STORMS, floods and forest fires have hit the headlines as worldwide climate change continues to top the news agenda. It is said that in times of austerity, people add glamour and glitz to their interiors in a subconscious bid to counteract financial fear — while, when the going is good, décor tends to be pared back as if to respect the simplicity of minimalism. Today, at a time when nature itself is under threat, interiors are experiencing a rustic revival.
So says the British queen of hygge, Niki Brantmark, the person whom Scandinavians trust to bring understated elegance into their homes.
‘With people feeling ever more stressed and overwhelmed, our homes have become even more of an oasis for wellbeing and calm,’ says Niki, whose interiors blog My Scandinavian Home gets more than half-a-million hits each month.
‘It’s the only environment that we can truly control,’ she continues. ‘And fears about climate change see us moving away from fast consumerism and developing a strong desire to get back to nature.
‘We’re seeking out more handmade, individually crafted pieces and vintage finds. We want pieces made from natural, sustainable materials for our homes.
‘The beauty of these more “rustic” touches is that they bring texture, depth and warmth to the home while helping to maintain a wonderfully calm feel.’
Smitten by all things Scandi as a young girl, Niki gave up her marketing career in London 15 years ago, married husband Per and moved to Skåne in Sweden’s southern tip where they now live in a contemporary three-storey, open-plan townhouse together with their three children.
‘Hygge is not a trend, it’s a feeling of cosiness, contentment and conviviality,’ adds Niki whose new book, Relaxed Rustic, is inspired by her adopted home country. ‘In a world of technology and mobile phones, it’s become even more important to add a “hyggelig” feeling to our homes and create an oasis in which we can switch off, feel comfortable and relax.
‘Warm, earthy tones that reflect nature will help to bring a sense of hygge to the home, while tapping into the Scandinavian “less is more” philosophy, which is especially important with climate change and today’s throwaway culture,’ she says.
Here, Niki shares her guide on how to get back to nature in your home with some modern rustic updates…
‘Colour is gradually seeping into Scandinavian homes, but use bright colour sparingly — earthy, calm and soothing tones such as soft greens, calming blues or an array of browns are the way forward. My sofa is very chameleon-like, I love to change it up using covers in different textures and colours. You can find a sofa on eBay or Gumtree and instantly transform it with loose covers in on-trend hues. Add cushions and blankets, which make a home instantly cosy. Rugs are more practical than carpets — you can create different zones and swap linen for wool each season. Rugs are also soft underfoot, which is important as no one here wears shoes indoors. Invest in quality furniture, whether vintage (which is very hygge as it has a story to tell) or new pieces built to last. Handmade artisanal sculptures and ceramics, plus non-treated textiles like linen add extra cosiness. Group things into three — from flower stems to artwork and candles. It’s the magic number for interiors.’
‘The hallway gives the first impression of your home — ours is open-plan and airy, but with a messy family like mine, it can turn into a nightmare! People are often scared of colour but painting one accent wall is less daunting. Dusky pink and sky blue look great on walls, fabrics and lamps. If you feel worried, start by painting the ceiling and leave walls white. If you are feeling daring, create a contrast with bold colours around doorways and doors. Make your guests feel welcome with a bench or chair covered with blankets, or faux fur throws, to sit on and take off their shoes. Fill a wicker basket with soft woollen socks for guests to wear.’
‘I like white walls in the kitchen and lots of wood for adding warmth with its lines, knots and texture. Place sheepskin throws on chair backs and benches so people are comfortable lingering at the table and chatting for hours. We have a cosy nook with a mattress, cushions and lots of candles to create a warm glow and entice people to stay.
Our table is small because people jostling shoulders slightly creates a more relaxed vibe for dinner rather than a huge table, which feels cold and formal. Mix random unmatched chairs from markets and junk shops to create a homely atmosphere. Nature is key to the hygge movement so bring it inside with fresh-cut flowers and some foraged greenery.’
‘Keep all devices out of the bedroom for a good night’s sleep. A cool bedroom is better for sleeping in but cosy it up with books on the bedside, throws and cushions. Bring a touch of hotel style by investing in a good quality, comfortable mattress and pillows. In Scandinavia, we have two single duvets on a double bed so that each person can regulate their temperature and stick arms and legs out if they want to. Once you’ve tried two quilts, you’ll never look back!’
‘Think hard about lighting when creating ambience. I have a dark brown accent wall against my desk to prevent glare from my PC screen (it’s better for your eyes, too) but dark winters mean it’s important to keep it light elsewhere. Search out an office chair that is not only stylish but ergonomic — it’s too easy to slouch so marry form with function.’
Get the look
Sheepskin rugs are spot on for a feel-good Scandi vibe — layer mink, blush and ochre hues for a modern look. Sheepskin Rug, £35, Dunelm, dunelm.com
Modern silhouette + pretty plaster pink hue = a perfect purse-friendly Scandi lamp. Elements Jamiela Dome Pink Table Lamp, £16, Dunelm, dunelm.com
Warm cappuccino shades in a modern graphic print is the new way to channel rustic Scandi cool. Dias Modern Rug, from £20, JD Williams, jdwilliams.co.uk
Brown is back on the interiors map and this chunky, matt stoneware mug is a morning cuppa favourite. Cinnamon brown mug, £6, Habitat, habitat.co.uk
Cosy up your home by draping this luxe brown waffle weave throw over chairs, beds and sofas. Brichford waffle wool throw (130 x 170cm), £60, Habitat, habitat.co.uk
We’re fast becoming tan fans, and this zig-zag printed cushion will upgrade a neutral sofa. Fisola Tan zig-zag printed cushion, £25, Habitat, habitat.co.uk
The beautiful glaze of this handmade plate proves that earthy shades are just as striking as bursts of bright colour. Jules small plate by Bloomingville, Small £16, Nordic Nest, nordicnest.com
■ Niki’s new book Relaxed Rustic (published by CICO Books) is out today, £19.99. Follow her on Instagram @myscandinavianhome