Lifestyle Swedish Christmas in chiaroscuro
Welcome to the home of photographer Ulrika Nihlén, who invites us to Stockholm to help get ready for Christmas. On the menu: gingersnaps iced in bright colours to be eaten by candlelight.
Ulr ika Nih lén, 32, is the mother of Billie, nearly 4, and Frances, 18 months. Known under her pseudonym @billie_and_i on Instagram, this inspirational Swedish photographer portrays a bucolic Scandinavian family lifestyle to perfection. “If I hadn’t had a camera in my hands, I would have been a painter,” she tells us. Her manner of capturing the Northern light, so pale and fleeting in winter, may even recall some of the works by the Dutch painter Vermeer. The MilK reporter put on her warmest down jacket to go and visit her family south of Stockholm, on the day before Christmas.
A slender, smiling Ulrika opens the door of her pretty blue wooden house, with Frances in her arms, Billie clutching her legs and all three with tousled blond hair. Inside it smells of scented candles, glögg (mulled wine) and melted butter: the excitement of Christmas is palpable. Hats, gloves and odd boots are piled up in the hall by children in a hurry to get inside. A trail of flour on the floor leads us to the kitchen, where we are greeted by an atmosphere of chaotic warmth. “I’m a messy sort of person,” admits Ulrika. “And, most of all, very spontaneous; when the light, or a palette of colours, or my children inspire me to take a photo, I rush off to find my camera and capture the moment as discreetly as possible.”
On the l arge A lvar Aalto wooden t able, Bi l l ie is busy making pepparkakor, i.e. those delicious Scandinavian Christmas gingersnaps. Laughing out loud, Frances sometimes comes rushing in, waving her chubby little arms about. She grabs a bit of the dough to taste and rushes out again.
In Sweden, homes are so well insulated that children often run about stark naked, even in the middle of winter. People sometimes say that kids are treated like kings in Sweden, yet in Ulrika and her husband’s home, creativity reigns. The children are free to experiment, play and create whenever they want, with whatever they want. Witness the paints and brushes always available on the windowsill and the objects, whether toys or not, scattered around almost everywhere at child height.
The lounge is also a hive of activity, buzzing around a sweet little fir tree that the children themselves
Far left: Billie is wearing an Oeuf NYC cardigan over a MarMar Copenhagen striped T-shirt. The plates are by House Doctor, the bamboo goblets and dinnerware by Cink. Above: Billie is wearing a Popupshop tunic.