Caroline Van Wouwe

Caroline Van Wouwe

Scandinavian interior design: tips, tricks & examples

Even though it dates back to the ’50s, Scandinavian design still looks young and fresh. Thanks to its simplicity and attention for functionality, this design philosophy easily stood the test of time. Furniture, lighting and decoration pieces in Nordic style are more popular than ever. Typical for Scandinavian design are the bright wall colours, the usage of raw materials and a link to the outdoors. We’ll tell you how this design movement came to life and how to create the Scandinavian atmosphere in your own home.

How Scandinavian design originated

Beautiful products that make life better

The term “Scandinavian design” derives from a design roadshow that toured the US and Canada from 1954 till 1957. The show promoted the Scandinavian way of life. Though Scandinavian design didn’t break through until the middle of the 20th century, the design movement originally arose at the end of the 19th century.

Design in Scandinavia exhibition

The term Scandinavian Design derives from the design show ‘Design in Scandinavia’ (1954-1957).

Modernism lies at the heart of Scandinavian design. In the beginning of the 20th century, this cultural movement turned against the popular views on art, architecture and social organisation. Strengthened by the war, the need for functionality and design for the masses grew.

It was within this context that Scandinavian design became interesting. The situation together with the enduring harsh northern conditions led to sober yet practical products.

In Northern European countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden man had to work with what nature had to offer. That’s why they tried to waste as little as possible. So, there was no room for unnecessary ornaments.

Surviving in the cold North demanded products that quite simply just worked, beauty was less important. And even though Scandinavian design is known for minimalism and simple lines, elegance is never far away. Because of the long and cold winters, houses really needed to be cozy. This lead to so-called ‘good design’, design that combines practical characteristics with good looks.


The harsh winters in the North of Europe were determining for the design philosophy.

Democratic design

Scandinavian design is often refered to as democratic design. The idea was that beautiful and functional design products should be attainable for everyone, not only for the wealthy few. That thought perfectly matched the postwar ideology.

However, it was only after World War II that Scandinavian design became widespread. Mechanical mass production didn’t find its way to the High North as fast as it did in other countries. That’s why they held on to traditional crafts for a long time. It’s also the reason why fine workmanship and natural materials are still important characteristics of Scandinavian design.

Living Scandinavian style yourself: Tips & tricks

More and more people choose a Scandinavian interior for its simplicity and warm appeal. Want to try it yourself? These tips will sure come in handy:

1. Go for wood and other natural materials

The love for nature and craftsmanship has always been around in Scandinavia. Using wood and showing it therefore is essential for a Scandinavian looking interior. It also creates a sense of warmth. Also other raw materials like anodised or enamelled aluminum and pressed steel are ubiquitous.

Hout Scandinavisch interieur

Use wood and show it in your interior.
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2. Lots of natural light

The inflow of natural daylight is maximized to prevent wintery dumps. A good reason to place large and many windows.

Grote ramen zonlicht slaapkamer

The large windows make optimal use of the natural sunlight.

3. Keep it light

You won’t find much contrast in a Scandinavian interior. The main colour for walls and ceilings is white. It’s another way to make the most of the incoming sunlight. Another advantage of white is the fact that it enlarges the space optically. A great idea if you know that people often had to stay indoors for very long periods because of the harsh winters.

Scandinavisch interieur

The light colours make the room look much bigger.

4. Colourful accents

An overdose of white can be boring. That’s why colourful decoratien pieces are used to create a contrast. Use pillows with playful patterns, a remarkable vase or a pendant light in a fresh hue.. the possibilities are endless.

Kleuraccenten Scandinavisch interieur

Don’t be afraid to use showy decorative pieces.

Bright colour accents have always been an important element in Scandinavian interiors. Along with the white paint, you can also find cool grey and blue colours. It’s like the Northern surroundings (often covered in snow) have entered your interior.

Grijze tinten interieur

Blue and grey tints are added to the white.

5. Light floors

Create lightness and openness, also in the floors. Scandinavian interiors are characterized by light and preferably wooden floors.

Lichte houten vloer

Go for light floors, preferably in wood.

6. Clear lines in architecture and furniture

Scandinavian design stands for functionality and minimalism. In a Scandinavian interior, it’s best to choose simple, clear lines in architecture as well as in furniture. Complex shapes really don’t fit in. The simple design do get an elegant touch though.

Villa Wallin Flos Arco

Simple, elegant lines are inherent to Scandinavian furniture and architecture.
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During the middle of the 20th century a lot of design classics were created that are still able to keep up with contemporary design. Just think of the PH lamp by Poul Henningsen or the Egg seat (1958) by Arne Jacobsen.

Poul Henningsen lamp Arne Jacobsen Egg zetel

The PH Lamp and the Egg seat are two absolute design classics.

7. Functional and practical

The long winters in the North kept people inside for several weeks at a time. That’s why Scandinavian design pays a lot of attention to functionality. Homes have to be practical, fun to live in and the things within have to work.

&tradition Spinning

Functionality is the number one requirement in Scandinavian design.

8. Eco-friendly

Scandinavians have always been concerned with nature. In countries like Sweden, eco-friendly aspects throughout the house have been customary since many years. Typical examples are double/triple window glazing and solid wall and roof isolation. More tips on sustainable interior design can be found in our interview with Space Concepts.

9. Stove in the corner

In Northern Europe, people mainly used woodstoves to keep warm. Unlike in the most of our houses these woodstoves aren’t placed in the center of the room, in Scandinavia they prefer to install them in a corner of the room.

Haardvuur hoek

Woodstoves are often placed in the corner of the room.

10. Make sure you have room outside

Scandinavians love the outdoors and like to have a connection with their surroundings. That’s why you should always have a terrace or balcony where you can enjoy some fresh air. And don’t forget the barbecue!

Balkon Scandinavisch

No matter how small the space, Scandinavians always make sure to have a little place outside.

11. Don’t overdo the accessories

Scandinavian interiors are kept simple. There’s room for decoration, but don’t clutter your interior. It’s a valuable lesson that also interior designer Filip Deslee told us. So instead of cramming everything you like into the space, you’ll have to make choices.

Wall decoration can give a nice touch. For instance, you can make clusters of several paintings or framed pictures.


In Scandinavian interiors you’ll often find clusters of picture frames.

12. Create breathing room

Scandinavian living is all about openness. Instead of closed closets, they usually choose open ones or wall shelves. You don’t have to hide everything, a little ‘messy’ doesn’t hurt. Also, it’s best to avoid heavy curtains. This way you’ll give some extra breathing room to your interior.

Open kasten

Open closets with colourful content are a must.

Scandinavian lighting

We can’t end this article without giving you a few lighting tips. Below you can find a few lights that go perfectly with a Scandinavian interior.


We’ll start with the Danish designer brand &tradition. This brand has a lot of beautiful lamps, such as the Bulb, Topan, FlowerPot and Copenhagen. As the name already gives away, the brand tries to maintain a connection with the Danish designer heritage. The collection is a combination of new design with true classics by famous designers like Arne Jacobsen and Verner Panton.

Andtradition FlowerPot Bellevue

The &tradition FlowerPot by Verner Panton and the Bellevue by Arne Jacobsen.

Louis Poulsen

Another Scandinavian designer lighting brand that’s doing very well is Louis Poulsen. Their collection houses the legendary PH Artichoke lamp by Poul Henningsen. This lamp stands almost synonymous with the Scandinavian design philosophy.

 The PH lamp was designed for an optimal light spread without anyone around it getting blinded. In this design, functionality and beauty go hand in hand.

Louis Poulsen PH

The Louis Poulsen PH lamps are Scandinavian design at its best.

Looking for a nice desk lamp? This Louis Poulsen AJ is always a good choice. This characterful table lamp can be found in many Scandinavian interiors.

Louis Poulsen AJ

The Louis Poulsen AJ is the living proof that simple shapes can be perfectly elegant.


The designs of creative centipede Verner Panton revive with Verpan. The rebellious Panton had a passion for experimenting with new materials and shapes. In this sense, he somehow deviated from the normal Scandinavian design path. His crown jewel is the Verpan Fun, which is made from thousands of mother-of-pearl discs.

Verpan Fun 10DM

Verpan Fun; Verner Panton loved to experiment with new materials.

Another well-known design by Panton is the VP Globe lamp, a designer lamp with a rather simple shape, but with an elegant touch on the inside.

Villa Wallin Verpan VP Globe

The Verpan VP Globe in a Swedish villa by Erik Andersson.

Tom Dixon Beat Light

Though they’re not Scandinavian by origin, the Beat Lights and their distinct shapes perfectly fit in the Scandinavian style.

Tom Dixon Beat Light

The black Tom Dixon pendant lights form a nice contrast with the light interior.

Moooi Random Light

Its lightness makes the Moooi Random Light an ideal accessory to any Scandinavian interior. The Random Light is a design by Dutchman Bertjan Pot.

Moooi Random Light

Moooi Random Light; subtle, yet remarkable.

Flos Rosy Angelis

We simply cannot forget a floor lamp like the Flos Rosy Angelis. The simple shape goes together beautifully with this interior style.

Flos Rosy Angelis

Flos Rosy Angelis


Scandinavian design is simple and graceful at the same time. The practical aspect and the focus on natural materials and craftsmanship are very important. So, if you want to go Nordic yourself, it’s best to keep things open and light. However, do experiment with brightly coloured accents. You’ll notice quickly when you’re overdoing it.

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