When we think of Scandinavian style we usually have in mind an interior with loads of natural light and nice neutral colours. The most important things to remember about when designing such space is to use natural finishes, pick colours from neutral colour palettes (have a look here for beautifully matched colour palettes!) and simple shapes. But more importantly you need to remember about the simplicity and function that are the most important principles in Scandinavian design.
Where Scandinavian style has started?
The Scandinavian style has evolved form the region of north Europe. Although the term Scandinavia refers to Denmark, Norway and Sweden, when describing Scandinavian design it also adds Iceland and Finland as the term can be colloquially used for five of those countries. This design movement emerged in the 1950s taking a lot of inspiration from the modernism movement and Bauhaus. It is characterized by simplicity, minimalism and functionality but it also holds a humanism value and the importance of accessibility.
In 1930 in Stockholm, Sweden an exhibition was held which had a great impact on the Scandinavian style. An intellectual leader of the fair was Gregor Paulsson who was also inspired by the British Arts and Crafts Movement as those traditions were also very important for Nordic artists. But he wanted to embrace new technology to make the products accessible and affordable to all. Another crucial event that helped shape and make that style popular was the publication of 24 watercolour paintings done by Carl Larsson in 1899. He portrayed the ideal Swedish home and family life making it viral in those times. The term Scandinavian Design was formed during an exhibition Design in Scandinavia that traveled through USA and Canada in 1954-1957.
It’s all about the weather
Walter Gropius, the head of Bauhaus said: “A thing is defined by its essence. In order to design it so that it functions well (…) its essence must first be explored; it should serve its purpose perfectly, (…) fulfill its function practically and be durable, inexpensive and beautiful.” These principles are also very important for Scandinavian design. One of the main reasons Scandinavian style uses a lot of natural light, natural materials and functionality is simply because the freezing, dark winters outside. In order to make the most of natural light Scands were trying to make their homes as as bright as they could, using big windows and white, grey and other light colours. Such objects could bounce off the light and make the space feel airy. The reason they made everything so useful was the lack of accessible materials so they only used what they needed in order to make the living in the harsh north.
10 typical features of Scandinavian design
As mentioned before, the most typical trait of Scandinavian design is the functionality and simplicity. Those can be obtained in many ways. Most of the living spaces are an open plan, airy rooms with dominant of white colour which is allowing to make the most of the natural light. Natural materials are widely used in Scandinavian interiors. Not only for floors but also for any piece of furniture or even walls. Most commonly it would be birch or pine. The colour palette is very limited but it can be broken with a vivid colour of a rug, decoration items, artwork or pillows. That allows to easily change the look of any interior as the base stays always the same. It doesn’t require a lot of effort or money to change the colours of the details to get a fresh look. For window treatments you should choose something that is made of light, see through materials so it is not blocking the light. Although usually the windows can be left without any blinds to maximize the natural light. You can have fun with choosing different textures to make the room cozy. Soft fluffy pillows or throws for the sofa which will allow you to cuddle in during a cold day.