Scandinavian Interior Design

Scandinavian Interior Design

How would you describe Scandinavian interior style?  You might use words such as neutral colours, natural materials, and lots of texture and you would be right.  But Scandinavian design and interior styling encompasses so much more.

According to Wikipedia, the foundations of Scandinavian interior design are function, minimalism, simplicity, clean lines, natural forms and textures.  Scandinavian design is also considered a movement, a bit like the minimalist movement. This means it’s more than a passing trend, it’s a way of life.

Before characterising Scandinavian interior style, I think it’s important to highlight the key designers that have popularised this design movement ranging from furniture to textiles (think Maremekko).

Let’s start with Alvar Aalto (1898-1976).  Who?  You ask, you’re more familiar with this Finnish architect and designer than you think as he designed the Model 60 stacking stool (below) in 1933, which I’m sure you’ve seen being sold as a replica.  This classic stool has withstood the test of time and remains relevant today.

scandinavian interior design
Aalto Stacking Stool

Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) is a Danish architect and designer who’s most icon designs include the egg chair, designed in 1959 and the swan chair designed in 1958. These two chairs also typify Mid Century Modern interior style. Unlike the Aalto stool, these chairs are generous, shapely, organic and voluptuous and comfortable. These two pieces are also widely available as replicas and immediately make a statement in any space.

scandinavian interior design
Egg Chair
scandinavian interior design
Swan Chair

The last Scandinavian designer you will be familiar with is Hans Wegner (1914-2007) who was a Danish furniture designer. His most famous design from 1949 was simply known as The Chair (below). Also, a significant piece in Mid Century Modern styling.

scandinavian interior design
Wegner Chair

With that background we can deep dive into Scandinavian style and design as we see it today.

Function in Scandinavian Design Style

I think most people would agree that Ikea have nailed functionality.  Think of their own iconic designs such as the Kallax shelves. This piece has been used as a bookshelf, room divider, toy storage, kitchen storage. It’s so versatile, it works in small and large places, can be customised with purpose-built inserts.  It works in modern and period homes. It just works.

As well as a particular piece of furniture being functional and servicing its purpose, Scandinavian design style also considers comfort as part of what is functional. If a chair or sofa is not comfortable then it can’t be functional. And that is why we love Scandinavian design style; functional, comfort and aesthetics working together to deliver amazing pieces.

Minimalism in Scandinavian Design Style

Long before the latest move towards minimalism which has been spurred on by extreme 21st century consumerism, Scandinavian designers embraced the theory of less is more, coined by the German architect Ludwig Mies who was director of the Bauhaus in Germany, a prominent design school from 1911-1933. But what does minimalism mean when applied to interior design and interior styling. It means that a space consists of the bare essentials, all doing their job (function), but working together (cohesion) without comprising comfort or beauty.

This project we worked in 2020 is a great example of minimalism. Every piece serving a purpose, there’s no clutter or competition for the eye’s attention.

Simplicity in Scandinavian Design Style

Simplicity counts in interior design when the substance of the pieces is enough. For example, a linen throw stands out purely because of the beautiful quality material. A simple white rug that makes a statement because it’s textured. A simple slim line sofa that is just made well with a simply beautiful fabric. Simplicity is minimalism in every piece and appreciate of quality craftsmanship and materiality. Like loving an oak hard wood floor because of it’s simply oak.

Clean Lines in Scandinavian Design Style

Interior designers are obsessed by lines, curved, straight, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, we see all the lines and all the patterns. Clean lines in Scandinavian design refers to a singular line, that’s clean for example one horizontal line you find in the sofa, repeated in the coffee table, repeated in the line of the cushions. The space has just one line not many.

Natural Forms in Scandinavian Design Style

Scandinavian design is rooted in nature and therefore natural forms.  Think plants, sheepskin or cow hides. Linen, cotton, wool, timber, anything that comes from nature is treated with respect and enhanced rather than contrived into shapes or forms that are contrary.

Texture in Scandinavian Design Style

Because Scandinavian interior design or interior styling is a ‘back to basics’ design movement, texture is key to elevating a space to create warmth, depth an interest. As mentioned above raw, natural materials take centre stage to anchor a space to create an inviting, lived in feel.

The prominence of Scandinavian design happens to coincidence with the mid-century period of design, it endures because of its authenticity, less is more ethos and form follows function practicality.

Written by Trish Khoury
Founding Director
Grace Interior Designs for The Designs Basics