Long before Scandinavian design became a trend, it was a way of life. Around 1950 this minimalist design movement emerged in the five Nordic countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark, characterised by its simplicity and functionality.
The central idea is based on living in harmony with one’s environment, where things should last rather than be replaced, and a home should be simple and comfortable to enhance an easy, uncluttered lifestyle. Unlike contemporary minimalism which can feel a little colder, there’s an emphasis on creating a functional space that’s warm and welcoming.
Perhaps most important is the fact that Scandinavian design is definitely not limited to the wealthy – it promotes quality and beautiful design, through sustainable products that are affordable and accessible to everyone.
Scandinavian style is all about keeping textures and materials simple, ensuring clean lines for a more modern finish and making sure that all spaces suit your practical needs. You’ll often see more textures and finishes, with less colour that’s limited to neutral, earthy tones and patterns. In Scandinavian houses, there’s a strong relationship between nature and design, where contrasting shapes and textures mirror and hero the beauty of the outdoors. Stone, wood, cotton, wool, leather, linen and hemp are used, while wood grains, metal finishes and stone are left exposed to add warmth and visual interest.
Scandinavian style is as much a lifestyle as a look. Celebrating nature throughout, every element is inspired by local landscapes, textures and patterns. The style is elegant yet simple, uncluttered and made to create warm and cosy living spaces in winter, and light and airy rooms in the summer.
Typical furniture is usually practical and made from rattan, wicker, hemp, brass and copper, with sofas that are really comfortable (comfort is a must), in neutral tones like white, grey and sand. Alongside sleek and modern designed furniture, Scandinavian-style homes will use traditional pieces that have classic and even rustic appeal.
Think real wooden floors throughout, except in bathrooms, or a cool grey stone tile or consider vinyl or laminate for easier maintenance and lower cost. For warmth underfoot and striking appeal, textured rugs are the perfect alternative to wall-to-wall carpeting.
Keep the colour palette to no more than three tones – white walls, cool grey and blue textiles work beautifully well together. Think of using neutral tones like white, sand and beige and a pop of colour or a bold pattern as a room accent. Consider adding metallic accents for visual interest and a single piece of art on a wall for maximum impact.
A few well -chosen accessories can provide a striking accent in any room, but be careful to keep it simple and scaled back to reduce visual distractions. Traditional Scandinavian patterns are usually simple botanical illustrations in a symmetrical style, with animals as common themes, while modern designs have bold colours and graphics in high contrast styles.
Scandinavians spend a lot of time indoors during the long, dark winters so it’s important to bring light into the home. Walk into most homes and you’ll find candles in all shapes, sizes, and colours. Low hanging pendants are preferred to ceiling lamps and can often be one of the major key pieces in a bedroom. Make the most of all natural light with mirrors to reflect light, wide windows and avoid heavy curtains around your windows
All rooms should feel snug yet airy and make the most of the available space. This means using intelligent storage systems to keep rooms neat and uncluttered. Above all, think clean lines throughout – both in architecture and furniture.
As it celebrates nature’s beauty, Scandinavian style always has an eco-friendly element behind its design – think responsibly sourced materials (wood, furniture, accessories) and triple glazing for superior insulation.
Unlike UK homes, where fireplaces are often positioned in the centre of the room, Scandinavian homes usually place their fireplaces in the corner, where designs are simple and often embellished with attractive tiles.
Choose warm and welcoming fabrics that hero comfort
Celebrate nature and leave materials in their pure and raw state
Think simple, clean and cheerful
Limit your colour palette to no more than three tones in neutral shades
Use contrasting textures (hard and soft) and shapes (abstract and traditional)
Keep rooms uncluttered with clever storage solutions
Use triple glazing for warmth and maximum light
Make the most of natural light – use blank white and light grey walls
If you like pastels – limit them to natural shades of light pink and green (sparingly)
Green your rooms with light-loving plants
Contrast modern sleek pieces of furniture with classic pieces
Put fireplaces in the corner of the room
As Scandinavian design can be tricky to get just right, consider consulting an interior decorator who can make sure you achieve the look you’re after. Too simple and it’ll look too stark, too warm and you’ll move away from its light and airy feel.