Lifestyle Swedish Christ­mas in chiaroscuro

Milk Magazine (English) - - CONTENTS - pho­tos: ul­rika nih­lén text chil­dren’s style: clara dayet dec­o­ra­tion: ida lauga

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.

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