Making a life for yourself on the margins is liberating

Kya deLongchamps follows the adventures of some unfettered spirits who set up home abroad or away and thrive in their creative environments.

Wondered where the Scandinavian ability to make less more comes from? Try Lagom by Niki Brantmark, Harper Collins, €14.

The Maverick Soul: Inside the Lives & Homes of Eccentric, Eclectic & Free-spirited Bohemians by Miv Watts, Hardie Grant (Nov 2017) €33.12, www.thebookdepository.com 

There’s a touching, warm authenticity to this book, intimately exploring the world of creative individuals who have drifted away from the expected trappings and expectations imposed by money, talent and celebrity. The emotional hook is partly due to the affections between its author and her clutch of 20 bohemian brilliants.

Enjoy the blessed prevalence of worn in middle aged faces - socialites, artists and entrepreneurs, many of whom emerged in the scorching artistic firmament of the 70s with their intimately told stories. Those bodies have an accruing of life and experience, echoing the layering of the precious and banal objects illustrated beautifully by Hugh Stewart, throughout. Miv describes her free-spirits as those ‘who lived like kings while the soles of their shoes were letting in water’, immersed in a truth that extends to the way their home and its interior, expressed without fear of judgement or including what she terms ‘low brow influences’. It doesn’t hurt that the materials shadows of these artists, antiquarians and socialites are projected on the bones of ravishing, vintage and hand honed buildings.

Songstress Marianne Faithful (her ex-husband, artist John Dunbar is also included), nested in Montparnasse, her books forming a listing tower as she reads. Aristocrat and novelist Raffaella Barker aglow in her Norfolk flint faced home amid original Morris wallpaper, vintage dresses roosted on Chinese screens. Designer Bruce Goold’s Palm Beach (Australia) dilapidated gorgeous ‘retiring cottage’ a work still in the making after 40 years. Explore the cluttered, distressed spaces untroubled by convention and interior design pretention. A fabulous book rejecting minimalist life edits, I’ll be gifting it to myself this year.

French House Chic by Jane Webster, Thames & Hudson, €27.54

An Australian adventurer’s 12-year romance with a French chateau, this book is as much about the way of telling as it is about the fabulous illustrations and sound advice. In her third book after two foodie Gallic volumes, Jane Webster offers an engaging, conversational read, not heavy with impenetrable interior talk but straight, insightful lay advice from an enthusiast in French styling, fearlessly intent on a faded Normandy aristocrat - Château Bosgouet. Jane breaks the journey down in text and illustrations through reception and then private rooms, her own and that of ex-pat and native neighbours.

Want to know how to handle a chandelier for the salle à manger, how to succeed at a haggle at Puce de Saint-Ouen at Clignancourt in Paris, or how to appreciate the place of scent in a French bathroom - this is your girl. Having destabilised her home, savings and four young children for a dilapidated wreck of ‘Napoleon III symmetry’, Jane finds a rusted clutch of St.Christopher medals poked down into a crack in the parquet of the l’entrée and bursts in tears. Most people who knew or met her said promptly – pour quoi? Restoring and beautifying the house and establishing their gourmet tour business, The French Table, she and husband Pete had to deal with the pain of separation, foundered friendships and the ever present drag of sheer physical exhaustion. Beyond colours inspired by olive groves and lavender fields, boisiere panelling and upholstering walls, the journey, the personal passion is everything. For more on Château Bosgouet visit: www.thefrenchtable.com.au.

Van Life by Foster Huntington, Hachette Books, €23.79

Christmas is without doubt the best time to take lifestyle advice from a guy who currently lives in a tree-house and for three years travelled around American in a camper van. Foster Huntington left a corporate fashion job in New York City and a windowless office, to travel 80,000 miles around America, surfing and camping. It’s a beguiling proposition rooted in the here and now and the blessed next-to-nothingness of protracted road trips. ‘My best times have been behind the wheel of a van, looking for a place to park for the night, eager to wake up with the sunrise, and continue on down the road’.

Having something like a 1984 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia as an intrinsic part of an enlightening adventure is mind-bending for us terrestrial middle-aged clots furnishing the rut and insulated from all social and natural dangers (and excitement). The book is a collection of stories, including the author’s own - living, thriving, building financial independence and mobile workspaces on the road - the vehicular tiny-house. As one contributor puts it – ‘escaping typical patterns’. Van enthusiasts will love the photographic archive decorated with beautiful young things, a hymn of Polaroid praise to the VW line. Ideal as a gift for a remotely talented, nomadic youngster.

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life, by Niki Brantmark, Harper Collins, €14

Lagom är bäst – the right amount is best. Another successful blogger now turned book author, Niki Brantmark spends her fika (break time) with her children in the Skåne countryside around Malmö in southern Sweden, an area of low lying sylvan loveliness I know well just a ferry ride away from Copenhagen (DK). Having discovered the slower, richer and more rewarding pace and flavour of life in Sweden, Niki explores the happy ‘analogue’ round of settling into a Scandinavian life after the rush of London life. Another founder of her own interiors brand (Eërtmug), espousing happiness, balance, a pared back considered existence – we’ve heard all this before, but it’s a worthy plea in a world increasingly detached from basic, intrinsic, meaningful human joy.

Brantmark has an MA in psychology from the University of Edinburgh and her voice rings deep and true in this pretty and easy weekend read. That calm she speaks of is something I remember – having slippers set on my feet when visiting new friends at home, small clean white and timber spaces, flowers around the plate and chair on a birthday morning.

There’s a sweet naivety of spirit in Scandinavia, set firmly in the embrace of family and tinted warm by natural distractions. Lagom is the concept of not too much, not too little, moderation, restraint – ways that make your life and that of the planet more sustainable, manageable. IKEA, always quick to stamp their four capitals on tradition, have their own Live Lagom campaign.

The book shows how to integrate these principles quietly and deftly into your highly personal daily round. What about a refreshing morgondopp (morning dip) to wake the spirit. Pick up a copy of her also recently released Modern Pastoral too, Ryland Peters & Small, €27.99.

Screen Script

If you or someone you love finds reading conventional books difficult, or they simply want to take those reads under the covers, on the train, or slip into a drawer at work, the Kindle Voyage is the latest in the generations of celebrated ereaders.

With 300 pixels per square inch and a cool magnesium back, it features a flush front with no glare, capacity for thousands of books, Time to Read function, and Page/Press page turning. You can upgrade without losing your book collection — turn on, log in, and access the book store to download your favourites again, €240.

There are plenty of home, garden, and interiors books on offer, too.

For better value with only small physical difference in feel and resolution try the Kindle Paperwhite line, from just €140. Like the Voyage, it can pick up on your wifi hotspots where needed anywhere in the house.

Books at iTunes, Amazon, Eason, and other online book outlets.


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