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The Sámi, an indigenous and traditionally nomadic people who live in a region that spans present-day northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia, revere the natural world for its sacredness, healing properties and life force. The Sámi view all elements of nature, from trees to rocks and streams, as living. In order to fully experience life, the Sámi believe people should seek harmony with these other life forms. 

Using this world view for inspiration, in 1859, the Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen coined the word friluftsliv — a blend of Norwegian and Swedish words for “free,” “air” and “life” — to capture this concept. While friluftsliv has been embraced for decades in the Nordic lands, it has recently also been used as an inspiration for people around the world who seek calm and peace in their own lives. 

While we might not always be able to take a quiet walk in the woods or consider the view from a high vantage point, it’s possible to incorporate elements of friluftsliv in our own homes. 

Set the scene
What’s an easy way to translate the expanse of the outdoors in an interior space? Use colors found in nature for wall and floor coverings – soft shades of brown and ivory work well for walls and rugs. To lean into the texture of nature, consider incorporating fiber wallpaper, which can evoke tree bark. Green in all its hues is also appropriate. Think of the rich tones found on evergreens and also the delicate new green of springtime foliage. 

Connect inner spaces to the outdoors by eliminating or minimizing window treatments. If some screening is essential, consider roller shades that can vanish at the touch of a button, or café curtains or shutters at the bottom half of a window. Your eye will naturally be drawn upward to the open view. If windows aren’t plentiful, add mirrors to draw in the light and make a space seem larger than it really is. 

Keep it simple
This one’s easy: Lose the clutter. Stacks of books and magazines, collectibles and games may personalize a room, but they also attract attention and energy. Instead, opt for furniture with clean, low lines and pedestal tables that don’t take much space. If shelving is essential, consider floating wall shelves or open shelving made from wood and glass – natural materials. Metals can be useful, but opt for natural or dark finishes that won’t stand out. 

Fabrics should also follow the natural color palette, though pale blues, yellows and pinks can be incorporated, as long as they are muted and soothing. If you want a monochromatic scheme, textured pillows and blankets will add depth.

Transform the space
Bring the outdoors in with what you hang on your walls. Botanical prints, both oversized and actual size; mountain or ocean scenes; views of meadows or tree-lined pathways; even close-ups of shells, river rocks and flowers can lead to quiet contemplation or even spur movement to the outdoors. Use your own photographs or find a favorite artist who specializes in nature prints.

Also consider artworks made from natural materials, such as macrame, wood or ceramics. These pieces can often easily be wall-mounted and provide additional textural dimension to a room.

Let it grow!
Perhaps the most obvious way to bring the outdoors in is to add plants to your living spaces. Before you hit your favorite garden shop, take a careful look at where you want to add greenery. Make a note of which locations have the best natural light. You’ll want to place flowering plants, such as African violets and begonias, in spots where they get plenty of light even if it’s diffused through a curtain or frosted window. Southern exposures are ideal for plants that crave the sun, as they’re sure to get rays no matter what time of year it is.

But don’t despair if your windows face elsewhere. Many plants – snake plants, philodendrons, peace lilies, even orchids – can tolerate partial or full shade. These plants can thrive with either morning or afternoon sun or hardly any sun at all. Also consider a trailing ivy or delicate indoor fern.

For drama, fill a corner with a large palm, elephant ear or Monstera Deliciosa (so much fun to say). And remember to dress your bathrooms, too. A hanging English ivy plant or air plants attached to a window or mirror with suction cups will soften a space filled with hard tile.

No matter how you fill your home with touches of nature, remember the friluftsliv philosophy and actually head outdoors!

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