COMFORT AND JOY

How can we bring tranquillity into our homes? Annabel Harrison speaks to
Scandi Rustic co-author Rebecca Lawson about embracing
the calming and nature-inspired elements of Scandinavian style

Though home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to’, wrote Charles Dickens. As we come to the end of a year of on/off lockdowns, the weight of the word ‘home’ holds as much potency today as it did for Mr Dickens, two centuries ago. Millions of people have spent weeks and months of the last year confined within the same four walls and it has given us, among many things, pause for thought about what those four walls mean to us.

Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. Home sweet home. These well-worn sayings, and many similar ones in other languages, are embroidered on cushions, engraved into key rings and displayed in frames by people all over the world because ‘home’ is special. It is the lighthouse of our lives, a welcoming, reassuring place where memories are made, challenges faced and milestones celebrated. It matters. ‘And now, more than ever, our homes are our sanctuaries, the places we retreat to for comfort and calm.’

Rebecca Lawson would know. She and Reena Simon, both award-winning interiors bloggers, have collaborated to create Scandi Rustic, a book featuring beautiful homes across Scandinavia and the UK; these share ‘a feeling of coziness and warmth that nurtures a sense of wellbeing and contentment’. And there’s never been a better time for embracing the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-guh). ‘It translates as finding coziness and contentment through the simple things in life,’ Rebecca says. ‘Many Scandinavians treat their homes as a hygge retreat and would rather spend time at home than anywhere else. Creating a cozy living environment is centred around establishing a connection with your home and everything in it.’

Surely creating a happy, hygge-filled home is on everyone’s wish list, especially after the year we’ve just had. How can we ensure our home is ajoyful, peaceful place in which we can recharge and find our balance, despite the turbulence and unpredictability of the world outside? For Rebecca and Reena, it is by turning to the traditional, pared-back elements of Scandinavian design, including plenty of natural materials and textures

for an end result ‘that’s homely, relaxed and inviting’. It was their affinity for this way of life – and Instagram – that brought them together serendipitously, just four years ago. ‘We were both on maternity leave,’ explains Rebecca, ‘while renovating our first family homes and we just clicked. It feels like we’ve always known each other in this strange way. We have very similar life experiences and lots of things in common.’

This synergy meant that while many of us had lofty aspirations during the first lockdown to learn a language, master bread-baking or write that book we’d always wanted to, Rebecca and Reena actually did it – even more impressive when one adds the home-schooling of three children each into the equation. Scandi Rustic has resonated with those who yearn for a home that is welcoming and inviting, and which nurtures our senses. ‘What we’re seeing, after this year in general,’ Rebecca tells me, ‘is that home has become much more important to people. Reena always talks about “creating a home that you never want to leave’” which this year ironically became true. A lot of people are re-evaluating where they live and what their home offers them, particularly in terms of space and connection to the outdoors’.

The houses featured in Scandi Rustic, with neutral colour schemes and minimalist, monochrome décor, have space and style in spades, all chosen by Rebecca and Reena to illustrate their advice about instilling our homes with the tranquillity we want, and crave.

Colours

Light and bright, soft and natural, dark and moody; the Scandinavians gravitate towards calming shades of white and grey, natural hues such

as blush, terracotta and linen and darker, earthier tones including green, blue and rust. A considered palette, says Rebecca, is one of the building blocks of a room. ‘Settle on two or three core colours, repeat them to create a sense of rhythm, continuity and flow, and add interest by layering textures of the same colour – fabrics and materials, soft and hard’. The colours we surround ourselves with can have a beneficial effect on our health and happiness, evoking feelings of contentment and calm.

Materials

Along with colours, materials are an essential component of room design. Rebecca and Reena adore the way Scandinavian houses reflect a landscape comprising long coastlines, mountains, glimmering lakes and shady forests. You might not have mountains or forests on your doorstep, but what you can do is use simplicity, comfort, texture and tactility as guiding principles. Rebecca suggests listing the key materials you’re going to be working with or the materials you already have. ‘Try not to include too many. Scandinavian homes work really well because they tend to use a refined number of materials consistently throughout to give a sense of calm and tranquillity.’ The owners of the homes featured in Scandi Rustic, Rebecca adds, ‘were very good at drawing the outside in and mirroring nature within the home, through their use of wood, stone and foliage.’

Light

From boosting productivity and aiding healthy eye development to helping us sleep better and improving one’s mood, the benefits of daylight in the home are many. Rebecca and Reena agree that maximising natural light in our homes is crucial – and you can use spacing cleverly to capitalise on views, Rebecca adds – but artificial lighting is essential too. We should incorporate a lighting scheme into our planning from the outset and not just as an afterthought. ‘It keeps homes feeling warm and cheerful and illuminates our daily activities throughout the winter months, when daylight is in short supply and the nights are long.’

Corners of calm

Those with small children may have the same preferred corner of calm as Rebecca. ‘In my old house it was the bathroom. It had a lock on it! At the end of the day I’d retreat to that small space where I could create atmosphere and tranquillity, through lighting candles to soft music, while having a bath in that peaceful space. Bathrooms are great for creating that atmosphere, almost like a spa within your home. The bedroom is another room where you can create a space to hide away and hunker down – make it warm and special.’

As we look forward to 2021, with less certainty than ever about what the year will bring, one thing is certain; we can conjure up within our homes a pocket of calm in a chaotic world, and it’s something on which we’ll never regret spending time and effort.

Scandi Rustic by Rebecca Lawson and Reena Simon (£19.99, published by Ryland Peters and Small) is out now. Follow @malmo_and_moss and @hygge_for_home on Instagram for more interiors inspiration.

Photography by Benjamin Edwards © Ryland Peters & Small