You may be surprised to hear that the beauty of the Scandinavian design movement wasn’t fully recognized until the 1950s. Since then, this minimalist European design has brought acclaim to many prominent and noteworthy Scandinavian designers who have made a global mark by creating unique furnishings and housewares.
While some may immediately think of the primary blue and yellow buildings of Ikea, there is so much more to Scandinavian design than this iconic chain store. The Scandinavian design extends to the countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland—offering a vast and eclectic taste that personifies this design movement and is characterized by simplicity, functionality, and minimalism.
What can we learn from these simple, yet unique European designs? How do they differ from North America’s minimalist designs?
Let’s take a look at 10 designs that are singularly Scandinavian to see what we can gleam from them.
1) Neutral Colors in Scandinavian Designs
The calm, muted tones of pale blue, cool grey, white, and cream are seen everywhere in Scandinavian interiors. This color scheme has almost become the trademark of Scandinavian design and seems to be one of the main draws to its global mimicry. These colors are unique to Scandinavian minimalism—especially the pale blues; they are not commonly seen in North American minimalist designs.
However, not all Scandinavian designs are muted and calm—in fact, there are some noteworthy designers who preferred a much bolder design statement, such as the popular Marimekko; a Finnish design company that prefers bold, graphic and colorful arrangements.
Whether you prefer bright, bold interiors or a more calm serene quality—you can achieve a distinctly Scandinavian style in your home.
2) White Wood Floors
Unlike North American homes, carpet is not a common occurrence in European homes. Scandinavian designers have always seemed to prefer the use of simple, white wood from floor-to-ceiling.
It is easy to understand why this is so popular when one looks at rooms designed in this manner— white wood floors make a room seem open, airy, clean, and draw much-needed attention to the interior craftsmanship of a room’s architecture and furnishings.
If the flooring is not white wood, then it still remains light in color with wood such as birch or pine, or a cool grey stone tile. Mimic this clean design by using light wood wherever possible—it is certainly an interior design that you will not grow tired of.
3) Let in the Light
With upwards of 60 days of Polar Nights, lighting can become essential and revered. This is what most Scandinavians deal with every winter, depending on their location within the Polar Circle.
The site, My Little Norway, offers unique tips to surviving all those cold, dark days, but also points out that Scandinavians love summer to the fullest, and while they may have many dark days they also have summer days where the sun remains high in the sky until midnight!
What better way to let in the much-loved light than large windows? Floor-to-ceiling windows are common in Scandinavian designs for this very reason.
4) A Love of Nature
Scandinavians have a deep-rooted love of nature. With past-times revolving around outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, and swimming—they take every possible opportunity to be in the great outdoors.
Of course, during those cold winter days and nights, it can be easy to forget the natural beauty of their much-missed summer world, so they bring nature indoors as much as possible, beating the winter blues.
Interiors reflect this by bringing in numerous natural plants, and furnishings that mimic nature through their rustic wood grain. Also, most Scandinavian homes have some sort of balcony where natural views can easily be enjoyed.
5) A Touch Of Elegant Country in Scandinavian Homes
This is the look that has iconized Scandinavian Design—white walls, Swedish antique clocks, crystal chandeliers, curved rustic white wood furnishings, white linens, and simple flower arrangements—it is a marriage of down-to-earth attitudes with understated elegance (see image below).
It is easy to see why this design has been copied time and time again—it personifies the definition of grace. If this is the Scandinavian look you love, then you will need to do a little antique shopping. In fact, it can be easy to replicate this style by simply painting some rustic furniture pieces white, and adopting this relaxed yet elegant feel in your home.
So, loosen up; open your windows, letting in the cool breeze and natural views—this is a look that says relax and stay while.
6) Add a Sauna
It may not be common knowledge, but saunas are part of the Scandinavian lifestyle. These are not typical American saunas that one usually finds in a fitness center, rather Scandinavian saunas are ingrained in the culture and have their very own etiquette.
An article by, This is Finland, aptly points out that visitors need to go with the flow and follow the “bare facts” that saunas involve taking off all your clothes—yes, you go naked in the sauna and sit with a group of other naked people to sweat in 100-degree temperatures!
It is estimated that there are two million saunas in Finland alone, so hop into this relaxing cultural pastime by incorporating a sauna within the privacy of your own home—maybe you will even dare to go bare.
7) Form and Function of Scandinavian Homes
Functionality reigns supreme within these minimalist Scandinavian designs. Homes are meant to be open, airy, and have a flow that allows easy living.
This is not to say that art and romanticism don’t have a place in these designs—culture and art play a large role in Scandinavian life, it is only natural for this to show up in their home interiors, as well.
Smashing Magazine offers an interesting reason for this minimalist design—Survival in the North required products to be functional; they didn’t need heavy decorative elements, only what was functional and useful. Maybe we should all take a cue from this simpler lifestyle and get rid of some of our un-required clutter.
8) Scandinavian Furniture
While modern Scandinavian furniture takes advantage of innovative textiles, these textiles were not available to the early craftsmen. Amazing craftsmanship can still be seen in today’s Scandinavian homes via antiques and current designs.
No matter what decade their furniture is derived from, one thing is certain—attention to detail and high-quality materials will always show-up in Scandinavian furniture designs. A simplistic, yet artful, approach reveals itself in all their furnishings through simple straight lines combined with understated ornateness.
Quite literally, their furniture is like an object of art, and it will last for a lifetime. This is the reason that there are still some great antiques that remain on the market. If an antique is out of your price range, then consider looking to many of the modern Scandinavian furniture designers who are making an impact in this market.
9) Simple, Yet Cozy Corner Fireplaces
It’s a long winter, so a fireplace is a must! Unlike North American homes, Scandinavian fireplaces do not usually take center- stage in the middle of one wall. They were never meant to be ornate centerpieces with mantles to decorate.
Rather, these fireplaces were functional and meant to provide warmth and a place to cook. Of course, modern homes do not need to worry so much about this functionality, so the fireplace design has become a bit more of an artful focal point, yet they usually still remain in the corner of a room.
There are plenty of online sources that offer unique Scandinavian-style fireplaces, so take a look and see if you can find one to add this warm eclectic touch to your home.
10) Eco-Friendly Interiors
Along with their love of nature is a desire to nurture it. Modern Scandinavian homes feature world-leading green technologies that are exported around the globe.
Through political movements and a strong desire to save nature, Scandinavians have helped to lead the eco-friendly design movement. Scandinavians not only preach this lifestyle, they live it — with 99% of Norway’s power being derived by hydropower.
The entire world could stand up and take notice of the Scandinavians love and respect for nature— and we could all mimic this lifestyle and save a tree or two.
Are we all ready to hop on a place and move to Norway, Finland, Denmark or Sweden? It certainly is tempting when you see all the beautiful homes and natural views that Scandinavia has to offer!
Since most of us are stuck in place (or don’t want to suffer through their dark winters), we should try to mimic the Scandinavian design within our own homes. It is as easy as following these 10 design lessons outlined above. So go ahead, paint your walls a lovely muted grey or blue; throw some white slipcovers over your furniture and maybe pick up an antique or two. Scandinavian culture and design is achievable no matter where you live.
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