Modern Pastoral by Niki Brantmark - book review April 18 2016

You might have heard of Niki Brantmark already, she runs the hugely successful daily interior design blog My Scandinavian Home, which receives a whopping 15 million hits each month from visitors all over the world who, like us, love her mix of lo-fi, vintagey and pared back interiors. 

Niki’s a London girl who decamped to Sweden a decade ago and now lives the Scandi good life, taking inspiration from nature and a simpler approach to living.

Chosen by interiors writer Ellie Tennant to feature in her book Design Bloggers at Home, Niki has now written her own first book, Modern Pastoral, and we were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy.

Modern Pastoral by Niki Brantmark

From the front cover onwards, Modern Pastoral is packed with the kind of places we’d like to hunker down in for a weekend or much (much) longer. Its filled with kicked-back cabins, retreats and homes that mix a warm rustic sensibility with modern convenience. Our kinda places.

Reclaimed wood panelling in this large open-plan dining area

And, much to our satisfaction, there’s reclaimed wood aplenty on display. Indeed, wood is an essential component in creating many of the spaces’ mellow, relaxed warmth and naturalistic appeal. From furniture, to wall cladding and hand-built kitchens to aged bare beams, wood is a mainstay material for country living in the modern world.

Natural textures in a Scandinavian bedroom

Niki shares various takes on this simple, informal style. Featured homes across Scandinavia and the United States show how to use colours, textures and details to create spaces to unwind and retreat from the world for a while.

A reclaimed wood bathroom unit

Divided into four sections, each with an enticing title: Forest, Graphical, Homestead and Waterside, Niki looks at how the spaces bring a small part of nature inside for a calm and uniquely informal aesthetic. From exposed wood and rugged stone surfaces to neutral textiles and rooms filled with light they all evoke an ideal, rural life, adapted to modern living.

Modern Pastoral is the kind of book that will make you want to grab the nearest saw and a bag of nails and escape to build your own little slice of rustic heaven in some cabin by the shore. And we're coming, too!   

An outdoor shower in Sweden


Niki BrantmarkWe were also lucky enough to catch up with Niki to ask her some more about her book and the Scandinavian interiors that inspire her. 

What do you think is the essence of Scandinavian interiors? 

Scandinavian homes are light and airy and draw heavily on nature. The walls are often white and the floors wood. The look is pared-back and minimalist, with all items carefully selected for form and function. 

Do you think the Scandi-inspired look is being embraced by the UK?

Yes, definitely, I've seen a big trend moving towards more pared-back, light homes with wood floors, white walls and a lovely light and airy feel.

How has living in Sweden influenced your own home?

When I first arrived I was wondering why my Swedish fiancé had little in the way of curtains and no wall-to-wall carpets (especially in the bedroom, where it's cosy to step out onto something cosy and warm under foot!). I soon realised that the homes in Sweden in general are so well insulated that nothing is needed to keep the draft out. I have become accustomed to the 'clean' feeling of wood flooring, rugs and sheer curtains and blinds. Scandinavian designs have also seeped into my home - I've become a huge fan of Swedish, Finnish and Danish design classics as well as 'new Nordic' pieces.

How can you get the Modern Pastoral look? 

Modern Pastoral is really about keeping the home pared-back and simple, furnishing the home with treasured items that also serve a purpose. The home draws heavily on the nature that surrounds it - with rich textures such as wood, sheepskin, stone and wool adding interest and warmth.

Why does this look work so well in the modern world?

In a time where we find ourselves connected 24/7 people are finding new ways to switch off and relax. Nature is a wonderful remedy and retreating to somewhere rural and leading a pared-back lifestyle, even if only for a few days at a time is very appealing.

How much does reclaimed wood feature in the Modern Pastoral look?

Reclaimed wood can be seen throughout the homes in Modern Pastoral, whether in the form of a Danish modern log cabin, built from the trees on the very land it stands on, a wood clad wall in the sun room of a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley created from the remnants of a disused barn or even an entire home high up on a hill in Vermont, built plank by plank from an old apple barn.

All images from Modern Pastoral by Niki Brantmark, published by CICO Books, photography by James Gardiner © CICO Books