12 Scandinavian Artists Decorate Their Homes for the Holidays

In a new book titled "The Christmas Season," readers tour Scandinavian residences decorated for Jul
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Author and interior designer Katrine Martensen- Larsen keeps her Christmas decorations minimal without compromising on style. “I’m not one to move my furniture around to make space for holiday décor,” she says. | Photography by Mikkel Adsbol

Families that partake in Jul, the Scandinavian Christmas season, do so with glee. From baking cookies with grandkids to singing cheerful carols, the festivities are the highlight of the year. In a new book, The Christmas Season by Danish author Katrine Martensen-Larsen, a dozen Scandinavian creatives open their doors to inspire readers through aesthetic holiday décor.

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Instead of decorating with all glass bulbs and tinsel, Martensen-Larsen makes handmade paper ornaments to add to her Nordmann fir.

Denmark-based interior designer Martensen-Larsen styles homes in Scandinavia for all seasons. Her vast knowledge of the interior design industry and her history writing feature stories for European design magazines always had her dreaming of writing a book. When her editor approached her with an idea for a Christmas book, she jumped at the opportunity.

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The author uses found branches and clippings to adorn her plated Christmas dinner.

Full-color photos, family recipes and aesthetic interiors fill the pages, along with educational snippets about Scandinavian Jul traditions. Jul celebrations share some crossover with American traditions—like displaying a tree inside and enjoying mulled wine. Decorations are sometimes hung on the first Sunday of Advent, which can be as early as late November. Outdoor lights, wreaths and red-colored froufrou emerge from storage. No two Scandinavian Christmases are alike, as traditions differ not only across countries but also across households.

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The Christmas table centerpieces in Martensen-Larsen’s home are repurposed for New Year’s Eve by spraying the arrangements with silver or gold.

Each chapter features homeowners in their spaces, along with DIY projects and customs. “It took me 10 minutes to find the creative people for the book,” says Martensen-Larsen. Using a card file of contacts from her work in the design industry, she convinced friends and family to invite her inside their homes amid the busy Christmas season.

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Flower artist and decorator Leif Sigersen stands near the window of his Copenhagen apartment surrounded by his flea market finds turned Christmas décor.

One of the book’s jubilant interiors belongs to the author herself. “I would describe my style as subdued and simple. I tend to lean away from grand displays,” Martensen-Larsen says. Outside her home in Copenhagen is a garden bustling with vibrant pink hydrangeas. “I cut my flowers before the first frost and hang them to dry. Paired with bare branches I collect on dog walks, the wilted nature becomes my Christmas décor.” She seeks to make Christmas a more sustainable celebration achievable at any price point. Limiting herself to a purchase of one holiday adornment per year, the author has a deep appreciation for repurposing found treasures in nature.

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The midcentury lounge chair is a Swedish find from Helsingborg’s antique fair.

Inside decorator Leif Sigersen’s one-bedroom home is a collection of festive flea market finds. “Leif’s home is living proof that lack of space is of absolutely no hindrance to surround oneself with lots of things,” Martensen-Larsen writes. Best described as eclectic and artful, his décor is an array of trinkets. Live greenery weaves beautifully between the assortments. The trimmings remind Sigersen of childhood memories when he would loot the family tree of the sweets that were used as ornaments. His chapter concludes with the sweet raspberry sauce recipe he brings to Christmas gatherings.

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Leif Sigersen’s raspberry sauce with vanilla is best served atop risalamande, a classic Danish rice pudding. Paired with a glass of port, the meal emulates the colors of the season.

“I hope the takeaway is that you can still have a cozy and pretty Christmas on a budget without sacrifice,” says Martensen-Larsen. The book opens readers’ eyes to the Scandinavian ways of celebrating the season and inspires new decorating ideas. Readers shouldn’t be surprised if inspiration strikes to repurpose their garden trimmings for this year’s holiday décor.

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The Christmas Season: Created by Scandinavian Artists by Katrine Martensen-Larsen takes readers through 12 Scandinavian residences decorated for Christmas.

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