Can you bring Scandinavian design trends into your home with LEGO® sets?
In a word: Yes.
Look, we know you’re busy. So if your schedule doesn’t allow for reading on, we wanted to make sure at the very least you got the short answer. Have a lovely rest of your day.
For the rest of you, we have the longer (better) answer below.
And it all starts with ‘stilleben’ (still life).
What is stilleben?
Stilleben, (or still-leben), is an artistic concept that depicts inanimate objects. And if you are thinking, “hey, that sounds like still life!”, then congratulations, because you speak German now.
Obviously, throughout art history, some of the planet’s greatest painters have dabbled in still life. But in more recent times, still life has birthed the trend of stilleben in the world of interior design, fueled by its usage across Scandinavia.
In the same way that still life paintings feature an assortment of items on a plain surface, stilleben presents those objects within a space of the home, like a mantlepiece, table or windowsill. Essentially, it’s like arranging items for a still life painting… but then never actually getting around to paint them.
How to create a good stilleben
It sounds cheesy… and it kind of is… but there really is no ‘wrong’ way to create a stilleben.
There are, at least, some things to think about when creating it, and we have shared some such tips below.
But really, there is one thing above all else that you should be thinking of when arranging a stilleben in a home:
Make it personal
A stilleben should always tell a story of you, in some form or another. Every item that you select needs to be meticulously handpicked. It doesn’t matter whether your stilleben ends up being big or small, colorful or monochrome, stripped back or action-packed, just as long as it is a true reflection of its creator.
And unlike most of the achingly cool-and-serious Scandinavian fashion trends that you hear about, stilleben actively encourages kookiness. It allows you to stand out and show a splash of personality, even humor in your design choices.
And this is where LEGO® sets can come in. (See how everything all fits together? We’re good at doing that.) Over the last few years, we have created dozens of LEGO sets specifically designed to be built by adults, for display use (although you can also play with them a little bit, we won’t tell anyone). Through initiatives such as LEGO Ideas, we’ve been better able to find out the subjects our community love and would like to be made into LEGO sets. So whether you are into film, music, art, cars, sports, none of those or all of the above, the chances are that we have the perfect LEGO display piece for you, your personality and your stilleben.
Picking the right subject
One of the most difficult aspects of telling a personal story through stilleben is deciding exactly what story to tell in the first place.
As a rule, it’s best to think of something specific. If you try to tell too much with just a handful of items, you risk sacrificing coherency.
Case in point, say you want to tell the story of a relationship, you hopeless romantic, you. Instead of trying to squeeze in every possible detail from the start to present-day, focus instead on a snapshot. For example, where did you take your favorite holiday? New York? Paris? London? It’s far easier to tell a narrative of a vacation than an entire relationship, and the results are more effective. Something as simple as an expired travelcard, a treasured photo or a fun souvenir can really help give personality to your stilleben, alongside perhaps some larger items.
We’ve featured here some LEGO Architecture sets of locations from around the world to give you some more ideas, but also to illustrate how you should be thinking about the correlations between your items. How you think about the color of the limestone buildings in New York and London, or the metallic grey of the Eiffel Tower will have an important effect in your overall piece…
As with everything in interior design, the role of color is essential.
But luckily, with stilleben, there are no limits to what you can or can’t do, provided that you at least give some thought to your color scheme.
You’ll want to start by getting to grips with the color wheel.
Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel tend to look good together, and so do different shadings of the same color. A great LEGO example of this can be seen in our LEGO Art Iron Man series, where the dots contain almost every hue of orange and red. It’s also worth noting that these sit on a background of blue, which sits opposite from orange on the color wheel.
As a general rule, putting opposite colors together is an effective choice. Think about the iconic visuals of Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, the contrast between the red seats and the green grass. We’re guessing that if you don’t like this LEGO set, it might have to do with loyalties beyond color contrast considerations… but if you do, try pairing it with similarly colored memorabilia, like a scarf or jersey.
The rule of color contrast is also why black and white remains so visually appealing (and always will). Take the iconic Stormtrooper™ helmet design… need we say more?
Utilizing monochromatic items such as these can also have a really positive effect if and when you decide to incorporate color. For example, say you are a film history buff with the LEGO Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse Buildable Characters. Their base of black-and-white really makes the bright colors of their clothing pop in such an eye-catching, aesthetically pleasing way. Especially if you pair it with other monochromatic colors, like a still from an old Hollywood black-and-white movie. Less really can be more.
This hints at one of the great things about stilleben. It brings color to any setting that lacks it. Say, for example, you are renting an apartment and you can’t decorate the walls how you would like to. Or even if you don’t like large swathes of color, but still are looking for something to vary and brighten the aesthetic. A colorful stilleben is the perfect way to easily and effectively liven up any room.
If you think about most still life paintings, they include a variety of geometry that nonetheless corresponds to one another. Often things like fruit in bowls, on straight-edged tables, you know the type.
Just like with color, that type of clash of contrasting heights and shapes can be a great way to make your stilleben stand out. For example, if you want to display your love of Harry Potter™, having the cylindrical Hogwarts™ Express next to your favorite book of the series might be an eye-catching way to do that. (Probably best not to go for the 6,020-piece Hogwarts Castle, which might just possibly, maybe, potentially, definitely overshadow your stilleben’s other objects…)
Or if you are a petrolhead, you can draw attention to the smooth, aerodynamic outlines of the LEGO® Technic Lamborghini Sián, by sharply contrasting it with the deliberately blockier 1985 Audi Sport quattro S1 rally car. Perhaps with a backdrop of your favorite, winding racetrack in a rectangular frame.
On the other end of the scale, you might think that selecting three items of a very similar size and shape to one another, such as books or picture frames, would make it more difficult for your personality to shine through.
But then again, maybe your personality reflects order and neatness and you want that to be reflected in your stilleben’s geometry. That’s totally fair. I mean, you’re talking to the LEGO Group here, we’re all about orderly geometry…
As ever, the main thing to think about is to try and select three items that you don’t think anyone else in the world could make the same combination of.
Because you’re you. And that’s worth showing.