Christmas, Conversations with Designers

CHRISTMAS :: Above the Polar Circle: An Interview with the Scandinavian Christmas Blog Author

Scandinavian Christmas Blog
As I did last year, this year I again turned to the Scandinavian Christmas blog for inspiration. And the longer I browsed, the more curious I became. I mean, with stunning photos like this image by Stephen Worrall…
Tromso Norway by Stephen Worrall
…and an intro paragraph which reads “A Swedish-Norwegian family who lives in the very north above the polar circle”, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Just how far north?!”

So I asked Anna Linda, the curator of the Scandinavian Christmas blog, to tell me more about this beautiful place where she lives (and yes, more about her blog, too).

Anna Linda: I live in Tromsø, Norway, which is at the same latitude as northernmost Alaska or Siberia, and sits on the edge of the Arctic regions. Thankfully the climate is a little milder because of the Gulf Stream, and “our” island benefits from the protection of surrounding mountains.

What brought you to Tromsø — and what characteristics define this unique place?
Anna Linda:When my husband was offered a job here we got excited about the adventure it would be for us “southerners” to experience the North. Tromsø is a small town but boasts a University and large hospital, and is the commercial hobnob of the northern regions. Yet the polar wilderness and striking beauty is no more than 15 minutes away from the town square, making it an eldorado for extreme sports, biking and hiking. We experience polar night (no sun) and midnight sun (no darkness), plenty of northern lights, and extreme amounts of snow.

You feature simple yet stunning pieces on your blog — everything from linens to kitchen and gardening accessories to (of course!) Christmas decorations. What do you look for in the items you choose to bring into your own home?
Anna Linda:My own subjective combination of form and function. Form doesn’t need to follow function, but form needs to be well executed to interest me. Good looking everyday items, that are made well, are more interesting than decoration. A tea mug needs to sit comfortably in your hand, to be properly balanced, the thickness of the porcelain and the curve proportionate for your lips, and its size perfect for a generous serving.

I’m quite physical in the process of selection. I touch the textures, feel the weight, stroke surfaces, hold things in the air to discover points of gravity. Even if it’s the discount section at IKEA.

The phrase “Scandinavian Christmas” brings to mind a very distinctive look and style. What are the elements which make up this style — and why do you think this aesthetic is shared across Scandinavian countries?
Anna Linda:Elements that unite the modern Nordic preferences are: adoration of “white, light and bright”, pale wood, strong graphics, and a love for midcentury designers. From a historical viewpoint it is easy to see the influence of Gustavian neoclassicism, reformative ideas of the late 1800s, and functionalism.

But all theory aside, it’s probably a matter of availability. The look is easy to achieve even if you’re colourblind with the tiniest of budgets. Swedes are also collectivistic and anxious about falling out of the norm, which causes trends to spread like wildfire.

What Christmas design trends have you noticed over the past few years?
Anna Linda:The first decade of the new millenium had a definite stroke of exotism, with references to Morocco and “SohoBohos”: deep jewel tones combined with gold or glitter, damask patterns.

Next came the “white on white” or “white & metallics” phase, followed by a crafty craze with doilies, dots, turquoise and bright reds. Two years ago it shifted to a cabin hommage that still lingers: plaids, kraft paper and string, knitted and cross stiched details. In the wake of the shabby chic movement a parallell colour scheme is gaining popularity with lilac, gray and silver at the forefront.

My predictions are that the next big thing will be a warmer retro palette with influences from the seventies: deep green, navy, orange, yellow, brown and brass.

Thank you, Anna Linda! Readers, I know it’s a busy time — but I encourage you all to take a little coffee break and scroll through the Scandinavian Christmas blog. Scattered in between stunning images of Tromsø’s lights twinkling in polar darkness are old photographs of Christmases past, Scandi-modern items for your home, Christmas music and recipes, tidbits about culture and traditions…it does a heart good. -Gina


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