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Neutral and anonymous design – a discussion on sustainability and image

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When describing my own home and the style I’m striving for there, you will often hear me talking about ”neutral furniture” and ”anonymous objects”. What I mean by that is that I don’t fancy flashy designer pieces, show-off products or items that are easily recognizable in terms of brands, designers or even price range. I like basic and simple things that don’t necessarily reveal my socio-economic status, things that no one will know if I gave €10 or €1000 for. That is not to say that I don’t like more expensive things, because I do, sometimes. I just don’t want the price tag to be obvious, as it is in for example a Jacobsen lounge chair or a Svenskt Tenn cushion. Everyone will know exactly what you paid for the item, and it adds to their image of you. I try my best to stay away from that hunt for social status through flashy purchases. Surely, I too still have some over priced scented candles bought mainly for the labels, Eames chairs and designer lighting, and stuff that scream Ikea or other high street brands in your face. I have realized though that those items are not contributing to the picture of me that I want to paint, nor are they giving me anything that more anonymous pieces wouldn’t, so they are going to leave…

I believe that quality, both in terms of design and materials, comes in all price ranges. I also firmly believe that the simpler a design is when it comes to lines and appearance, the longer it will take before one’s eyes get tired of it.

I think this home is a perfect example of what I mean. You will find very few nameable objects here, especially for a homestaged flat up for sale, but many DIY designs (look at all those plywood constructions, I love it!), and the rest is a mix of vintage and super basic anonymous pieces. Also, the material mixes here are very inspiring. Plywood, cork, many different woods, all kept bright and fresh by the white walls.

Pictures via Stadshem

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Ems Designblogg is all about Scandinavian style, soft minimalism and beautiful functionalism. The blog is Sweden's oldest interior design blog and has been up and running since 2005. I strive to fill it with a mix of inspirational and aspirational images from all over the world, while keeping true to my own voice and style, where transparency is key and creative criticism is highly valued. When I'm not blogging, I bake chocolate cakes for my kids, hang around Stockholm's cafés and drink way too many cappuccinos, do some occasional styling work, and try to fit in some inspiring travel adventures in between. If you have any suggestions, propositions for collaborations, other ideas or just want to say hi, throw an email at: emsdesignblogg@gmail.com.



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  • Gretchen Gretchen

    I like your thoughts. I also think that it’s great to see the lived life in people’s homes. Things they have found, collected, wanted to buy to remember or not. Things that tell their history and places they’ve been and people they have met. Sustainability is also a very important to me. I have this thing with vintage so my shopping usually happens places where they sell these items with history. I love to mix vintage with diy and some new design. I don’t care about so much brands but I care about beautiful design and feeling what it brings to my home.

  • Frida live

    I subscribe every sentence of your post…I’ m an architect, and when I show my clients my bathroom, which is build of self-designed plywood-furnitures, I can see the question in their face: why she is not the owner of an highly designed bathroom??…..Best regards, Frida

  • http://kickcanandconkers.blogspot.com/ Deborah Beau

    One of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t agree more!

  • T. Perez | KRiSPINTERIOR

    Very well said Emma! I share the same point of view. I admire most spaces that are unique and ”mixed” in a genius way. It takes a skillful eye to create that originality, thus making branded or iconic items somewhat disappear, which results to making it about the person more than the objects themselves. I practice the same point of view with personal fashion|style.

  • Charly

    I love you’re groovy DIY apartment. I also see a sense of fun in creating these custom pieces out of low key materials. But you might want to reconsider doing away with the Eames chair – quite comfortable!

  • Ecce

    Tack för en bra blogg! Sett Hantverkarg 22 i Stockholm som är ute till försäljning? Häftigt boende!

  • Binuur

    Ideas about ‘neutral and anonymous design’ are worthy of discussion ! Showing nice combinations of colors and different materials within ‘neutral’ design is surely inspiring- looking at your blog with a style now pursued for ages I have to state: the images shown seem to me more and more interchangeable. The flats shown seem less and less individual to me – because of the ingredients, which seem to drop off the same small carousel. This is what weakens the idea of a neutral design to a significant extend. A greater part adding to the likelihood of confusion may be based on the perfectly staged and produced ‘randomness’ , which can’t be maintained in anyones everyday life. Talking about sustainability it’s the quality of a product I’m asking for in first place.
    As there is so much liveliness in our home I try to reduce ‘things’ and try to get rid of ballast. What is needed I choose wisely, it should be of good quality and may (sometimes) add a bit ‘blingbling’ to my everyday life – and I’m not going to publish pictures of my home – so I definitely don’t have to worry about my social status. Most of our friends have never ever heard about Eames, Jacobsen or Knoll or whoever.

    What adds individuality and homeliness are those things you can hardly plan: children’s drawings hanging on our magnetic chalkboard, sticks and stones collected in the woods and even toys.

    P.S. looking at the diy-plywood-bed: Greetings from my backache ;-)))

  • Em Fexeus

    I actually find them quite uncomfortable, but that is probably because I don’t like to sit ”properly”. 🙂 I always sit with my feet or legs up on the chair, and the Eames fibreglass construction just isn’t welcoming for any other sitting position than the straight up and down with feet on the floor.

  • Em Fexeus

    Thank you so much Deb! <3

  • Em Fexeus

    Absolutely, some people have a magic ability to mix design icons into the interior in a way that makes them blend in seamlessly instead of standing out like a braggy focal point. 🙂

  • Em Fexeus

    Haha, I can imagine! When people see my home, they usually say it’s not what they expected, as it’s very low key and not at all full of expensive designer items… Then when their kids start drooling raspberry jam on that seemingly unimpressive plywood bench, and I get an uptight look on my face, they are quite surprised to hear that it’s actually one of the more valuable pieces in the house… 😉

  • Em Fexeus

    Yes, your home should of course reflect you and your life, and personal items collected on travels, inherited pieces, handmade things or other objects with a back story are a big part of that. A new Jacobsen lounge chair from the design shop usually isn’t adding anything more than a feeling that you want to impress someone.

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  • http://www.myunfinishedhome.com/ bianca

    Really relevant. I lost my own interests last year with the blogging and and all these alluring objects. Nothing was wanting me more that to go to flea markets, finding objects that have lived, finding an unusual accessory. Your article could not be better, it fits perfectly with what I feel. It’s easy to fall into trends and gradually depersonalizing our interior. One question: one day, will you present your apartment?

  • Saara

    I agree that neutral design is beautiful and has great value. However, I don’t see a point in bashing designer objects. If you notice that other things than designer furniture etc inspire you, write about that but without the bashing. I don’t understand why one has to say ”I don’t like this and that” in blogs, instagram, facebook or whichever media. It just makes people sound bitter and everything but well-spoken.

  • Saara

    I also wanted to say this to all interior bloggers: it’s hypocritical to share the latest news on interesting home decoration objects, which many bloggers do, and at the same time say that they are against consumerism. Anyone who publicly presents the latest collections of whichever brand is responsible for creating interest to that brand and those objects. THAT creates consumerism and makes people want to buy products.

  • Em Fexeus

    I don’t agree here. I think there is a great need for more critique in the design field. As it is now, deco magazines and blogs are filled with raving reviews that are more like ads than actual reviews. Whatever happened to critique, the way it is used in every other art form? Look at fashion, music and art for example, would you consider it problematic if a reviewer said something less than ”brilliant” about something they are reviewing? Of course not. So why should design not be reviewed in the same way? Everything isn’t perfect anywhere, not in design either, and to speak about that is important, in my opinion.

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