Two things struck me immediately about the home of today’s budget designer. First, everything was amazingly, immaculately organized. And second, it was the most gorgeous and warm use of a mostly white palette that I’ve ever seen.
Chez Larsson is a great mix of whimsy and modern aesthetic. Amusing and surprising collections abound everywhere within Benita’s home, yet somehow she manages to arrange everything in a way that maintains a spacious and decidely uncluttered effect.
You know what really shoved me over the edge to contact her for an interview? Her laundry room! When a person can create a laundry room that makes me want to go hang out and fold clothes there… well that’s a person that needs to be featured here! : ) But don’t take my word for… read on to find out for yourself!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself… how did your interest in interior design develop?
I was an au pair in California in 1984 and I bought a lot of interior design magazines while I was there. When it was time to go home and pack my belongings I realised there was no way I could bring the entire magazines with me because they were so heavy so I started tearing out the pages I liked the most. When I got home I put the pages in files. I was 20 years old at the time.
I still have the files 23 years later and still add to them when I find great magazine spreads I want to keep. Flipping through the files when I got back to Sweden made me realise that I wanted to work in the field of interior design. A little while later in 1986 I applied and got an internship at the IKEA head offices in Älmhult (the birth place of the company). I was an intern for a year and then stayed on for two more as an interior designer. I travelled quite a bit remodeling existing stores but also participating in new openings, like for instance the first one in the UK.
How would you describe your design aesthetic and how has your career as a merchandiser influenced your designs?
I used to describe it “clean cut country with a twist” but I think it’s evolved into more “comfy scandi modern on a shoestring” but it’s really difficult to put a name on it. It would be interesting to hear how would you describe it! What I do for a living doesn’t influence my home much at all. That’s my professional side where I try to create beautiful successful campaigns but which are rarely to my own taste. I do like the look of them when they are done, don’t get me wrong, but I would never be caught dead with any of the props in my own house if you see what I mean 🙂
Although it’s incredibly hard to choose, I think my favorite area in your home is your “boat room.” Can you tell us a little bit about the process of designing that room? Did you collect boating themed books prior to creating the room or did the idea of the room come first?
It’s funny that the boat room is your favourite. This sounds horrible but it’s my least favourite one… 🙂 I think it’s too cluttered. The boat room is a room situated in our “sous terrain” basement. We use it as a guest room but this is also where my husband keeps all his boat paraphenalia, books on boats, photos from his sailing adventures and prizes he’s won. He sails classic 6 meter yachts and has participated in many international regattas and world cups. The boat room is the one room where he can do whatever he likes decor wise. I’m glad it’s there or I’d have the stuff all over the place. I think you understand now that I’m not a sailor… 🙂
I believe that you may have the only monochromatic home I’ve ever seen that I find very warm and inviting. How do you manage to work with a mostly white palette without it being cold or too modern? What influenced/inspired you to work with a mostly white palette?
Thank you! I’ve heard this from others too. I’m told it looks really homey which makes me proud as that’s exactly what I’m aiming for. I really want it to be a comfy, homey place for us as family to enjoy but still stylish.
I think the key is to not be too serious when you decorate. I display things I like regardless if they were meant for display or not. Anything goes if we like the look of it. Old wooden toys, my son’s craft projects, my husbands paintings, cartoon art etc. Keeping the backdrop mostly white enables us to change things around on a whim at very little cost.
Not only do you have a lot of white in your home, but your home is EXTREMELY organized. Even your son’s room is extraordinarily organized. Every mother out there is going to wonder… how do you maintain everything with a child?
I do clean a lot… but I’m one of those (rare?) people who enjoys cleaning. I also love organizing. My son’s now almost 14 and his interests don’t create the same kind of chaos they did when he was younger and there was Lego on the floor a lot of the time. But basically I think what you need to do is to give kids the means to keep their things in order. If there is a crate for all the Lego at the end of the day and a designated spot for the crate it’s really pretty easy to clear the room and if there’s good shelf space the things that were built during the day can be displayed in a fun way as art. I’m always on the look out for boxes and other stuff and I usually buy white or clear, This way the boxes can be used anywhere round the house. When I find a box I really like I get a lot of the same, it looks so much neater than lot of different ones.
Another thing that really strikes me in your home is how beautifully you arrange displays. The collections look like pieces of carefully curated artwork. Even your craft supplies in your crafting area look gorgeous. Do you have any display/organizing tips to share with those of us who’s collections seem more like clutter than art?
Thank you! A good tip when displaying things is to group them tightly. This means to not spread them out on a large area but so that each item has “contact” with the next by being slightly infront or behind. Don’t be afraid of the empty space next to your group of items. The empty space makes the group more interesting! Another tip we use in dressing shop windows is to group things tightly in a triangular shape with a tall piece somewhat centered. Your eye is automaticly drawn from one point of the “triangle” to the next and the next again. This makes a group which is pleasing to the eye.
The same answer as the one regarding kids rooms applies here. Storage, storage, storage…What I do before I start organizing a space is to bring all the things that need to fit in the area out. I then weed! I’m not a horder so I don’t have a problem with getting rid of stuff. I throw things away or pass things on to friends and I don’t think I’ve ever missed anything I’ve gotten rid of. I think one usully accumulates too many things one never uses… After I’ve had a good clear out I measure the things I need to store, find nice boxes for them and try to find ways to store ongoing projects that for some reason have come to a halt. I again use boxes for this. A lot of ongoing projects are nice enough to display so I try to keep some space in the craft area (off the work top) where they can sit out in the open.
You and I have spoken a little before about how important working within a budget has been as you’ve decorated your home. What have been your greatest challenges regarding decorating on a budget and how did you overcome them?
We’ve lived in our house for 9 years now and everyhing has had to be done in baby steps. I’ve taken one room at a time as I’ve been able to afford it. It’s basically been an ongoing project for all of the nine years. But that’s ok, I think it’s part of what makes the house homey. It has evolved to what it’s now, it isn’t a store bought concept or an ever finished project. I’ve learned to make use of the things I have around me, I repaint, sew cushions out of inexpensive fabric, shop in thrift shops and flea markets. I like that the things cost next to nothing and that I can let go of them easily if I get tired of them. We do sometimes splurge on some nicer things to balance things up though…
What advice would you give to others who are decorating on a tight budget in regards to creating a beautiful, cohesively designed home?
Use simple unfussy materials as base. Plain white paint is probably the cheapest and best way to unify a space. If you prefer color make the rooms flow into each other by painting them in the same or similar color through out. I would splurge a little on a nice floor, a small space usually looks bigger and more streamlined if the floor is the same throughout. When you have the basics of the floor and walls done you can add your style to it. IKEA is a great source for inexpensive basics but I think you need to mix them with things that have more personality like flea market finds or inherited piece. I love to use my son’s projects as art. Nicely displayed they look like million dollars!
Visit the Chez Larsson flickr account
for even more photos of this gorgeous home… including recent photos from a recent commercial photoshoot! Benita also has an etsy shop with the cutest throw pillows ever, so be sure to stop by ChezLarsson.etsy.com
and add her to your favorite stores. And don’t forget to add comments here so she’ll know how much we appreciate her taking the time to share with us!