Swedish design has been a global phenomenon for decades. It emerged in the 1930s and flourished in the 1950s when the simplicity, minimalism and functionality of Scandinavian design satisfied societies need for simple, space-saving products for everyday living in the post-war era.
For many people, Ikea is the first thing that comes to mind when they think about Scandinavian design. Ikea brought Nordic style to the mainstream in the late 80s and changed the face of home furnishings with it’s quirkily designed flatpack furniture. Thanks to modern mass retailers like Ikea, clean lines and simply designed furniture have become mainstream. While Ikea is loved and incredibly popular, Scandinavian design is so much more than flatpack furniture.
You won’t be surprised to find that the flatpack furniture of Ikea is not a true representation of the Scandinavian design, it completely overlooks many of the principles that are engrained in its design philosophy. Let’s take a look at its origins and the principles that have made the Scandinavian design so popular.
The Scandinavian design emerged in the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden in the 1930s. The nordic movement had a minimalist philosophy that emphasised clean lines and simple designs that were inspired by nature. At the heart of Swedish design is a commitment to beautifully designed, high quality, sustainable products that were affordable for everyone in society.
Editor of the House Beautiful Magazine Elizabeth Gordon played an important role in Nordic design principles being embraced across Europe and North America. She arranged a travelling design show called Design in Scandinavia that showcased various works by Nordic designers. The show travelled throughout the United States and Canada between 1954 and 1957 promoting the simplistic ways of living. Scandinavian design was presented as an alternative to Nazi-era design fascism – it focused on the family and the home, and by the end of the 1950s, it was everywhere.
Scandinavian design comes as a result of the harsh and dark winters faced by those in these Northernly countries. This includes trying to open up their space and create a lighter feel to combat the long, dark winters. Nordic design focuses heavily on capturing and utilising natural light as it promotes feelings of happiness and wellbeing. As a result, Scandinavian homes feature big windows that are free from heavy curtains and window dressings to allow light to spill through. Making your home a place where no artificial light is needed throughout the day is vital.
Once you have let the light in, the goal is to capture it and keep it in your home. Do this is by decorating in a neutral colour pallet that reflects the light around your home. Neutral colours dominate Scandinavian design. An authentic Scandi palette would have no more than four key shades and rely heavily on whites and lighter hues. These are calming colours that make space feel bright and airy.
As well as natural light, Scandinavian design aims to connect the indoors with the out. This is done through the use of plants and flowers (whether real or fake) being used to decorate rooms and breath some life into the space. They add a drop of colour to an otherwise neutral space, not to mention it’s been proven that bringing nature indoors can reduce stress and help to boost your mood.
Another way this interior style incorporates nature is through the use of wood. Be that wooden flooring, accessories, toys or furnishings. Typically lighter woods such as beech and pine are used to keep the room feeling spacious and light. Wooden features can offer the perfect finish to any room. Living elements are brought into the Scandinavian home as they brighten up spaces and breath life into a room — something especially important during the long dark winter months. Plants, flowers and greenery can be used throughout the home to add interest, colour and provide another element that connects the house to nature.
Another popular part of Swedish design and Scandinavian style is modern and elegant furniture. The furniture often follows the rules we’ve already outlined above, being made from wood and using other natural colours. That said, furniture can also be used to add a splash of colour to a room. For example, are sleek and simplistic, and can really compliment your interior style. You can choose from bold colours like Chelford Red or keep it natural with a Leaf Green accent chair.
The key is to choose furniture that looks modern but not overwhelming, favouring subtle curves and clean lines. This will add to the cosy but spacious and simple look of your home. You can utilise your furniture to add colour to your neutral palettes and act as a focal point for your room. Choose furniture and accessories that incorporate wood to really keep within the principles of Scandinavian design.
Simplicity is a crucial principle of Nordic design. A home should not be cluttered with furniture and possessions. It should be furnished simply with functional, well-made pieces that serve a purpose. As a result, walls are commonly left bare, spaces are sparsely furnished, and items such as toys are simply designed using wood and fabrics.Simplicity really is key, so you want to make sure that your space isn’t cluttered. A key principle of hygge is about how your room affects your mood and clutter can cause you to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Not to mention that those in Scandinavian countries when this design was becoming popular often lived in small houses. Therefore they had to maximise their space and keep decorative items to a minimum.
You can make the most of your storage to ensure there are no unsightly items hanging around, but to truly embrace Scandinavian design it is best to simplify your life. Avoid gaudy ornaments or jamming too many accessories on to one shelf. Keep it clean and minimalist for the perfect finish.
If you’re moving house or considering redecorating your home, then why not consider Scandinavian design. This clean and cosy look can do wonders for boosting your mood and is really easy to achieve. Keep in mind the principles we’ve outlined above and you can turn your home into a Nordic dream in no time.
Edward is the managing director of Sloane & Sons Stylish Chairs. He is an expert in quality, comfortable upholstered chairs.