The Swedish Art of Moderation in Interior Design

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on February 4, 2020

Step aside, hygge—there’s another Nordic buzzword in town. In 2020, we’re all about lagom. While lagom (pronounced “LAH-gum”) typically applies to other facets of your life, we’re looking into how this word, which translates to “just right,” applies to interior design.

Lagom is the Swedish principal of finding balance in life. There’s no one-word equivalent in English, but the term means “not too little and not too much.” It’s the idea of finding contentment, a happy medium, or the “just right” amount. For many Swedes, lagom sets the tone for a life well lived—choosing a slower pace, practicing mindfulness, and enjoying life’s simple pleasures encompass the idea of lagom. We have a similar saying here in America that encapsulates lagom: “There is virtue in moderation.” 

Lagom is also about spreading happiness and thinking about the group as opposed to the individual. This aspect comes from Sweden’s socialist history, but it trickles down into everyday life, with an emphasis on communal gatherings like fika, a coffee break that encourages Swedes and their friends to slow down, converse and contemplate.

To start viewing your life through a lagom lens, ask yourself questions related to contentment. Before you take that third slice of pizza from the box, ask yourself if you’re content with two. When you’re thinking of buying a new dress, look in your closet and consider if you already have enough. 

Compared with the Kondo philosophy of sparking joy, lagom is much more attainable. That’s not to say joy isn’t important. But the idea that every object should and does spark joy can feel overwhelming or unattainable. Instead, lagom is far less elusive, and simply encourages us to acknowledge whether we feel content and balanced.

It’s no surprise that Swedish design—simple and stylish—embodies lagom. But there are other ways to think about lagom besides opting for full Scandinavian decor. No matter your design style, you can achieve balance and happiness by incorporating lagom.

Start with Color Palette

Lagom is all about keeping things simple and finding balance. Editing a room’s color palette down to a few core hues will instantly create more balance. Neutral shades would certainly be a good choice, given lagom’s emphasis on moderation. But they’re not the only option. Remember, lagom is a philosophy and not a design style!

Simplify with a Focal Point

A very lagom choice would be having a single focal point in your room. It simplifies your design scheme and lets one item—be it an accent wall, a bold sofa, a large headboard or a work of art—do the heavy lifting, leaving you to simply enjoy your space without worrying about every single aspect of a room.

Embrace Your Space

If you’ve got a small apartment, you might feel frustrated you can’t do more with it (although we have a few ideas). Try lagom on for size, and aim to work with what you’ve got. Maybe you bring in a highly functional sofa that seats several guests, to better embody the lagom principle of thinking about others. Or try adding curtains hung near the ceiling to create the perception of height, or maybe you add mirrors to reflect and refract a beautiful sunny day. Bottom line: there’s plenty to work with, and lagom can help you feel content in your space no matter its size.

Put a Plant in It

Plants are perfectly lagom. They help bring the outdoors in, providing a sense of balance. They also help purify the air, allowing you to live a healthier life. Here are some of our favorite indoor plants.

Think About Functionality

Lagom doesn’t only apply to people with minimal style. But it does require that any new pieces you bring in have function or purpose, and it does encourage you to exercise restraint when purchasing new pieces (everything in moderation!). This doesn’t mean you can’t have any flair, though. People with eclectic or bohemian style can incorporate lagom by picking up thrifted or flea market finds to add a one-of-a-kind feel sustainably.


Before you go out and buy something new for your space, take a moment to consider lagom. Have you been searching for a new vase? Maybe you have an old glass that would work instead. Been wanting a new table runner? Maybe you can repurpose some old curtains. Not only might you be content with what you already have, you’ll also minimize your carbon footprint.

Bloomscape Pilea Charcoal

All in all, lagom invites us to enjoy everything we already have, right here, right now. It isn’t about perfection — it’s about balance, and finding simple solutions that help us live a happy, equanimous life. 

Before you incorporate lagom, make sure you understand your own unique design style with our quiz.

Words by Sara Watson