The Peaceful & Rare Scents of Napa Valley’s Gold Hill Candle Co.

Having candles around my home is one of my great pleasures in life. Delicious smells can lift my spirits easily, bringing peace to my sometimes very hectic life. After finding out that conventional candles are filled with harmful chemicals, releasing toxins into the air, I made it my mission to find more sustainable alternatives. While I had talked about one of my findings back in Britain, moving to California meant searching for other sustainable candle brands. The goal? Locating ethical brands making great products in the most natural way possible, while also sharing my love for filling spaces with the peaceful smells of aromatherapy. I found my first choice quickly enough: Gold Hill Candle Co.

Located in Napa Valley, Gold Hill Candle Co. specialises in pure soy candles, without any added synthetics. An artisan brand through and through, each candle is hand-poured, and the scents are made in small batches. There’s no industrialisation behind this little enterprise, and that’s what’s made them stand out in the crowd. Made through traditional craftsmanship, the Gold Hill candles have wooden wicks to exponentiate the flavour. What’s more, these candles will burn for a really long time!

This eco-conscious and non-toxic brand has quickly become a darling among US-based celebrities, with Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine adding it to its list of favourite soy candles of 2020. It’s hardly any wonder – their products are amazing, with very unique scents that linger in your home for quite some time.

The Gold Hill scents vary quite often, as their entire output is made in small batches for an in-depth sense of exclusivity. Some of their more traditional aromas include Orange Blossom, Lavender Field, and Cucumber Mint, but I love seeing more exotic aromas thrown into the mix, like Tomato Leaf and Leather and Fig. Owner Jessica is always experimenting with new scents, adding delicious new aromas to her growing line, including a few scents based on baked goods, such as Snickerdoodles and Lemon Cookies. These uniquely scented soy candles will transport you to another place, with sweet concepts like the smell of falling leaves filling your home. Other wildly different past offerings have included Belgian linen and Toasted Pumpkin Spice.

Read more…

Hygge is here! An interview with Nordiskan’s founder Kim Toft

PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BRAND

My name is Kim Toft, I’m in my sixties and I founded Nordiskan three years ago. I was originally planning on enjoying my retirement after a long career in the financial sector, but I found it surprisingly hard not to be working and I had this desire to work with something more tangible than finance. Today I run the business with help from my wife, and occasionally from my son and his wife who live abroad.

Nordiskan specializes in providing the world with quality products that have a connection to the Danish concept of hygge. We’re still a small business, so for now we’ve focused on partnering with a local manufacturer of Scandinavian wool blankets and throws—over time we’ll include other manufacturers and product types, but we’re in no rush and picking products and partners we care about matters a lot to us.

HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR YOUR COMPANY?

Nordiskan is a contraction of the words “Nordic” and “Scandinavian”, and in Swedish “Nordiskan” literally means the “the Nordic”—in other words, we’re strongly based on and connected to Nordic culture, which is largely characterized by nature and the marked diversity of the seasons. The Nordic peoples each have their own strategies for surviving the long dark winters that have developed over many centuries. In Denmark, we have the concept of hygge, which is as much ingrained in our everyday life as five o’clock tea is for the British.

A few years ago, Meik Viking published the book ‘The Little Book of Hygge’, which quickly rose to international success. Meik is the director of the Happiness Research Institute and part of his research looks into the reasons that Danes consistently score at the very top of the world happiness index. It turns out that hygge is an important contributor to the happiness of the Danes, and Nordiskan exists because we wanted to share that with the rest of the world.

There is no checklist for creating hygge, because at the end of the day it’s really up to the individual to create it for themselves. However, when we cozy up on a comfy couch under a warm throw with a cup of tea and a good book, most Danes would know that hygge has arrived.

TELL US ABOUT THE VISION FOR YOUR BRAND?

We exist to provide our customers with some of the most essential products for creating hygge in their homes. Authenticity matters a lot—we would never sell anything that we don’t use ourselves.

HOW DO YOU APPROACH SUSTAINABILITY / TRANSPARENCY WITHIN YOUR BRAND?

We like the dynamics of fashion a lot, but for us, sustainability is also about the long term. The manufacturer we work with is, like us, a family owned business which has been making some of the world’s finest wool products for three generations. Their products are made to last for many years (if not decades), they source their raw materials from carefully selected sustainable farmers in either Scandinavia (for sheep’s wool) or Peru (for alpaca wool). Whenever possible they avoid using dyes, and many of the products in our Scandinavian line are made solely from the colors that the sheep naturally have in nature.

We do our best to take care of the environment, we try to keep our packages as small and light as possible (one experiment unfortunately ended in broken packaging) to keep the carbon footprint of international shipping as low as possible, and we try to avoid plastics whenever we can. Sustainability is important to us, and we’re happy to say that we have absolute confidence and trust that the links in our very short supply chain all work to very high ethical and sustainable standards.

WHAT MORE DO YOU THINK CUSTOMERS ARE LOOKING FOR THESE DAYS BEYOND GOOD DESIGN? OR DO YOU THINK THAT DESIGN IS REALLY ALL THAT MATTERS?

If you just need a warm throw or blanket, you can find far cheaper alternatives in large chain stores or big-box retailers. We believe that the design and quality of our products is crucial to our customers, and we’re proud to say that to date we have not had a single complaint. All the products we carry are designed in Denmark and are based on either classic Scandinavian patterns, natural solid colors, or simple modern geometric shapes that go well with Scandinavian furniture design.

HOW DO YOU ENSURE QUALITY WITH YOUR BRAND?

We only carry products that we have deep experience with; some of the throws in our home are more than 25 years old, and even after decades of daily use and abuse by children, pets, and… well, us, they still look like they did when they were new. It was really that simple for me—I can’t imagine a better testament to a product’s quality than that.

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACED WHEN TRYING TO GROW YOUR BRAND WHILE STILL MAINTAINING A FOCUS ON QUALITY PRODUCTS?

Quality and design is never cheap, and when there are multiple copies on the market produced under completely different conditions than ours, this becomes a challenge as it’s sometimes hard for consumers to tell their options apart. It’s not a unique problem to us in any way, I would argue that most retailers of high end products struggle with this, but at the end of the day we decided to just focus on delivering high quality products instead of trying to compete on price in a race to the bottom. Fortunately, our customers are able to see and feel the difference.

HAVE YOU NOTICED A HUGE SHIFT IN DEMAND FOR A SUSTAINABLE HOME SINCE SUSTAINABLE FASHION HAS BECOME MORE MAINSTREAM?

We actually haven’t, at least not on the Danish market. Sustainability, quality and longevity has long been a part of Danish culture when it comes to homes. Danes are generally willing to pay for quality if we can afford it, with the expectation that the product we buy will last for a long time. In the case of furniture, it sometimes follows us throughout our lives and is passed on to the next generation, and a good wool throw easily falls into that category. We ourselves live in a 300 year old house and most of our furniture we have had for decades. We value and take care of our quality stuff and we don’t replace it just because we can, or because shifts in trends try to dictate it. That said, we have noticed a slight uptake in overseas interest in our products, but I can’t say whether that’s due to the popularity of hygge or shifts in demand for sustainable home products.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PRODUCT FROM YOUR COLLECTION? IS THERE AN ITEM YOU FEEL SHOULD BE IN EVERY HOME?

Our favorite product is the “Bornholm” wool throw with a light grey base and slightly darker borders. It’s a simple undyed throw with a loose texture. It’s subtle, soft, and simple. It’s not a statement piece or a fashion item, but it will fit nicely into any home and before you know it you’ll find yourself using it every day.

Read my feature on the brand here and find out more about the brand through the official website here.

Nordiskan’s Comfortable Wool Throws, a Testament to Danish Hygge

In the past few decades, one word has become an essential part of the soft and happy Danish way of life: hygge. Pronounced “hoo-gah,” it’s one of those beautiful words with no direct translation to the English language. Still, its meaning is something along the lines of the warm and fuzzy feeling you get from the simple things, togetherness, and the general contentment within comfort. It’s become a popular word elsewhere, as many people of our hectic world try to find a connection to joy in other places. Danes wear their hygge with pride, like a flag of cosiness. And Nordiskan puts this notion at the very centre of its brand.

Nordiskan is a family-owned Danish company that specialises on luxurious throws and scarves. Offering free shipping worldwide, Nordiskan is located in Denmark’s countryside, where it strives to make a difference in its local economy. The company partners exclusively with nearby farmers and artisans to make each of its products, forming long-standing partnerships with providers the family has known for years. These are people who have been making throws and scarves for a long time, sometimes generations, and Nordiskan partnered up with them to spread the joy and make their craftsmanship known. The general idea behind Nordiskan is connecting hygge from the skilled hands of Danish manufacturers to every corner of our planet, in a sort of shipment of cosiness and warmth.

Nordiskan is a small company with a big philosophy, focused on happy living and finding contentment in the simple things in life. The brand doesn’t carry a lot of products, and they lack a physical showroom. They are, however, open for visitors, and you can easily contact them and schedule a tour of their facilities in Nysted, a small coastal town in Lolland island with fewer than 1,500 residents.

The entirety of the Nordiskan brand is based on hygge, as you’ll find skimming through their website. If there’s one thing in the world made for comfort, it’s a throw – an item created to keep you warm, and the loyal companion of long winter nights. With that in mind, the Nordiskan family is aware of the importance of having a great throw during the cold and harsh winters, and how difficult it can be to find one that fits the bill. Each Nordiskan order comes with a copy of The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, a best-seller about the Danish way of life and the country’s love of comfort.

To create their comfy pieces, one of the essential materials in the Nordiskan catalog is wool, which is one of the most sustainable fabrics out there. While stemming from animals, no harm comes to sheep to take out their coats, which makes for a natural and friendly fabric. It’s always been about shearing instead of killing, on the one hand; on the other, sheep are part of the natural carbon cycle, consuming carbon from plants and turning it into wool – in fact, 50% of the weight of wool is purely organic carbon. Besides, wool is a very noble fabric with a long lifespan, and products made from it can last many years. As a plus, it is easily biodegradable!

Both Nordiskan products I have are made of 100% wool. The first was the Athen throw – Pumpkin orange; in a beautiful colour best associated with hot pumpkin lattes and falling leaves, it was impossible not to fall in love with this throw. It’s not only a bright and beautiful addition to my collection, but it’s also one of the most comfortable items I’ve ever held. My other Nordiskan piece is the Bordeaux throw – Green, a contemporary take on the classic herringbone weave, it is made from 100% Geelong lambswool left natural and unbrushed after the weaving process. Soft and cosy, this throw takes a twist when it comes to design, coming in bold colours and patterns.

Slow living has been a key aspect of Denmark’s culture for many centuries. Countries in which the climate is harsher with gloomier winters usually do poorly in global happiness scores – but not Denmark. This Scandinavian nation regularly ranks among the happiest countries on Earth. I’m sure we can all learn a thing or two from the joyful Danes and their comforting hygge.

We live in such a fast-paced world in which slowing down becomes a conscious effort instead of a seamless way of life. Embracing the Danes’ healthy love of cosiness seems like a step in the right direction towards a more mindful life. I might make the best out of hygge, all cuddled up in a Nordiskan wool throw.

Find out more about the brand here and read my interview with Nordiskan’s founder Kim Toft here.

PomPom Planet-friendly Paradise

Babies grow out of everything at incredible speeds, and it’s too easy to end up entangled in a mess of virtually unrecyclable items – particularly when it feels like everything made for babies made of plastic – toys, decorations, sometimes even garments. Look, plastic is a material that has permeated all of our lives, appearing frequently on children’s things to the point where unless we are reminded, its almost easy to forget that many of its components are highly toxic. We have plastic toys at home – gifted and bought – so there is absolutely no judgement here, but I am really trying to find alternatives to break this vicious cycle, and I don’t think that I am alone…

New mums Katherine and Cecily didn’t notice how much plastic they were using until they’d been parenting for six months. Once their sleeping schedules began to make sense again, they were surprised to find themselves surrounded by the waste created by the material. The two realised they weren’t doing the planet or their sense of aesthetics any favours – and they decided to act on it. The worlds of fashion and design are evolving towards something friendlier to our present and future, and it’s great to see that mindset extending to children’s products. I always say with Red Carpet Green Dress that supporting sustainability is not only a ‘way to do good’, it is also (and right now this is of more timely importance) a way to empower and support businesses creating good products and delivering good services. In this case independent businesses like PomPom promoting good products.

Read more…

Interview with Travis, Medley Home’s Own

Founded in 2005, Medley is the brainchild of the two Nagle brothers: Ryan, a graphic designer, and Travis, a marketing and branding expert. The two of them come from a home of creators: their father had a woodshop and their mother worked as an artist. Throughout their lives, these brothers had a keen love for working with their hands, and a sense of wood-based products as a way towards self-expression. I loved writing more about their wonderful brand and speaking to co-founder Travis to learn about the story behind Medley. Have a read here…

Travis Nagle (Right) pictured with brother Ryan Schultz (Left).

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your brand. 

I’m Travis Nagle, co-founder of Medley. We make furniture in Los Angeles one at a time using the finest eco materials, and a more enjoyable shopping experience along the way.

Tell us about the vision for your brand? 

At Medley we think about furniture as part of a larger ecosystem we all share, our beautiful planet. In addition, our personal ecosystem of our homes are also precious. We’re trying to shift the way people think about furniture, getting back to a much higher level of quality and cleaner materials for a healthy planet and healthy home.

Read more…

Medley’s Organic and Tailor-Made Furniture

The 20th century brought about many advancements which have undoubtedly made life easier and more convenient for so many, though often at the expense of being respectful of our much-loved planet. Items that were once made painstakingly one-by-one and only when strictly necessary, became mass-produced and homogenous – from t-shirts to chest of drawers. In the furniture industry, with standardisation came the loss of unique pieces able to tell a rich story – finding furniture that you can claim as your ‘bespoke’ own can be challenging, particularly when you’re looking to create an environment that connects with your visual and sensory tastes. The people behind Medley were well aware of this modern-day challenge, and opted to return to the basics with a modern and refreshing twist: beautiful and contemporary furniture made to order and customised for each customer.

Medley stands on the idea that a house is where a person’s authentic personality comes to light, and I love that so entirely. Individuality is never clearer than when filling up a new home with furniture and decorations – when I visit friends or family at home, I learn so much more about them. Anyone who has ever tried their hand at interior decorating their space knows that finding the perfect pieces to fill spaces makes all the difference between a house and a home. Well aware of that, Medley offers a groundbreaking proposal in the 21st century: fully customisable furniture, focusing on quality over quantity.

Read more…

Organically fresh with Grow Fragrances

It is often said that that the best way to start a company is by creating something you need and can’t find on the market. So many sustainable products have pursued that path when starting out, as a growing number of people choose to live more consciously. In the case of Grow Fragrance, the need was simple: an air freshener that wasn’t liable to fill people’s homes with harmful and over-processed chemicals. 

When Grow Fragrance came to fruition, there was already an interesting variety of conscious options for food, beauty, and even cleaning. Yet the realm of air fresheners wasn’t conquered, with only over-processed and clearly fake smells available; just the kind that poses risks for everyone inside the household, particularly children. On the same note, the people behind Grow noticed that many other brands called themselves green yet when reviewing the ingredients, it turned out they included petroleum-based chemicals. And then essential oils weren’t quite doing the trick either, as they found them expensive and the scents too simplistic.

From this need, Grow was born, and it was almost two years until the creators found a formula that worked as the kind of product they sought. The idea was to transform the scents of their favourite candles into air fresheners, and trying out the products inside their homes and with friends and family is what helped them evolve. Now, they offer five delicious fragrances that smell as promised: Lavender Blossom, Bamboo, Black Currant Rose, Citrus Cedar, and Pine Forest. I’ve been in direct contact with their products and love every scent I’ve tried, particularly how natural they all feel.

At Grow, they vow to be fully transparent in their process and the ingredients they use, an essential way forward. The scent of a house can create an ambiance that makes it feel like home, which is not a process to be taken lightly. For the growing number of us who need to know what we’re putting in our everyday lives, brands who go out of their way to be transparent always get extra points. In the case of Grow, they’re committed to being entirely plant-based and toxin-free, skipping the use of phthalates, parabens, petroleum, and synthetic petrochemicals. To be completely sure of their processes, they also avoid working with essential oils and products that aren’t harvested sustainably.

By the time the Grow scents were a palpable reality, the team had come to realise they wanted to build a conscious company from the ground up. Using organic materials was a top priority, of course, but Grow is the kind of company that understands that sustainability is about much more than that. Fair wages and healthcare for all workers are just as important when talking about a sustainable future. On that note, Grow also has a policy of only partnering with companies that directly hire their employees, instead of using cheaper temps receiving little to no benefits.

Populating a home with consciously made products is easier now than it ever has been, from beautiful furniture to scent. I’m very excited about seeing Grow at the forefront of America’s organic air fresheners! Find out more about the brand here.