in a room and though I don’t believe that is necessary, I do see the value in it when I look at these rooms and see that black certainly gives a certain something to them, don’t you think? I also notice a trend with stripes and how they appear to be a pattern used in home decor in Sweden.


Each of these spaces shown within the pages of Hus & Hem have something I appreciate, and you must have noticed to as you were inspecting them. They are lived in but also design matters to those dwelling in the space — and there is a feeling of positivity, creativity, individuality and a cozy comfort without over accessorizing. It’s clean and balanced living that I think is a hallmark of modern Swedish design, don’t you? And I like this because it supports how I like to live. So while not every home may look like something from a magazine, there is definitely a striving for it that makes the whole obsession with decorating more fun.



Let me turn the table now. What about you? Out of all of the design you’ve observed in the world – from Australia to France to America and beyond, which one, or combination of, speak to you the loudest and the clearest? How is design presented in your part of the world – what are common elements and such that seem to be what your country is known for?

(images: hus & hem)

Posted in Books + Magazines, inspiration on November 19, 2009

Fieryeyed Books

I was so pleased to wake up this morning to read that photographer Jenifer Altman is now a small, independent publisher of fine art books, Fieryeyed Books. Congratulations to Jen and all of her fans. The debut title features her exquisite photography and is called, “Little Italy” based on her travels. Just look at its pages, doesn’t it make you want to pack your bags and escape? And furthermore, doesn’t the word escape sound so very exciting on Monday morning? :) Well for just a few moments here, along with me, we can run away to Jen’s world and see what she sees. Bon voyage!

Little Italy

Little Italy

Little Italy

I love the words on Jenifer’s website… I feel exactly the same way.

“We believe in books. We believe in paper. We believe in film. We believe in the tangible. We believe in the design of the voyage. We believe in the world-altering power that is art. We believe in the alchemy of the photograph. We believe the image is as potent as the words. We believe the right book can change someone’s life. Forever.”

Amen to that, sister! And included with her photographs and inspiring words are a few delicious recipes to give the reader a chance to really take it all it – a trip to Italy wouldn’t be the same without something wonderful to eat now would it?

(images: jenifer altman)

Posted in Books + Magazines on November 09, 2009

Inspired by BoligLiv {again}

I just received an email update from BoligLiv magazine in Denmark and was reminded to pop over and check out their current issue. I nearly died when I came across the home of Danish designer Sonja Wolffbrandt Christensen featured in their current issue. There is nothing about it that I do not find lovely and charming. It’s just alllll good.


After some research, I learned that Sonja either was or still is in business with Dianna Wittig, also a designer, and together they create pretty girly things for their lingerie brand, Viola Sky in Copenhagen. I tried to find a website for Viola Sky but the one I located was down. And I couldn’t located a site for Sonja… AND I couldn’t find out the name of the photographer who shot her home for BoligLiv so unfortunately these are the only views of the home that I could find online. But I think they’re impressive enough… now I wish I had the actual issue!

Now I want the floral wallpaper for my bedroom… it looks really familiar. Is it Cole & Son or Designers Guild, perhaps? If you have the issue, can you please check for me?

(images: boligliv)

Posted in Books + Magazines, inspiration on November 06, 2009

Appliqué Your Way

I’m so excited to share this news with you today, in fact I couldn’t wait until my copy of Appliqué Your Way arrived for this very reason! If you flip it over you’ll read my praises on the back of Katie Terry’s beautiful new book. Thank you so much Kayte for asking me to be a part of this, I’m honored. And in addition to the projects, the photography is gorgeous and were taken by the extremely talented Jennifer Causey.




I started following Kayte’s work through her blog years back, then I met her in person at a craft fair in Brooklyn back in ’07 and instantly felt a creative connection — she is talented and very humble about it, which I appreciate so much because even in the craft world there can be snobs.  After meeting, Kayte and I worked on a project for a magazine shoot and so I felt confident in supplying a quote for that reason — I felt like I was in the position to give it since I knew her work a little more personally from that experience. Again Kayte, thank you for including me.

If you want a super inspiring, beautiful book all about the art of appliqué — then this book is for you. There are so many things you can embellish in your home including pillows, tea towels, handbags and clothing that you’ll most likely go on a appliqué spree! I can’t wait to try out a few of her ideas. Yay!

(images: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in Books + Magazines on November 04, 2009


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