Friday, 1 December 2017

Lagom benches for a no nonsense Christmas

Tis the Season again and this year I'm going to get it right.

 I'm just going to show something really simple.

I'm not going to get bogged down in tinsely Christmas benches.

I'm not going to be all trendy by picking up on the latest cultural references to lifestyle choices. I'm going to stick with the Swedish concept of lagom, which is all about balance and simplicity and equilibrium. 

Look how nicely these deer are balanced with the birch trees and the benches.

Lagom is about moderation in all things. Lagom är bäst as they say in Sweden. Enough is as good as a feast.

So one mountain, one chair, one microwave. That will do nicely.

image by Lynne Woodward

There will be no masses of benches this time.

No benches too large 

photo by Helen Danby

or too small

It's about getting everything just right. 

And no wasteful stuff. 

Christmas presents this year will be useful and no nonsense. 

Because Lagom is also about sustainability. 

Here are a couple of upcycled fellows who fit the bill for Christmas.

Golly, they look cold. They could do with a hand-crocheted jumper.

Or a bag of Benches.

As we're talking about Sweden I could introduce some very cute, Christmasy tomtes

I could show a lot of bright, fun, glittery, Christmas stuff on benches, and some red and green benches, and a seasonal elf. 

But no, there will be no gimmicks this year. 

Unlike last year, I'm not going to lure readers in by showing adorable animals. 

I could show you some lovely Swedish dalas but that would be tempting fate.

I don't want to get caught up in a themed story where the theme takes over the story. That's what happened last year when the deer benches came out just in time for Christmas.

Some of the deer were very cool, especially well dressed ones like this splendid fellow.

Everyone who was anyone was putting on their antlers . . .

their furry ears . . . 

photo by Viki Reed Photography

. . . and their best red noses.

But a Christmas frenzy is lagom kul. It's over the top. Going way back to the 1930s Stockholm Exhibition, Sweden has embraced the idea of intellectual hygiene and only-buy-what-you-need.  

In Sweden going over the top is frowned upon, though apparently drinking a lot of alcohol and coffee and lighting a lot of candles is perfectly ok. 

It's quite tricky being Swedish actually. Here is a brief guide provided by illustrator Daphne for her etsy shop messymydesign.

So, there you go. Swedes sometimes go over the top like snow goes quite near the top of benches.

We're back to the key elements of lagom again aren't we? While we're defining things, here's a clear definition of lagom, displayed with no fuss, in perfect balance on a pretty, modest bench.

Like this bench, lagom is a lifestyle trend simply and moderately framed.

my photo, Besancon citadelle, France

Sweden has been called mellanmjölkThe Land of Semi-skimmed Milk. I'm not sure if this an insult or a compliment. Some people might be okay with the watery blue stuff that is skimmed milk. Me, I prefer the unhealthy luxury of full fat. 

Speaking of which, the Swedes have another concept which is all about coffee and pastries. Indeed, coffee is part of the daily grind. 

my photo, Pullman, Washington

Coffee has lots of advantages. It makes you do stupid things faster and with more energy. 

my photo

But lagrom is not just about grabbing a styrofoam cup of takeout coffee that tastes like mud, even though it was only ground this morning.

my photo, Freshwater, Isle of Wight

No, for a proper fika you set aside time for kaffi and pastries and savour the moment with your friends. 

Words like fika and lagom are everywhere this year. Is lagom the new hyggelig? 

In 2016 the Danish Hygge was the word of the year. In case you missed it, just think warm thoughts about benches. Imagine them wrapped in cozy, stylish wool . . . 

. . . or snuggling up under beside an open fire.

Do be careful though: there is a fine line between a bench and a log.

My photo, Schimmert, Netherlands

Here is my best imaginary friend Miggy's bed. A bed with flannel deer sheets is definitely hyggelig. 

So is gingerbread. Here is IKEA's gingerbread bench.


Would you like some coffee with that?

Last year everyone was buying
hygge stuff for their houses. Hygge houses are warm and snuggly with lots of sheepskin rugs and candles and cardamom buns coming out of the oven.

Just what you need when you come in from the snow.

Last year I was also trying to show some splendid deer benches. Antler benches were a big thing.

Miggy had a nice rack specially decorated for Christmas. 

Sadly, in showing the deer benches last year I got carried away. I realise now there were too many deer . . .

. . . too many Santas . . .

. . . and too many reindeer reindogs.

I got caught up in decorating my house for Christmas and before I knew it, the deer wallpaper had taken over.

Every room had deer-centric wallpaper.

Yes, though I love them deerly, for Christmas last year I got altogether too carried away on the subject of cervines.

This year I'm avoiding that, though. 

I'm going to keep to a simple Swedish Christmas at home with the family.

Brothers and Sisters Play Mama and Papa 1906, Carl Larsson

Of course, I'm well aware that Swedish houses are very pretty and colourful. There's always a plentiful Christmas dinner.

Christmas Eve 1906, Carl Larsson

 And brilliant benches.

Nice dogs snooze by the fire. 

Lazy Nook 1897 Carl Larsson

There are so many brilliant deer benches to fawn over.

These decorative plates are deerlicious! 

And who doesn't love a bambi bench?

(Spoiler alert: it doesn't go well for Bambi). 

Sorry, I'm not going to make that mistake again. 

No more arty antler benches.

No more cheesy puns about benches that cost a lot of doe. I'm going to take a dose of my own venison. 

So, no more snowflakey ideas that melt into slush.

No more getting in over my head.

image by Kelly Riley

Yes, folks, I'm going to be moderate and stop the Christmas blog here, even though I'm just warming up.

I'm just going to show you how I've decorated my house in two simple colours - red and green.

This year I've kept it very lagom

Here is a Christmas reindeer. It's fully sustainable clipart, and better still, recycled from my blog last year. 

What could be more lagom than that? So, as they say in Sweden, 

God Jul och Gott Nytt År   


Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without some brilliantly Christmasy benches. In 2015 we here dreaming of purple ones. For a more traditional Ding Dong Christmas though, see  If lagom is not your thing, have a look at the full fat indulgence of my 2016 Hygge Christmas deer.

The Christmas house at the start of the story is simply beautiful. Melinda Stuart is a retired historian from Ontario, Canada, who has lots of architectural photos in her photostream.  It's the Vance house at Christmas 2015. The Vances live in Buncombe, North Carolina and the thing about the Vance's Christmas house is that it's low key, a reminder that in the early 19th century the holiday was not yet celebrated in the Victorian way that we do today. There is no decorated tree or commercial activity. Gifts were few and handmade, if they existed.

I like wall stencils and Cindy at Innovative Stencils carries a large selection of nursery and kids' room wall decals, as well as an ever-growing selection of tree and forest decals. I've used her pretty birch tree wall stencil, which can be used with or without the two deer. Vinyl wall decals are a quick and an affordable way to redesign a room and Innovative Stencils also carries a selection of damask stencils that can be used on walls, fabric, cakes and almost anything else.

Lucy Lazarova lives in Scotland where she makes very fashionable invitations for all sorts of events. She also has an assortment of attractive Scandinavian gnomes, including Swedish tomtes, which she will make in any colour you want. Lucy’s dream crafts are well worth a look.

Mike Cogh lives in Adelaide and photographed the gnome bench and many other benches around the world which I have used widely on Benchsite.  Mike has an extensive set of over 800 Humble Bench photographs at 

The lovely Babychamp deer belonged to my dear friend Effie, who had no idea why I loved them. As Japanese people are very fond of benches, the deer featured in a story about Japanese benches a couple of years ago.

Tis the Season is the title of the bench with lovely deer cushions. Cajsa Lilliehook is a photographer from Portland. She runs a number of fashion and photograph blogs, such as It's Only Fashion in Second Life®. Her column at Shopping Cart Disco called What I Like features art and fashion photos of Second Life from Flickr and fashion blogs. On Flickr I found her Tis the Season photo of a bench from December 2015.

My friend Lynne Woodward lives in Kiruna in Sweden and takes amazing photos there, such as the abandoned chair and microwave in the snow. In my Frozen story are several of her photos of Sweden -  ice fishing, the beautiful church in Kiruna, and the icy pews inside the Ice Church. Lynne and Rolf run a very friendly B&B and know a lot about local customs and events.  Oh, that B&Bs were always like this! Lynne writes a lively blog at  It's Everything You Want to Know About Sweden and some gorgeous photos as well. 

The crowd of benches is facing the harbour at Seahouses, a town in Northumberland which is halfway between Newcastle and Edinburgh. It's sometimes known as the gateway to the Farne Islands. The photographer is David Lally, who took the photograph in 2008 for Geograph.

In the Nathan Forget photostream  Ian's Antlers is an album of superb antler-wearing. There are brilliant moose, ram, deer, and other cervine creatures. Antlers 2 is the moose antlers and Antlers 8 the buck Both photos were taken in December 2011 in Denver, Colorado and Nathan has a whole album of beautiful elk photographed at his Christmas cabin in 2009.

The lovely dog in red antlers was photographed by Viki Reed in Nov 2012.  Viki Reed is a photographer from New Jersey. She is a former waitress, camel wrangler for Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular, comedy club employee, wardrobe assistant at The Public Theater, film and tv production staffer, writer and photographer who also has serious fine art skills. She has lived in New York (upper east side), Hollywood, The Valley (in LA), and New Jersey. She would love to live in the UK some day and would also love a studio to call her own.

The girl with nose and antlers was photographed in Dec 2015. It's in the photostream of  Shena Tschofen (pronounced Shay-na, not Sheena.)  Here's what I know about Shena: she's originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and now based out of Montréal. She graduated from the National Circus School in 2016 and has been on tour with Cirque Éloize's new production, SALOON, as a musician and acrobat. In her free time she can be found knitting, enjoying the outdoors, or making puns in multiple languages. 

Daphne at messymydesign is a brilliant illustrator and she has an excellent guide to being Swedish in her etsy shop. Being Swedish involves wearing stripey tops and woollen hats, getting intoxicated every day, and lighting candles with every meal. You also, apparently, have to hunt for mushrooms, drink a lot of coffee and hang up stars at the start of winter. Wow, there’s quite a lot to being Swedish. Besides this thorough guide messymydesign has some very cute cards, handmade gifts, and cats. I LOVE her cats. And in case you’re feeling smug about being English, you’d better have a look at the guide for that too.

Carl Drougge took the photo of the bench almost buried in snow. It's from his Winter in Stockholm album and was taken in Hornstull, Stockholm in December 2012.

In Avon, Ohio Joanne is a mum and a graphic designer, among others things. In her Paperieshop at etsy she sells DIY printable templates, instant downloads and wall décor. Sensibly, she has a definition for hygge, and also one for lagom, which is neither excessive nor sparse, but looking, feeling, and being in perfect balance. The wall art digital file with this definition is a very lagom image, in that it is beautifully displayed on an attractive bench that is thoroughly in keeping.

I wouldn't want you to get the idea that I am in any way sponsored by Bench dot or any other company. Far from it. The stuff in the bags are my very own purchases from the Bench dot outlet store. None of them fit me and they are all the wrong colours but never mind, they bear the Bench message and that's what's important. 

Carl Olof Larsson ( 1853 –1919) was a Swedish painter representative of the Arts and Crafts movement. His many paintings include oils, watercolors, and frescoes. He is principally known for his watercolors of idyllic family life but there are also some serious and beautiful landscapes of his homeland.

The coloured pages (Swedish houses, dala, wallpaper, snowflakes) are all from the wonderful Scandinavian Folk Patterns colouring book for grown-ups. I have lot of colouring books and this is one of my favourites.

Hygge was the word of the year 2016 in the Collins and Oxford dictionaries. There are more than one and a half million #hygge posts and zillions of hygge photographs on Pinterest. So many hygge books were printed that most people got one for Christmas. For a detailed analysis of hygge and its various cultural meanings, see Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian November 22, 2016. She goes so far as to suggest that the Danish hygge was  hijacked into a commercial frenzy that turns hygge into something far less cuddly than it sounds. 

BlueMacaronDesign in Illinois do printable wall art, printable quotations and more. Of course, lagom is one of the concepts they cover and so is Fika. BlueMacaronDesign has a convenient definition for us which is available as an instant download. "From the Swedish kaffi, or coffee in which the syllables are reversed. A coffee break with family or friends where pastries are often served. To savor the moment." Interestingly, there is a little Eiffel Tower in the image.

There are different ways of looking at the concept of lagrom. Some Swedes hate it. For example, it has been referred to as a suffocating doctrine of Lutheran self denial. Novelist and comedian Jonas Gardell called his 1990s standup show På besök i mellanmjölkens land, a visit to the land of semi-skimmed milk. 

Flannel deer sheets are everywhere at Christmas and for some reason I find them hard to resist. Along with the sheets, of course, you can get the matching bedside table and lampshade, and cushions that look like they've come from a Scottish manor house. I strongly suspect that all this deer-themed stuff has a limited life after Christmas.

A gingerbread bench? Brilliant! IKEA have cracked it. The gingerbread couch is one of their hygge-inspired gingerbread house furniture pieces from Christmas 2016. You cosy up to it, then you eat it. What could be nicer?  ikea-gingerbread-house-furniture__1364324118146-s3

The coffee cups are in Kiev, photographed in 2015 by Борошно and entitled The Place for Warm Communication. The project is by Jacobs and the green is apparently their corporate colours. 

The bench in smart grey knit is by Shannon Robalino, previously of California, now living in the UK.   It's part of a set of benches across England using local breeds of sheep to make the wool and knit by local people. Benches are set in the countryside as usable public art. They were all brought together for the Shipley Lates night on crafting in 2010. What a great project! You can see the whole flock of benches at 

I covered burning benches last autumn and there are quite a few benches on fire, one way or another, on the internet. The burning bench shown here is by Valentine Svennson from Stockholm. Photographed in 2003, it is one of several fires in his Retro collection. I'm not going to ask whether Valentine started the bench fire.

Of course you knew that the brilliant shapely girl with coloured lights in her antlers is not Miggy. She's Second Life AvaGirl Deerlicious, featured in the photostream of Lilac Niven back in December 2013. Lilac is from The Netherlands and is owner and designer of AvaGirl at 

The prettily decorated little gingerbread house is a Christmas decoration at a shopping mall in Porto Alegre in Brazil. I saw it at

The Daily Grind is a popular coffee house in Pullman, Washington. Pullman is home to Washington State University so, not surprisingly, The Daily Grind is full of students. But on the day I was there, people of all ages were having all manner of serious discussion as well as eating massive cinnamon rolls. 

The Four Little Santas on a bench were at the Great Santa Run in Edinburgh in 2009. They were photographed by emusing Emma, who saw, among many others, fat Santa, skinny Santa, running Santa, walking Santa, limping Santa, Santa on crutches, happy Santa, sad Santa, waving Santa, photographer Santa, green Santa, real Santa, Santa paws, Mrs Claus, little elf, little reindeer, sniffly Santa, yawning Santa, eating Santa, drinking Santa, baby Santa, fast Santa, slow Santa, naughty but nice Santas, romantic Santa, solitary Santa, twin Santas, old Santa, young Santa, runaway Santa, drumming Santa, and my cousin Santa! Some of them are on Emma's photostream at

Coco de Paris is a mixed media designer whose world is a fantasy of prints which feature original artwork, some vintage ephemera, some illustrion, some reality, some past, some future, and a lot of imagination. Every creation is unique, involving hand painting in acrylic on a different page of antique paper, complete with beauty signs through time (spots, corner bends, uneven prints, old grainage, wear and tear, etc). The deer sitting on a bench and deer discussion artworks are printed with Epson DuraBrite Ultra Ink which gives high performance print quality and longevity. The genuine antique paper comes from the famous Parisien magazine La Petit Illustration, a French literary journal of the 1920s.  One of Coco's three etsy shops is at and the website is at

At Daykamp Creative Design and Illustration in Massachusetts, everything is designed by Nicole Anguish (what a great name!) Nicole does innovative gig posters, holiday art prints and cards. Some of her delightful designs feature deer, like the one reading a newspaper on a bench. She also does a Christmas card of a deer with baubles strategically placed. The Daykamp etsy shop is at and the website at

Bambi on a bench was photographed by Tracy The Astonishing back in 2008. What's astonishing is the number of travel albums Tracy has in her photostream.

The Spaghetti Bench is one of a series by Pablo Reinoso, a French-Argentinean artist and designer. Starting in 2006, Reinoso used public benches, which are anonymously designed and travel across cultures with an out-of-time, old-fashioned quality, as a starting point for his reflections . . . These new creations have multiplied and found homes in very diverse places. The fabulous benches can be seen on his website at

The leather bench resting on deer antler legs is a fascinating and unusual design from Old Goods, a Dutch company run by Raymond van Bijsterveld Jr.
based inside d’Olde Poort in Ulft, Old Goods has an eye for detail and is continuously on the hunt for interesting items, sourced from all around Europe. In their atelier they restore or modify items when necessary, but also work with old materials to create their own unique designs.

The brilliant cardigan-wrapped chair is called Chairwear from  Originally from County Cork in Ireland, Claire-Anne O'Brien lives and works in London producing textiles for furniture, space and product. Specialising in constructed textiles, material properties and textile technique are explored through hands-on experimentation. With a sculptural approach, Claire-Anne investigates form, construction and scale through textiles. Shows include London Design Festival, Milan Furniture Fair, Wool Modern and Spinexpo. In 2011 she received the Future Makers Award from the Crafts Council of Ireland.

The photo of the buried picnic table was taken by Kelly Riley, who lives in Bend, Oregon. It's a snowy place, Bend, and a very beautiful one.

Keeping warm is quite a thing here on Benchsite. We love it! Miggy's mum lives here in Fribble-under-Par and occupies various benches in the town and on the beach. Last year she organised Knit Bomb Thursdays so that we covered all the Paradise Island benches just in time for winter. And it does get cold here. Our benches get frozen   See how we keep them woolly warm at

Deer are not the only animal benches here on Benchsite.  In fact, we have a whole Ark of animal benches. See which ones Noah saved. If dogs are your thing, you’d be barking not to have a look at

Maybe you prefer cats? If so, there are plenty of purrfect feline benches for World Cats Day, as well as more than a few cats playing pianos. We've got farm animals too. The Cream of Bovine Benches.  How about some Baaaaaad Sheep Benches?  There are sunny bunny benches for Easter and poultry benches which are no spring chickens.    We've had horse benches for The Year of the Horse and goat benches for, yep, The Year of the Goat. We've got Great British Birds and even creepy crawlie insect benches for National Insect Week. And monkeys? Of course we have monkeys; Eddie has made sure of that. It's not just The Year of the Monkey. Oh no, we've had plenty of Eddie's monkey business

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