[Interview] Seek Slowness
When I found Linh, @seekslowness, on Instagram, I felt as if I had finally discovered what my dream house would look like, and having some time just to look at her serene lifestyle made me feel so relaxed and calm. Ever since, I’ve followed her, liked lots of her posts, left comments, and then we started keeping in touch with each other in the digital world. One day, I came across an idea: How about bringing her passion about slow living to the table? So, I ended up writing to her to ask for an interview.
At the end of February, I finally had a chance to meet Linh in person in her beautiful home.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you introduce yourself briefly?
I’m Linh, and I work as a Business Development Manager in the MedTech division of a global health care company. I’m responsible for abdominal surgeons and operating room staff, so I stay mostly in the hospital, which isn’t the coziest environment in terms of interior styling, to be honest. I also travel a lot, and it makes me constantly busy. Although I love my job, I sometimes feel a little bit stressed. That’s why I'm always seeking slowness as often as possible.
You are one of my favorite Instagram friends. Your home and lifestyle are so beautiful. How can you describe your style in three words?
Cozy, Down-to-Earth, carefully Curated from a wide variety across the world and throughout time
I found the fact that you moved to the countryside around 2010. What drove you to live in that way? What did your life look like before?
This April, it’ll have been eight years since we started living here. My husband and I used to live near Bern, and we’re still working in Bern. There wasn’t a spatial separation, so we slowly came to the realization that we needed to separate our private life from work. Now, I see Bern in a very different light. Living in the city and driving to the city are totally different stories.
How was the process of moving to the countryside?
We looked for an existing house where we wanted to live and that we could restore, but we’re not able to find anything we truly loved. So, we ended up deciding to build our own home here in the serene countryside near Thun in the Bernese Highlands. It took about seven months to be ready to live in this house. We hired an architect who was super, and we were able to bring a lot of our own ideas into reality.
My husband and I designed some furniture, for example, for the kitchen. We didn’t want to buy from a high-end kitchen brand, and we wanted to make a minimal, functional and beautiful kitchen. So, we designed the kitchen cabinets choosing colored MDF panels, and we used this material for the entrance and bathroom to give a sense of uniform appearance in the entire house.
We wanted to bring the landscape and the view of the countryside into our home as much as possible because I’m a person who lives in light. So, we built lots of windows instead of walls. Whenever I get back home, I open the blinds, and that moment makes me instantly calm. Sitting and eating at the table, we can see the nature all around, with greenery and flowers. All these years later, we are still fascinated by that. Every day, the landscape and the nature show their various sides, so we never get bored.
It seems that slow living is a huge trend these days. When did you first consider living in that way? I mean when you started to define yourself as someone who is seeking slowness.
I think it was about 15 years ago when I started looking for more meaningful time and slowing down. When I was in my twenties, I loved city life because of the broad range of cultural offers, and I met my friends a lot. Then, we all started families and our lives have begun to calm down. Actually, my mom is a very healthy person and I learned a lot about a healthy and mindful lifestyle from her, even though she had a tough time when she moved to Switzerland from Vietnam. And I was deeply influenced by Mom’s cooking. I learned a lot of healthy and delicious Vietnamese recipes from her ever since I was little. To me, Asian food has a lot in common with living slowly and mindfully, and those are my roots.
What is the meaning of slow living to you?
My home makes me cool down and calm down after a busy day. I try to enjoy current small moments, find meaningful time, and eat healthy and tasty food. For example, when I have a coffee break, I like to make drip coffee. I love to sip my coffee in the garden, regardless of the weather, and focus on that coffee moment and the nature around me.
I don’t mind being alone now and then. Just do what I like to do. Reading, cooking, gardening in summer time, things like that. That’s my sense of freedom.
I also see it’s a gift to be healthy. Since I’ve been attending a lot of surgery procedures in my professional role, I see a lot of patients in the OR with illnesses like carcinoma. So, it’s so important for all of us to take care of our life, body, and soul. We have to treasure them.
My private life is totally opposite my work life. In my professional role, skills like strategic thinking, planning and delivering solutions on time, knowledge of medicine/surgery and science are essential. So, it has a lot to do with mental work. In my spare time, I’d rather choose activities where I can be creative and work manually. Also, activities like running and road cycling are effective for my work-life balance. I usually don’t have any specific agenda at home, and I’m quite spontaneous. However, everything is under my control.
How do you usually escape from busy days?
I like reading, gardening, cooking, and taking a race bike around Interlaken or along the Thun Lake. An effective way of slowing down instantly is to visit a flower shop and just smell the air of that space. Everyone can find her or his way of slowing down. We don’t need to wait for the perfect time. We can do it every day and enjoy small moments.
I love your house, and everything is timelessly beautiful. Can you tell me more about your furniture collection? What are your five favorite things in your house?
I always keep in mind quality over quantity to make sure that our life is simple and sustainable. And I think that things made with quality age beautifully. I try not to have clutter but we want to have our favorite and personal pieces of accessories as decorations. Too many things at home means I would need to spend hours on cleaning and taking care of them. These days, I prefer having less, and I’d rather spend more precious time on meaningful activities with friends and family.
We love to combine contemporary and mid-century modern furniture and second-hand pieces. My husband loves making and restoring things, so some pieces of furniture and accessory items are hand-crafted by him.
My favorite things in our home are our dining table, cozy couch, long oak garden table made by my husband, antique bread cutter which I found at a flea market and restored, and carefully selected books.
Our warm oak dining table is the core of our living room where we spend time on dining and having conversation, either both of us or with friends and family. I use it as a home office desk as well. Since the table is three-meters long, you can spread your handicraft works on it too!
My husband designed and made the four-meter long garden table. It was fresh oak from the nearby forest, that’s why it’s bent and looks like a Torii (Japanese arc). We love this personal and DIY item so much. In summer time, we have meals in the garden almost every day.
I discovered the old bread cutter at the flea market in Groningen during our trip to the Netherlands, and I restored it; my husband made a new wooden board and I colored the body with non-toxic paint. However, the knife is original and it works perfectly. We use it every weekend for brunch and it is one of our precious things in our home.
Our sofa is huge and it’s one of my favorite places to relax, read a book, and sometimes watch TV.
Books about different topics are important to me. I love the feel of a book when I hold it in my hands and like to read it. I also like to see illustrated books which inspire me.
Do you also support sustainable lifestyles in general? For example, clothes, foods, etc.
Sure, I support a sustainable lifestyle and try to give my best. I try to avoid producing too much waste, and I figure out better alternatives and support fair trade companies and sustainable labels. However, it’s not easy to see behind the global trade mechanism in every part of life.
I prefer to take the time to cook with natural and organic food. The more you are used to cooking, the more you know your tricks and get fast at preparing a meal! I rarely eat convenient food because I think it doesn’t taste fresh and natural at all, and it has a lot of packaging material and it costs even more. We have a garden and grow vegetables in summer time. I often buy veggies and meats from nearby farmers.
What are your favorite brands, artists and artisans for lifestyle items?
I always take local or Swiss labels into consideration first. Those are brands like Linck (for vases), QWSTION and Lost & Found (purses and bags), studio ōsoi (the most comfortable and breathable jumpsuit), clomes (an online store, but also a showroom in Bern), and Tokushuu (very comfortable wooden wedge summer shoes).
I have to admit that Lisa Feiler has been my favorite shop in Bern for home accessories since my early twenties. I’ve bought assorted dishes, several mirrors, cushions, curtain fabrics, rubber baskets, and many more for my home. The quality lasts a long time.
You have a backyard garden. It's one of my dreams. What kind of vegetables do you grow there? How do you take care of them?
I designed and planted a minimalistic and contemporary garden with gravel, deciduous trees, Chinese silver grass and lots of wild plants for diversity and insects. It just needs some extra work in spring and autumn, but the maintenance in summer is planned to be low. When garden season starts, I plant my raised veggie beds with young shoots and seeds. Every year, we have different vegetables like eggplants, pepperoni, kale, 4-5 different kinds of salads, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, beans, etc. and herbs which make the dishes a feast. I use natural fertilizer out of our own compost (rotten vegetables and fruit waste). Of course, everything is organic!
I like to remember last summer when the weather was so sunny and warm, and we harvested lots of vegetables. It was a lot for two of us, so we gave some away to other people. Sun-ripened and freshly harvested vegetables taste totally different from the ones you buy in the supermarket. My husband and I always fight to have more salad in summer time (laughing), but in winter time we generously share our salad. I’ve always had small gardens, even when I lived in an apartment in the city. Gardening is easy and not science. The import thing is that you need to observe plants carefully every day. You’ll see what they need.
I also love your entertaining style. I literally love everything about you. Haha. How often do you entertain? How do you enjoy the time with people?
We usually invite some friends and their kids spontaneously and have a lovely time with them.
Of course, we have annual gatherings like birthday parties, Christmas dinners, etc. I used to invite around 20 colleagues or family members, and we cherished our time together once a year.
Wow! 20 people! Once I invited just six people, and it was so hard. How can you manage that?
I prepare ingredients or dishes in advance (mise en place) or make a freshly homemade buffet. It doesn’t need to be a very sophisticated meal but everything should be fresh, tasty and beautiful to look at. Be creative! You need to prepare in advance as much as possible, and then you feel more relaxed when guests watch what you make and prepare.
Set the table beautifully and bring some touches of color to make the atmosphere lively. But, I don’t want to decorate too much, and I’d rather focus more on food. I think that food itself is already beautiful enough. Maybe set one vase with beautiful flowers, candles, herbs from the garden, nice dishes and beautiful linen napkins. Keep it simple, and not overloaded.
Do you travel a lot? Where is your favorite destination so far?
Last summer, my husband and I had a unique and unforgettable summer holiday. Initially, we planned to go to Bretagne in France, but I suddenly felt I didn’t want to sit in the car for a long time. I came across an idea of traveling to Cologne with our road bikes right from home, and my husband said like ‘why not?’ We usually take our bikes with us- the best and stress-free way to discover a city or the territory!-but we always had a car.
We packed some essential things and headed to Cologne. I tried to make it simple, even though my things already weighed 12 kg. On the first day, we cycled 146 km from our house to Basel. I was so proud of myself that I mastered the heat of the summer (36-40 degrees Celsius) and the hilly and also mountainous distance. However, we saw beautiful villages, nature, fields, lakes, sunsets, and we even experienced a thunderstorm. We also had some little accidents, and all of them happened to me; I was stung by a bee and had a flat tire. Such an adventure! People who we met on our journey were extremely kind and were always ready to help show us the right directions.
We didn’t book any hotels in advance and did it always a day before; otherwise, we couldn’t follow our own tempo. We followed our own speed and pace, and there was always time for breaks to enjoy the moment. The good thing about the summer heat of 2018 was that we never felt the need to eat heavy meals but rather fresh and cooling salads and meals. I guess this adventure came to mean a slow lifestyle to us. Because we usually travel from airport to airport or highway to highway to our destinations, we usually don’t see the route with the landscape or the village and its people between our start and final destination. I’ll never forget this exciting experience and for sure this kind of holiday will not be the last for us!
What do you think about how we can make our ordinary life more romantic and beautiful?
I can’t give a solution for every individual. But I think that everybody should seek and strive for a meaningful and mindful life(style) which fits her or him the best. Nature and calm help me to find that lifestyle for myself in many ways. Honest friends and good friendships are also very important. I believe that health is everything; otherwise you can’t do anything. Be active with sports, cook and eat carefully, take care of yourself and your body, and keep a slow living and meaningful life in general.
In the middle of the interview, she served me her homemade plum tart which had a natural taste, and I truly got a sense of what her lifestyle looks like. It was a great time to have a profound conversation with her. Thank you so much for your time and sharing your story, Linh!
Please leave your thoughts in the comments!