18 May When Unexpectant Gift Leads You to Nordic Design
Loving Nordic Design
Do you love Nordic Design? My guest Nicola is passionate about all things Nordic Lifestyle and Design. Her knowledge of Nordic Design is clear when you check her Instagram handle @nordicnotes Her love for all things Nordic Design and blogging about it weekly basis is now turning into a career. She is publishing articles in Simply Scandi Magazine among others.
Her hard work has paid off and we talked about how you can make your space look more Nordic by simple changes and how her love for Nordic things got started when she got a book “Living Danishly” by Helen Russell when going for maternity leave. Nicola also explains how she has transformed her period property using Nordic statement pieces to a lovely family home.
Who is Nicola Capper?
Nicola Capper is the friendly face behind the blog Nordic Notes. Her blog covers all things Nordic design, travel, and living. After 20 years in the corporate world, Nicola felt the time to change after having her child. Her maternity leave gift Living Danishly by Helen Russell reignited her passion for all things Nordic. She started to research the Nordic way of life and felt the connection on how the Nordics live that lead to her blog starting in 2017.
Nicola confessed that she has not been anywhere else except the Nordics for her holidays for years and cannot wait for borders to open and get to explore the Nordics outside of the metropolitan cities. Her home is any Nordic living geek dream come true and her pictures on her Instagram have a soothing quality about them. All things have a meaning and fit together perfectly.
[bctt tweet=”Things like sustainability, and gender equality, that I think we can all learn from.” username=”thenordicmumpodcas”].
Connect with Nicola
- What is Nordic Notes?
- What got Nicola interested in Nordic Lifestyle and Design
- Why Nicola is attracted to Nordic Design?
- Does Nicola see herself living at the Nordics one day?
- Has Nicola traveled all the Nordic countries?
- What are Nicolas’s favorite Nordic Design pieces?
- Recommendations on how to make your living space to feel more Nordic, what would you recommend that you should do?
- What feeling Nordic Design brings up on you?
- Where is Nordic Notes going next?
Transcript of Loving Nordic Design
Welcome to the Nordic Mum podcast Nicola.
Oh, thank you very much. This is an honor.
It’s a pleasure. We were just chatting before I started recording that I’ve actually been aiming to have you on my podcast for a while I’ve been following you on your Nordic Notes Instagram. And I’ve been thinking oh, I wonder if she would say yes, if I would ask her.
Well, you know, I’m open to a Nordic chat at any time.
Now, tell the listeners who is Nicola and what is Nordic notes?
Well, for me, Nordic notes was just somewhere that I could put everything that inspired me about the Nordic way of life. And obviously, the design style the culture, and discovering it as a destination, both as a young married couple, and then now as a family with a small son. So it’s to sort of bring that to people that obviously you don’t live the book, you have an affinity with the place and a passion for the lifestyle, and to make it more accessible to people and inspire people every day.
So Nordic Notes is a blog and you have a minimum of one blog per week coming out about everything Nordic. But before you started writing the blog, can you tell us a little bit about how did you actually find, Nordic life and the new Nordic lifestyle and design and all that? Why did it kind of perked your interest?
I’ve always been a very creative person. And with the blog, it seems to have come full circle really. And I grew up in a small mining town in the north of England in the 1980s. And my escape was drawing and I was the girl in the art room at school with the terrible 80s poem, basically now, using art and drawing and reading about art history and galleries around the world as her escape. And I then went on to study Fine Arts at university. But for me, art was never just about painting and sculpture, I always drew inspiration from architecture and product design, and textiles, and even wrote a dissertation on it the time that art and all of these things overlapped and fed into each other. And, but like everybody, once you’ve graduated, you then enter the, into the world of work, and landed in a marketing department.
And then the paint brushes got put to one side, and the camera got dusty, and spent the next 20 years working the nine to five. And I always worked for organizations that I felt had a social purpose, and whether that was the NHS, education, and up until I went freelance social housing. And during, obviously, that time, I met my husband. And it was at that point, then that we started to travel, and go and visit the places that I’d only read about for myself. And so we met when we were in our early 30s. And I didn’t even have a passport when I met him. And then we basically travelled all over the place. We go on road trips from Vienna, to Berlin, Montreal to New York, go into all these places I’d only dreamt about. And, and then it was after we got married, I’d already started really getting into like the Nordic design style, I’ve said, I’ve been a big minimalist fan of my studies. And I’ve said, a big Bauhaus fan. But obviously with that you can’t live with that kind of style is what came back and then came to the Nordic style, because it had a bit more personal experience to add a bit more tactility to it and easy to live with. And you know, things like for our wedding anniversary, our wedding gifts, we got a Stelton coffee pot and things like that. So I was already getting into the Nordic style, when it was our first wedding anniversary, we went to Copenhagen, and that was 2014. And at that point, it just clicked. And the poor man has not really been anywhere outside the Nordic countries ever since on holiday.
But I’ll say the thing now is after the onset seems that came back so inspired and felt that like my nine to five life had lost all his creativity. And there was this person still inside that wanted to be out with a camera and make and celebrating, you know, great design and art and I’m a total bookworm and wanting to share all these things. And so that was when my husband and something got a bit sick of listening to me going on about these things. So I said, you know, why don’t you write a blog about it, you write it down, get it out there. And so in 2017, the blog was born. And you know, now instead of like I did 20 years ago, using my camera to take you know, for a sketchbook, you obviously have Instagram and now bring things to life on paper rather than on canvas. So the blog has brought that frustrated, creative person back for life, and it’s given me a totally different life then I thought I was gonna obviously carry on doing throughout my career so I will always be thankful for that. And also, it now seems to have a personality of its own and I can’t believe the opportunities it’s given me.
Now, I can hear the passion and the love for all things Nordic. You touched upon that you visited Copenhagen and earlier before we started recording, we were talking about Helen Russell, and her book Living Dangerously which you said was a big wake up for you. So what is it about the Nordic way of living the design? Why are you so attracted to it?
Obviously, you know, like, any place you go to on holiday, and it’s got a magic to it. But as I said there’s something not just about you know, going shopping or visiting a gallery or you know, having a coffee somewhere posh that you think this is this is the life for me this about, and the Nordic countries that for me is beyond all of that. It’s the, it’s the attitude, it’s the landscape, , it’s the whole feeling that it gave, it gives you one year there that there’s something within it, something magical something, understanding something that’s really personable, that really resonates with me. And obviously at first we did go was two of us to and I think when you then start traveling as a family with a baby, and then obviously, is my little boys five, now, we’ve taken him on Nordic trips, since he was just a couple of months old. And you then obviously, seeing these plces, in very different ways, you no longer staying in a boutique hotel, you’re renting an Airbnb apartment, for example. And you then sort of see it from more of a real life point of view. Because when you’re traveling with small children, you need to know where you can go and buy nappies from you need to go, you need to go to the playground.
And now he’s five, I need to know where to get really good pizza from, you know, so it becomes more of a real life experience. And I could probably write a full blog post about the best pizza in countries to realize, but I said to experience that with him, and to see firsthand, you know, even down to the facilities that are provided for children, and how easy it is to get around for the crown, you know, on public transport, and all those things. It’s not just about the pretty things anymore is about four way of life that really inspires me and, and the attitude as well. I think that’s so important, really. And it’s just to bring a little bit of that home, and try and live that way myself, even though I’m miles away is something that I’m trying to do every day and hope and courage of the city too.
And do you see yourself living in any of the Nordic countries any point in the future?
I would love to say yes. The only thing that stuck with me is my own family. If you know what I mean, like my parents, you know that I’m a real home bird. And I didn’t even go and study away from home, I stayed at home and travelled to university every day. My parents are my best friends. So to leave them, I would find it extremely difficult. But over lock down three that we’re on now in the UK, we have been trying to teach ourselves some Danish. So when we go back, we will hopefully have a bit more of a, you know, a bit more of a real experience. I’m not saying it’s going to very well, but we’re trying. But I would hope hope that you know, obviously, as my my son gets bigger, and obviously our life’s lives change, and we get a bit older that hopefully I can spend more and more time there. Pre COVID we were trying to get out there. You know, what, three, four times a year anyway. And now I’m just working on my five year old to try and get into study at a university over there. So we had obviously need to go there with him. So yeah, I’m trying to turn him into a future architect or product design abroad.
And have you been in all the Nordic countries already? Or is there some that you haven’t visited yet?
Pretty much. Yeah, we’ve obviously focus like everybody on the main cities. And you know, I think it’s incredible to think that at five my little boy has already spent time in Helsinki and Reykjavik and Oslo and but when it comes to obviously, like Denmark and Sweden, we have done a couple of trips now with him where we’ve started, you know, at various points in and driven across country and stared a couple of nights in various parts. The big plan last year before he started school was to do a road trip basically from Oslo to Copenhagen, but that might have to wait, I think seeable, but I think it’s we have pretty much covered everywhere but there’s still a lot of places on my wish list that I need to get back to and to be honest, I’m really looking forward to exploring more of like the coast in the countryside side of things.
I think lockdown is like what I’m craving like the balls and and the excitement of visiting capital city. Again, I’m also quite seeking some solace and some, you know, some retreat. So maybe I need to get a camper van until Iceland. And just, you know, go and be in the quiet for a few weeks. I’m not sure I’ll go work on the beat and, you know, the off the beaten track. Exactly, yeah. This he said that I said, we I think we’re just itching to do some exploring now, because it’s been far too long. Now, how does annuity culture differ that to English culture, in your opinion? Well, I don’t think you need me to get into the politics to tell you that the UK is in a bit of a dark place. And, you know, I’m not saying for a minute that the Nordic countries are perfect in any way, far from it. I’m not, you know, looking at it with completely rose tinted glasses. But I think especially in times of crisis, I think you can sort of see how, you know, different countries, shall we say about plans and preparations for this kind of thinking place for a while when it’s not been just purely, you know, crisis management leaping from one decision to the next. But I also think it really shows that in the Nordic countries, that there’s this element of trust, and trust in the government to make the right decisions, trust in the in the infrastructure, you know, that, that when you need something, it’s gonna work, and it’s, you know, it’s ready to deal with this kind of thing. And more importantly, I think, trusting each other, to do the right thing and get through things like this together. And, and that, for me something that is really important that said, you know, the UK, it doesn’t seem to have that. That trust element, it’s all there’s always some kind of political or press kind of story, and division at the moment, which is really sad, and sad. For me. Personally, I’m a trusting person, I always want to see the good in people and what can what can happen and the power of that. And that, for me, I think, is something that the Nordic countries really push forward and aren’t afraid to try things make mistake can make if you make a mistake, learn from it, and really pushing forward. Things like sustainability, and gender equality and things like that, that I think we can all learn from.
And if you would have to think about new design, and you would have to pick, because we were talking about you love the architecture and, Nordic designs, if you’d have to pick three, like design pieces or your favorites, what would those be?
And well, I think, for me, personally, I live in a 1930s home. So I have to be really careful what I bring in. If it’s if it’s completely new Nordic design, it doesn’t sit right. So I’m always more swayed personally to more of the sort of Golden Age pieces. So it you know, wishbone chairs, you know, until vowels maybe, and, and well, my house would not be organized without string shelving systems all over the place. People think I think, you know, I get asked quite a lot actually, that people think that Nordic design is quite harsh. And you know, how, you know, do you have to be super tidy other all the time, you know, when it’s not, it’s not soft and fluffy. But the for me, when design is so well made that you can stuffed drawers with Lego toy cars, and it’s yanked open and slung shot millions of times. But you know, like, Hey and firm live in. And there are obviously brands that I love, like and Tradition and Menu.
And New Works, for example, they’ll do some amazing things. And but I said living in a period home, you do have to obviously get the balance right, but that it fits and home for me isn’t just about how it functions, but it’s also a feeling. So, for me, you need to put in pieces in with a history like a wishbone chair, for example. That obviously was created probably around the same time as the property was built. It feels that you put in real room. Send to it that you given a not what it once was, but you’re also live in a modern life and know that what you’re invested in, will see you through, you know, Bill will stand the test of time, it’s a timeless design. And it’s such good quality, that you’re never gonna have to abide by anything like that ever again, do you know me I’d rather but in wait and invest in better things than just the throw away, really. And I think that again, that is something that the Nordic lifestyle and, and mindset and the design history is in is in people that they pass things down to generation to generation being invested things long term. And again, it’s this culture that I feel but in the UK, we don’t quite get right. And so I said, it’s not just about for me, it’s not just about writing a blog every week trying to push out on obtainable things, you know, I design a kitchen here high and expensive. So for the, it’s about understanding what works for you, that it will last you and that it will, it will bring your everyday to life in a way that you know, that you wouldn’t normally get if you just impulse bought something that you know, the really informed choices that bring the magic to your everyday life at home.
It’s so interesting what you say about the period property because we owned a piece of property in London, before we moved to Sydney. And we kept it. So when we went back to Oh, my gosh, three, four years ago, we sold it. But I went back at it and it’s like, oh my gosh, you know, like, you forget, it’s appeared property, but we tried to make it very young and hippie, I don’t know, kind of, you know, it’s just nothing matched. Nothing really worked. Like, at the time, of course, I was, you know, single or single with, you know, with my boyfriend, but traveling and you know, just having fun and things like, you know, what is in your house and in your walls just really didn’t matter if it looked good, it was like fine. When we went back to the house, I was like, Oh my god, what the tasted I have this is disgusting. We have to paint this house, nobody’s gonna buy it with these colours on the walls, is a miss mismatch of colours. And every room was different colour. And I think I’ll put up some marimekko like curtains and stuff there. And oh my god, it was just so horrendous.
Don’t worry, we’ve all made mistakes like that. And that’s what was my decade. That was my early 30s. Just until and I’ve learned since then. I think it’s it’s like everything really we all learn, you know, there’s things that you know, that, that you fall in love with pieces of your home that you fall in love within, you know, suddenly you realize that it’s not really working, and what can you do to tweak it or if you move into software and you need to, you know, it’s not your personal style, for example, you know, there’s things that we’ve lived here now for seven years, and there’s still things that I’ve lived with all this time, and I’m desperate to change these things, and they were called and that was going to be would be forever.
And you know, and again, it’s just playing the long game, isn’t it and knowing your own sense of style, and slowly but surely, tweaking it and getting it right. You know, we inherited a kitchen that that wasn’t our taste. But we knew we couldn’t completely rip it out and start again. And for one thing, there’s it’s an Ikea kitchen with granite workshops. And you know, no one had forgive me faerber through granite workshops out let’s be honest. So you know, you tweak the design. So we then had an obviously very hot, heavily influenced by Nordic kitchen design, we changed we customized to France and left the carcasses and the countertop. So again, it then became part of our style and our home without it being a huge expense.
I think that’s the thing you know, you need to know what to invest in and what to work around. And that brings me to my next question is about if you could give the listeners tips about how to get their home do Luke more new deal without breaking the bank because let’s face it, those really expensive, you know, designs that we mentioned earlier, like the Allto device and all those they are expensive, like yeah, they will last, you know forever. And they go from generation to generation and I have lots of Ittala, Arabia, Marimekko. You just name it which I have heritage from my grandmother. And but yes, they will, you know state of time. But if you don’t have the money and you just want some pieces in your home your house to spaces to living in to make it feel more Nordic, what would you recommend that you should do?
Yeah, for one, I haven’t got any grandmother to inherite. And I basically use every birthday and Christmas present to you know, people, you know, give me some money to have maybe a royal Copenhagen mug or something like that, you know what I mean? So, but for me, and I’m no qualified interior designer, this is just you know, me as someone who’s really passionate about homes and creating a space that feels comfortable for you. And obviously, I’m a real traditionalist when it comes to white and gray wall colouring. But I will say I am loving the Nordic colour schemes that are coming through right now it’s just I’m not brave enough for for you know, a yellow see, you know, what have you. But I think it’s testament to show that like British brands, like far on ball, for example, are bringing out a Nordic edit range of colors and things like that, to show just how influential, you know, Nordic, the interior is really is right now.
And there is this real transition from the white and the gray into this pop of color, and that they’re not afraid of color. And if you’re back into nada, interior design history, they’ve been using color for centuries, it’s just that they’re just known for these white walls. And what for me again, my whole i prime, like most events is a white box I won’t lie is why it’s because for me, it’s about the light, like in the Nordic countries, I live in Liverpool, we don’t get a lot of sunshine, I’ll be honest with you the range of bucketing down today. And I too need that light fix. And so the white walls, they’re more money up with natural elements, whether it’s Ward for like coffee tables, or chairs and lots of plants or I’m a big house plant keeper. And forgive me, you know that that life and that vibrancy and bringing that out dancing. But that boy, I also have warmth, really with texture and texture through fabrics and artwork and objects. But again, the whole thing comes back to light. I hate curtains, I don’t have curtains in my house, I just have blinds that I roll right up to the top in the morning to get as much light in as possible.
And then on an evening, then, you know, you’ve got to get the lighting, right and create layers of light, whether it’s lamps, floor, lamp, floor lamps, table lamps, you know, retask lighting, and they don’t have to be expensive, you know, there are some really great brands out there that do not influenced are minimal style, that you don’t have sugar to the top Nordic brands each and every time but they give you that not to it. But again, it’s more important about the atmosphere. And obviously the Hugge hope I’m saying that right with my northern English accent. But you know, even down to the candlelight, you know, it’s creating that atmosphere and that coziness. And, you know, it doesn’t have to be an expensive blanket that you snuggle on there. Once you’ve got that a good book and the candles lit you know, you’ve definitely got that feeling. And, and I think again, like I was saying earlier is about invest in well take your time, by less, but by better, it doesn’t matter that you haven’t got a complete room straightaway. Just take your time, take a breath. Think about you know, how you use especially now how you use in each room, does your dining table need to go from breakfast so serving breakfast before school to your desk now and then back again to to dinner. And you know you need it’s it’s making sure that it works for you and it works in the right way. And again, I’m not saying you know, we get it right every time. But it’s it’s just don’t feel under pressure to follow trends and to spend a lot of money when you don’t need to. It’s all about making your house a home and, and the rest of that that Nordic feeling will come. I think once you’ve got those key pieces in place, it’s not all about the price tag. It’s how It feels out on how the chair feels when your hands are on it and you put, you know, you know, it’s the tactility of things, how the blanket feels, you know, the glow of the candle lights, all of those things. But so for me, it’s very much about the light. It’s about the natural elements, and it’s about choosing well, and, and the craftsmanship and the quality of what you’re buying rather than the quantity.
And what about feelings? If you think about Nordic design, and if you’d have to define it as an emotion, what would that be?
Nordic design is it knows its place, if you know domain that isn’t in your face, it doesn’t shout at you. It’s the piece that’s quietly there in the background, but is always for and and you know, it will always be there. That said, there’s something about the quality of it, that when you just want to pick it up, you know what I mean? You want it you want that mug in your hand. And you know that it’s you know, that people have spent time making this and it’s been, and there’s a real connection to the designers and the craftsmanship. And, and it’s though in the presence. And that’s the thing of it none of it throw away. It’s got personality, but it’s not a bolshie personality, if you know what I mean. It’s it’s subtle, it’s quiet, it’s reliable. it you know, I mean, it’s all of those things that and I don’t know, maybe that is that also describes me, I don’t know, that’s a bit weird and a bit profound
You sounds more Nordic than more people from the Noridc. You know, like, all these things, as you describe is I’m thinking in my mind. Oh, yeah, I remember talking about that in one of my episodes. Oh, yes. So that will be mentioning as well in this podcast, is like, you opt the epi term of everything nude.
Well, thank you very much. Maybe that’s right click when I finally landed in Copenhagen that weekend, I don’t know, my husband calls it my Nordic glow. That’s what I get when I returned. And put it this way, I’ve not got much left after last. But I said, I, you know, my family, and my life is very noisy, and very hectic. And I’ve never been someone that really pushed, you know, in my career to to, I want to be a leader, I want my voice heard I want you know, you know, I just want basically to live a very simple, contented and happy life and to make a difference. And I think, I don’t think I’m alone in that.
No, I think there’s a lot of people particular times that we live, looking for that kind of connection with nature and with the home and the space that they’re in. And this kind of simplified, slow living like I call it, the Nordic slow lifestyle that people are more attracted to. And I can see even here where I live in in Australia that there’s more kind of a Nordic influence designs coming out. But also there’s lots of like, talk about why Nordic countries are doing so well. Excluding Sweden, sorry, my Swedish friends. From the times of COVID but it’s like the whole thing it’s kind of it’s a it’s an attraction to people it’s attraction do people do? Go and explore it why they are doing so well? Why are they why Nordic lifestyle and a new living is such a, you know, thing to have an ending to be interested about.
And I think that is also like you were saying earlier about my work life now, thanks to the blog, which I’ll always be amazed and grateful to is now taking me on a career path where I now help to spread that message. Whether it’s through writing for magazines or brands, and putting that feeling into words for them. And you know, I’ve been really lucky things I went freelance to to have had the opportunities to work with some amazing independent makers that you know, that are in the UK but obviously have an affinity with the Nordic style and the way of life and what we do, and obviously publications and you know whether that’s pushing out You know, what you should be looking at. and brands, you should be looking at all the bigger picture stuff, you know, like you were saying about the sustainability, or the history of the, of the design approach. And also, now I’m also working with Nordic brands as the English voice. So that is something that I will always be grateful for, and hope that the message of and the feeling and the opportunity of what they sort of way of life brings is being shared now more than ever.
And where is Nordic Notes going next, like you already said about you working with other publications? Or you’re writing articles and blogs with other Nordic influenced magazines, etc. But where do you see yourself taking the blog? Are you going to create your own products? Or are you going to be? What do you do?
Well, you know, I am concentrated on the writing for now, you know, obviously, I’m putting myself out there a little bit more, I’ve been a bit braver, but also really developing that writing style. And one thing I have promised myself now multiple boys back at school is just before locked down, I enrolled on an interior design course. And actually, I never actually, I never got the chance to finish it because he was at home. And so I have that blinking in my inbox at me every day. So you know, obviously, then I can, at least if people do ask me for help and advice, which they do, I can feel that I can do this I’ve got, I’ve got the qualification. Now. I don’t know why I need that piece of paper, but you know how it is. And so hopefully, it can grow into that next step. I said, I never thought for a minute, when I set the blog off that I’d be able to turn a passion into a profession and never did, it was never about that. And I said it’s taking me on a journey that I never expected and met some incredible people and had some nice, you know, amazing experiences.
But hopefully, as multiple workouts all the time start to settle, I can obviously get out a bit more and mix, you know, mix, mix it more into the writing the design, you know, pushing out those messages really and, and telling those stories. And I think with the blog as well, I don’t just as a write about the latest product that’s been released, we taught, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to interview some amazing people, and people behind really well known Nordic brands to really understand what their inspirations were, where they’re going. Which has also been really interesting that, you know, they too started with this idea. And this, this feeling that they needed to do something. And where do you see yourself? Like, this is what I asked you like last thing from all my guests, where do you see yourself where you are in next two years time? Are you still writing your blog, and you may be doing that interior design course that you just mentioned? Or have you moved on to something else? What do you think were you Well, I’d like to think that I’ve, I’ve got a bit more confidence in the writing and the confidence in what I’m saying and that I can professionally offer advice on interiors and lifestyle and brand development and really tell the stories behind these things and give people you know, the help that they need.
And I said that I’d love to be able to just get out in into the into the Nordic world a little bit more. And it’s been some more of what it has to offer really. And those adventures are never gonna end we just we’ve just got a whole list of them now that we’ve not been able to do anything for you. And so yeah, he’s really pushing that forward. And you know, obviously like everyone you dream about, you know, working with someone to design the home or write a book or you know, things like that and these things like you know you’re involved on a bit of a pipe dream but you know baby steps and little by little but they said that that girl with the 80s perm in the art room is feeling braver and coming out and into the world.
I think you should definitely do that interior design course and I think I should write a book because I bet it would be amazing just looking at your Instagram handle. Well thank you Nicola just always a pleasure. Always calming and when I look at THe Nordic Notes it in the morning, someone that is so soothing picture.
Thank you, it is usually a pandemonium behind the scenes. So Thank you.
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