7 Lagom Design Principles That Make Scandinavian Homes Happier

Learn how to incorporate the concept of lagom—that “just right” feeling of neither too much nor too little—into your home to achieve balance and calm.

The Scandinavian way of living is enviable in many ways. The northern European region that brought us hygge is home to several of the world's happiest countries, which consistently rank high in categories including life expectancy, social support, freedom, and generosity. Clearly, the Scandis are doing something right, and in Sweden, one of those things is lagom.

Lagom (which is pronounced "lah-gum") is a Swedish word that loosely translates to "just enough." It's a philosophy that encourages balance in all aspects of life and is rooted in the belief that moderation is the key to happiness. Dating back to the Vikings, the term comes from the Swedish word lag or "team," writes journalist Helen Russell in her book The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happy ($22, Amazon).

"According to folklore, laget om, or 'around the team,' was a phrase used by Vikings when a horn full of mead was passed around so that everyone got their fair share—not too much and not too little," Russell explains. The phrase was later shortened to lagom, and nearly 1,000 years later, the word remains a guiding principle for everyday life in Sweden. Now, the rest of the world is starting to take note.

modern neutral tones living room
Laurey Glenn

The Swedish concept was recently identified as a 2022 trend by both Etsy and Yelp, with the latter noting that searches using the term jumped 33% in just two months. Yelp also reported search increases for words that "indicate a shift towards the lagom mentality," including functional space (up 52%), declutter (up 39%), and murphy bed (up 61%).

Although lagom isn't specific to the home, the ethos is instrumental in creating the cozy, uncluttered look that distinguishes Scandinavian style. A lagom home occupies the sweet spot between minimalism and maximalism, encapsulating just enough of what you love to spark happiness and inspire calm. Here are 7 ways to incorporate lagom into your home to find your perfect balance.

modern Scandinavian-style entry hooks hats concrete floors storage
Edmund Barr

1. Declutter what you don't need.

Clutter is the antithesis of lagom. This doesn't mean you need to sell off the majority of your stuff, but you should take a close look at what's taking up space in your home. Go through each room and purge items that don't bring you joy or serve a purpose in your life. Pare down your possessions until you're left with only what you need or truly love.

Living room with large area rug
David Tsay

2. Start with a neutral foundation.

To achieve balance in your color scheme, establish a foundation of neutral tones and bring in color through accents. For example, start with white walls and neutral furniture, then incorporate splashy wall art or a handful of bright pillows to add just the right amount of color. This not only helps create a calm atmosphere, but also grants you the flexibility to switch up the palette without redoing the entire room.

3. Shop for your home with care.

Lagom encourages you to ditch the habit of impulse-buying or shopping just for the thrill of it. Especially when it comes to your home, it's important to make conscious purchasing decisions to avoid becoming bogged down by stuff you don't need. Instead of jumping on every fleeting trend or sale, consider the long term. Invest in timeless furnishings that will last, and prioritize quality craftsmanship over a cheap price.

bedroom with black accent wall and hanging light
Laurey Glenn

4. Embrace the accent wall.

Paint a single accent wall if covering the entire room in color is too much for your taste. Or create an eye-catching feature by applying wallpaper or decorative paneling to just one area. You've nailed lagom if it feels personalized and impactful—but not overwhelming.

5. Use walls for storage.

Take advantage of walls to help you store essentials and display what's important to you while keeping the rest of your space clear. Hang shelves, mount cabinets, or line a wall with bookcases to boost storage capacity without eating up too much floor space. For open shelving or cubbies, be sure to edit the items you're storing to avoid an overly crowded look.

6. Decorate with secondhand items.

You don't need to buy brand-new furniture when that piece you scored secondhand or received as a hand-me-down works perfectly well. If necessary, give it a fresh coat of paint or new hardware. It'll add character to your home without adding to your environmental footprint.

hanging banner art with plants above bookshelf
Matthew Williams

7. Highlight what you love.

Surrounding yourself with things you love is a key part of lagom. Accessorize with a few items that spark happiness, whether that's a collection of favorite books, a pair of carefully tended houseplants, or a gallery wall of treasured family photos. Instead of crowding them into a cluttered space, let these special artifacts stand on their own so you can truly appreciate what you have.

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