Are You Embracing The Values Of Lagom?

The ELEGANCE OF ENOUGH: The subtle Scandinavian approach to fashion and interiors, otherwise known as LAGOM, is seductive, says PENNY McCORMICK

Doreen Kilfeather

A strange thing has been happening to me over the last few months; I’ve gone shopping and bought nothing. I mooch around my favourite design stores either IRL (in real life) or online and leave empty-handed. While this bears no reflection on the current collections – I love the vibrant hues and Art Deco chic currently doing the rounds – it’s all to do with a change in temperament. It’s not that I’ve finally grown up; it’s just that I have enough.

And when I read that Vogue had declared 2017 as the “year of lagom” I was intrigued. Yes, it’s yet another buzzword spreading like wildfire on social media, that is tantamount to a Viking takeover. We’re officially done with Danish hygge, while I am heavily into a Swedish fika phase (coffee and cake) and its Icelandic cousin gullgavedur (appreciating weather from inside).

The latest term derives from the Swedish phrase Lagom ar bast, that Kathleen Bryson, a PhD graduate in evolutionary anthropology at UCL, described (in a BBC interview) as a state of having “not too much of one-or-the-other, but more a Goldilocks just right.”

Lagom is centred around the idea of embracing sustainable living in our homes, and it’s here to stay. Some may see it as frugality, others as balance, neither positive or negative, while retailers such as IKEA are using it as a call to action. Their “Live Lagom” project embraces sustainable living with an assortment of tips (changing to LED lightbulbs, triple glazing, turning down the heating and snuggling under a blanket). By coincidence, The Curated Closet (Penguin Random House) by Berlin-based stylist Anuschka Rees, published this month, advocates a minimalist approach to our wardrobe perfectly in sync with this ethos. “It’s not about owning or doing as little as possible. It’s about owning and doing the right things, things that add value to your life.” Swedish style is a useful yardstick in this regard being notoriously fuss-free and practical with cool, clean lines. Normcore addicts, Swedes buy the pieces they need without ostentation.

Psychologist Oliver James’ book Affluenza: How to be Successful and Stay Sane (Vermilion) demonstrated how rampant materialism affects our health, wellbeing and environment. Sitting on our Edra sofa apparently no longer brings us satisfaction. Nor does the thought of ripping out an existing kitchen and replacing it with designer units, or having a corner jacuzzi installed in the bathroom. Instead of being hunter-gatherers, we are forgoing the feelgood factor of buying for buying’s sake and spending more on a few key items. John Naish, author of Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More (Hodder & Stoughton), calls this eloquently, the “elegance of enough”.

It’s all about living graciously, though I suspect many of us have been living that way without realising. Practically speaking, it’s about enjoying inanimate objects that are well designed or bring back memories. I delight, for example, in having my morning coffee from a cup I picked up in a flea market over 20 years ago. When I have guests I bring out embroidered linen napkins my grandmother used, while I often serve dinner on a selection of blue and white patterned plates picked up at random antique shops rather than using a new pattern. My home is a reflection not just of some major investment purchasing but also a pared-down approach to shopping that seems to reflect the current lagom approach to life. It’s no longer about shopping for the latest thing to incite envy or for a fleeting dopamine high; it’s for the longer lasting feelgood factor. All told, given that I missed out on being a yuppie and a dinkie, I’m actually quite proud I maybe, possibly, almost might be on trend …

Penny McCormick

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this don’t miss our next issue, out Thursday May 4.

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