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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. Light floors
Create lightness and openness, also in the floors. Scandinavian interiors are characterized by light and preferably wooden floors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tom Dixon Beat Light
Though they’re not Scandinavian by origin, the Beat Lights and their distinct shapes perfectly fit in the Scandinavian style.
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.
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.
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.