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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

Inspired By Scent

I woke up this morning in a creative rut. I don’t know, I felt a bit like I couldn’t think of anything to talk about here, nothing to talk about with my friends, you know… just flat. Feeling flat scares me, as I don’t get this often but notice when it does come it is usually strikes mid November for just a brief period for no explainable reason. I tried to think of what to do to push the rut monster out of my day. So I started to read. Words didn’t help. I flipped through beloved magazines. Nope, visual inspiration didn’t do it either. Maybe I needed to eat? But I just had breakfast, I thought. I did some deep breathing followed by light stretching. I played a little music which was interrupted by ::ring ring:: the delivery man who brought me a small box. Funny, I wasn’t expecting anything. On the outside, a female character hand drawn and on the inside, beautiful tissue paper that smelled of lavender – my favorite scent for over a year now. Lavender is so transporting, isn’t it? It takes me a million miles away to an open space with nothing but sky and field before me combined with a soft breeze and a cotton sundress.

inspired by my friend

As I unwrapped, I revealed three beautiful things – soap, sugar and a bio bag from terrain at styers. I took one, lavender vanilla sugar, into the kitchen to add to the earl gray tea I had just prepared. One sip, two sips, three sips, yum. As I walked back to my desk I noticed my petite French vintage creamer on the windowsill and the light streaming in looked so welcoming, so come hither for taking a photo. If light had eyelashes, they were beckoning me big time. I lifted the other gift, a bar of skinnyskinny lavender eucalyptus soap to my nose and inhaled – fresh and clear. Suddenly my brain started to tingle and my shoulders relaxed and I felt this rush of thought, color and sound explode within. Out of all the things I thought would inspire and chase away the mood, it was a scent that lifted me up — very unexpected.

simple joy - best of all.

small moments

morning tea

Scooping up the soap and the sugar and my camera nearby, I decided to show my dear friend a view of my moment, to capture it for her in a photo as a way of showing thanks. And this is how inspiration is born sometimes, isn’t it?

If you’re in a creative rut, try one or all of the following until you feel better:

1. Healthy food

2. Fresh air

3. Exercise (stretching, running, whatever you fancy)

4. Your favorite drink

5. Music

6. Something visually inspiring (your mood board, magazine, book)

7. Or words… poetry, a novel…

8. Scent: spritz on your favorite perfume, add some rosemary oil to your tub before you step in to shower in the morning, burn incense or a candle, or be lucky enough to have a dear friend send you lavender goodies. :)

And to my dear friend who inspired me today and helped me out of a morning rut, thank you. You know who you are. xo

(images: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in inspiration on November 18, 2009

Brandon Kidd Photography

Photographer Brandon Kidd is on my mind today, I found his work recently and wow oh wow, brilliant! He specializes in, “creating dynamic and artistic portraits for events, parties, families and weddings,” and dynamic is right! I was reading his blog today and found so many great photos to share with you from some of the events that he has photographed in locations all over America from California to the deep south.

Brandon Kidd Photography

Brandon Kidd Photography

Brandon Kidd Photography

Brandon Kidd Photography

His photographs are poetic, he definitely has a story in his head and a feeling in his heart when he’s out shooting which directly translates into remarkable photographs — whether it’s the objects he shoots, the angle, the lighting, he brings so much more with him than a camera, a very creative mind that is curious and imaginative. If you have a moment, spend some time on his website and blog today. You’ll instantly see what I mean as you browse his portfolio and read his words, I personally love how excited he gets over an event. In one particular post he talked about all of the eye candy in terms of beautiful objects at a wedding he was shooting that he didn’t know where to begin. His infectious enthusiasm was so evident in those words and directly translated into the photographs because you could feel his energy in them. This is one man I’m bookmarking so I can peek in on his latest projects from time to time. Smitten!

Psst: Some of the above photos are from a wedding that Summer from Grey Likes Weddings, Megan Gonzalez with MaeMae Paperie and Lauryl Lane designed and styled. Such beautiful, soft colors and lots of personal handmade touches! This has to be the most beautiful wedding day I’ve ever seen in photos. Ever. Wow. I’m so impressed!

(images: brandon kidd photography)

Posted in inspiration on November 13, 2009

Stylist Randi Brookman Harris

I really enjoy browsing the portfolios of photographers and stylists online, I find them to be very inspirational and packed with decorating, color and placement ideas. Today I’d like to share views from the portfolio of Brooklyn-based stylist Randi Brookman Harris. I’ve been waiting for her portfolio to go live (the site wasn’t ready last time that I checked) so I was excited to click over today and see it up and running. It looks great!

Randi Brookman Harris

Randi’s work has appeared in numerous publications and in ad campaigns — she once styled for Kate Spade and has worked on numerous shoots for Martha Stewart Living and Weddings magazine. Aren’t these colors sublime?

Randi Brookman Harris

I don’t know about you but I’m currently inspired by red, white and raw linen and for a more jazzy palette – I’m loving jewel tones, too. It’s funny, I’m not a “red” person. I think it competes too much with my personality so I tend to shy away from using it in my home. I remember reading once in one of Shannon Fricke’s books that she had red in her extroverted daughter’s room and it affected her quite negatively, though her son didn’t mind the color at all. She removed the red and her daughter’s mood improved significantly. I believe color can have a strong impact on mood, and when I studied color theory I become even more aware of this fact — it’s not some decorator’s myth or something, it’s true. And so when I have red in my home, I feel very uneasy and my brain starts to race and I cannot concentrate. I’ve noticed this because I had red pillows and lamps several years back and really, really disliked them and stayed out of my bedroom (where they were) as much as possible. Then in my class, that same year, I learned about the power of color and so I purchased softer hues for my bedroom and instantly felt better there. In fact, it became my favorite room in the house once the colors were softer. I could think more clearly, my breathing slowed, I felt great and very peaceful.

But back to being inspired by red, white and raw linen… I tried to figure out why this is based on my own experience with red and well, I guess it has to do with shops I’m visiting here… it’s everywhere! But aside from that, red, white and raw linen seem to be a good match for me as the color doesn’t stress me out nearly as much when combined with white and raw linen. I guess the white cools down its heat and the linen adds a natural, relaxed feel to the palette. But I think I’ll refrain from decorating with it so I don’t go bonkers!

And I bet your favorite color is red right? And you think I’m hating on red now? he he. Well I’m not. I actually like it very much and find it to be very lovely but I cannot live with it in my home. And I wish I could. But no chance.

In additional to red, the seasonal themes here seem to be jewel tones, red/white/linen, purples and greens with brown, and another palette is gold and white. It’s all so very pretty! I remember growing up, all you could find in stores in November and December… well take a guess. Pine green and bright red. That was it! Now, there are colors for every taste and style and I really appreciate this as I don’t like to feel confined to use certain colors. And goodness, we need variety. Life is more exciting when you try different types of experiences!

So tell me, what colors are you seeing out there lately that really inspire you? Any specific palettes that have your attention?

(images: randi brookman harris)

Posted in inspiration on November 11, 2009


Some of my books...

Further editions available: Decorate published by Murdoch Books for AU/NZ, Decorar BR, Alt om indretning DK, Inspirace pro váš byt CZ, Dekorácie SK, La décoration FR, Lust auf Wohnen DE, Sisusta tyylillä FI and Sztuka aranżacji wnętrz PL.


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