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House Rules: Lisa & Andy’s Cosy Nordic Sanctuary

Style meets function with limited space to work with. House Rules teams were given the challenge of transforming Lisa and Andy’s small, 1970s brick home into a cosy, modern and spacious Scandinavian retreat.

We chat to Early Settler’s head visual merchandiser Donna Gilligan about nailing the Nordic brief, plus tips and tricks for making small spaces appear bigger.

Lisa and Andy asked teams to create a “Nordic sanctuary”. Does this differ from Scandi?

Donna: The basics principles of Scandi still apply but you can add in extra layers of texture, pops of cool colour over the neutral palette and use timber to create a calm environment. This style is still sophisticated and airy, and the furniture is modern, with many items upcycled or multi-functional. I also like that Nordic implies a more alpine feel, such as a rustic cabin surrounded by nature.

Living room spaces should portray simplicity, functionality and the idea of hygge: warm, cosy and social. – Donna

What do you love about this trend?

Donna: It’s unfussy and uncluttered but still creates impact. Everything is carefully chosen, yet looks relaxed. This doesn’t mean you need to throw out everything you own and start again. Keep the things you truly love and make them work – but don’t keep too much! Consider your colour and texture as these are clever highlights. The use of white space, pale wood and inviting lighting against soft hues is very powerful. It is such a clever trend that is spacious and largely monochromatic but still manages to feel warm and cosy.

What type of homes does this style suit?

Donna: It can be adapted to suit any home. Scandinavian or “Nordic” style has been a firm favourite in Australian homes for quite some time and it doesn’t seem to be falling out of fashion any time soon. The feeling of spaciousness and light is welcoming and makes you want to spend more time in a room. Scandi style embraces functionality and great storage to reduce clutter, without feeling overly organized and sterile, so it’s also a popular choice for apartments or small-sized homes, where space is limited.

What are some of the common mistakes people may make when trying to go Scandi?

Donna: Like any styling, you can be too literal and a room can end up looking like it came straight out of a “how to” magazine or catalogue. Every style should reflect who you are and what you love. Artwork is a big focus in Scandi and it’s a great place to showcase your personal taste. Take time to build the right look, don’t rush it.



Choose carefully. Less is more and you want to look like you have space to spare. Consider functional storage solutions to keep clutter at bay.


Add colour and texture with bold items such as artwork, dramatic thick floor rugs, textured cushions and chunky wool blankets.


Cluster items such as plants, prints or books to create focal points and give the feeling of space in other areas.


A Scandi colour palette is no longer all about limiting yourself to neutral white. Green and pink are big for 2019 and you can pick this colour trend up with soft teal green or peachy pink feature walls, as teams did in the early room reveal.

Light-coloured hard and soft woods bring lightness to a room. Birch, white pine, beech, and alder are beautiful, readily available choices. Woods are often bleached or painted or stained with white or pale paints to evoke an airy mood. Most wooden furniture is painted in white, cream, soft grey and other delicate, light colours.

Want to recreate Lisa and Andy’s Nordic sanctuary? Shop this House Rules renovation.


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