How to Perfect the Scandinavian Design Style

To better understand the growing and increasingly popular Scandinavian Interior Design style it requires a brief description of the geography that so thoroughly influences the form (I’ll keep it very short).

If you’re like me, and your geography knowledge is rusty, Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe comprised of the countries (or kingdoms) of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. No, Scandinavia is not its own country! Yes, I was surprised and extremely embarrassed too!

While the climate of the Scandinavian region is varied; its mountainous terrains and fjords, and long, bitter-cold and snow-covered months are increasingly dark and inhospitable the farther north one traverses. Understanding the influence of the conditions that typify the region will significantly lend itself to fully understanding the Scandinavian style and how it evolved.

I’ve broken down the elements of the Scandinavian style into the following essential elements:

1.      White and muted hues – Perhaps the most notable aspect that characterizes the style is white. The color white is everywhere.  Pure and simple.  The Scandinavian style color palette is predominately white but not lacking interest as you’ll see. 

The walls are mostly purposeful blank canvasses in white or ashen grey. It wouldn’t be uncommon to find white flooring and accessories throughout each room. However, muted and pale colors are accents that add personality and artistic flair to the design. These combinations are deliberate choices.  They allow for an optimal reflective effect to both brighten and augment the sense of space and openness. This leads to our second most crucial element in the Scandinavian style.

2.      Light and Brightness – Much of the choices made in the Scandinavian style are about light optimization. Remembering our earlier discussion on the climate challenges faced in this region, the emotional and psychological importance of light becomes critical. Designed to combat the lingering effects of prolonged cold and darkness outside, it behooved the inhabitants to bring the light and warmth inside in every way possible.

Windows are often plentiful, and natural light is encouraged. Windows are left bare much of the time or window treatments utilizing sheer or translucent fabric that fail to impede the passage of light are incorporated.

Mirrors are often plentiful with devotees of the style leaning toward larger, well-placed ones. The use of clear glass vases and other decorative pieces also reign heavily in this style. Again, all are conscious choices to further lend themselves to the bright, open, and airy feel of the space. 

3.      Minimalism – Minimalist rejoice in the commonalities they find with the Scandinavian style. Simplicity is a necessity.  Purposefulness is on purpose. The Scandinavian technique does not lend itself to nonessentials.  

The lack of clutter is an earmark of the style. Again, borrowing from the constraints of geography, there is little in the way of excess. There is a deep respect for clean, functional, and practical choices. In a region that had to learn to do more with less, excess was not a consideration. You’ll find a respect for “white space” which is honored throughout. You’ll discover that empty spaces don’t need to be filled but are allowed to exist by their value alone.

Again, these are all conscious choices provided for the maximizing of light, brightness, and sense of open space. 

4.      Wood – Directly influenced by the natural surroundings of the Scandinavian mountains and forests, the use of wood plays heavily in the home. The beautiful textures of pale, lite-hued woods figure prominently in the choices concerning flooring, cabinetry, toys, and accessories. 

Oak, beech, ash, and pine are commonly used wood preferences. These light-colored woods help preserve the goal of uniform light in the room and add a sensation of space. The natural textures and color of these woods add balance to the abundance of white colors that permeate the design.

5.      Plants – Another obvious choice for adding life and color to a space is the careful selection of plants and other greenery.

The addition of plants to the design utilizes another natural element reminiscent of warm, cheerful times. The forebearers of the style understood the emotional and psychological challenges the climate presented. Overall well-being appeared to weigh heavily into their choices, and that certainly holds today in our high-stressed and overstimulated environment. Aside from the visual appeal, the use of air-purifying, live plants in the mix adds additional health benefits.

6.      Functionality – A workable space is a crucial element in the Scandinavian style. This seems reasonable when one considers the Scandinavian climate and culture as we’ve described.  Space and everything in it generally have reason or purpose. To borrow from our minimalist friends, there is little to no excess found in this method. Thus, the furniture and objects in the space are used and have a reason for being there. They aren’t filler. 

Making design selections with a pragmatic mindset preserves the lack of complication distinctive to the style.  Appointments and accompaniments are generally simple yet sophisticated. The modesty in the selections maintains our basic and bare fundamentals. Picks are mechanically durable and reliable. Once again, these are practical decisions made to keep things simple.

7.      Clean lines – I tend to believe if one is making design decisions based on the elements as mentioned earlier, clean lines will happen naturally.  At least more easily. By omitting ornate and excess much of a room’s distractions are thereby eliminated. If we select pieces based on functionality and practicality, additional noise is gone. We are left with furniture and articles that are modern and clean-cut. Basic and bare tend to leave us with straight lines and symmetry vital to preserving the Scandinavian way and appearance.

8.      Accents – With all the essential elements covered, let’s examine accents indicative of the Scandinavian approach so we can pull the whole look together.

When selecting our furniture and accents, we must keep all the elements of the Scandinavian form in mind. Primarily we’re looking for white or muted hues and remember that preserving and enhancing the light and brightness are rules #1 and #2. Keeping with the minimalist approach and insuring functionality and practicality in our selections, and honoring our respect for the fundamental white space, let’s begin talking accents.

Let me preface this next part with a thought of a personal nature rather than leaving it for closing. I’ve outlined the essential elements of the Scandinavian style in an informational or educational point of facts. I want to make sure you understand, when we are talking about your space, your home, be flexible with the rules. You must be happy in your area. It must also be reflective of the personality of the people that live in it. So, you have my permission (if you feel you need it) to do your own thing. Put your spin on the style. Get creative and incorporate elements of other techniques you love. A home shouldn’t be inflexible and rigid. So relax and don’t stress! If you’re going hardcore on the Scandinavian style kudos! If you’re using it as a guide, that is awesome too! 

To continue, in the Scandinavian manner, floors are mostly bare with accented rugs. Sheepskins are often reflective of the style as well. Wooden mats or other naturally derived coverings would work well. Consider whitewashed flooring for a truly dramatic look.

Add lots of texture to your space with deliberately selected textiles in keeping with the Scandinavian look. Functional and practical, blankets, throws and cozy quilts and pillows are perfect picks. Organic materials make the best selections. I’ve often heard it said that “cozy” was a keyword to keep in mind when working in the Scandinavian style. Light, bright, warm, and cozy work for me!

The furniture you adopt for the Scandinavian space will generally be simple yet stylish. It should incorporate the two magical rudiments of functionality and practicality. Trendy and contemporary do not fit into the strictest interpretations of the style. To maximize space, overstuffed and exceptionally large pieces should be avoided. Natural and basic wood items such as tables, shelving, and carvings should undoubtedly be considered.

In keeping with the clean lines and symmetry aspects, books and simply-framed artwork make great options.  Less is more and straight lines should prevail. Smooth finishes and rounded edges are extremely characteristic of the style.

Previously mentioned, mirrors are a must! Clear-glass, functional pieces such as vases and receptacles are often incorporated.

I’m personally fond of the addition of recess lighting, wall sconces, lamps, and candles. Wooden baskets and dried plants add to the naturally found ingredients. I love bringing as much of the outdoors inside up to and including rocks with character, color or shape. 

Pieces with simple geometric shapes and designs are safe selections when keeping with a neutral color and clutter-free mindset. 

In recent years, the addition of metal finishes in combination with wood has added a bit of dramatic flair for those that need a little more “pop” in their Scandinavian style motif. 

And if you simply must, dabble with a hit of bright color accents in moderation just because I said you could! 

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