Imagine a home decor style that conveys the simple serenity of a crisp winter's day, bright and airy, but warm and homey, all at the same time. Open living spaces are awash in sunlight but simply furnished with only the essentials, with each piece carefully chosen for its utility and comfort. If this sounds appealing to you, then you will most likely appreciate the serene beauty of the Scandinavian design aesthetic.
Simplicity and respect for nature are at the heart of Scandinavian design. The primary elements are:
- Lots of natural light
- Open living spaces designed for multiple purposes.
- Pale, cool colors, primarily white, light gray, or blue, accented with more vibrant colors or black.
- Light-colored wood flooring, trim, and cabinetry
- Eco-friendly materials like leather, stone, wood, and hemp
- Minimal decorative items
- Simply designed furnishing chosen for form and utility
- Warm and lush natural textiles
This style of decorating is beautifully elegant in its simplicity which makes it easy to create regardless of budget. Keep reading to learn more about Scandinavian decor, and how to apply each of these elements to your home. And no, Scandinavian Design was not invented at Ikea - although their catalog often showcases its variations.
What is Scandinavian Decor?
Scandinavian Decor first appeared in the 1930s in the Nordic countries, encouraging the philosophy of functionality, simplicity, and clean lines. The main goal of living space was to promote connectivity with nature and a simple lifestyle. It was the antithesis of the history-heavy decor of the early 20th century with its emphasis in clean lines and bright, open spaces. A priority was placed on an affordable, practical design that made the most of small living spaces.
Scandinavian design took on a life of its own, differing from minimalism due to the harsh conditions of the Nordic region. Spaces were designed to take advantage of the daylight during long winter months, and warm, cozy elements were added to soften the cold utility of the minimalist palette. Various designers such as Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, and Borge Mogensen, were instrumental in the development of the style.
The Lunning Prize, for outstanding Scandinavian design, was created, which added credibility and cache to the design style. It afforded a cash prize to upcoming talented Scandinavian designers, as well as a chance to showcase their work in the New York store belonging to Georg Jensen, a prominent designer. This prize was available from 1951 through 1970.
It further gained popularity in the 1950s, when the Brooklyn Museum held is "Design in Scandinavia" in 1954. This really kicked off an appreciation of the style in America.
The Nordic Countries
Each of the five Nordic Countries - Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, And Norway -had their own input into the development of the Scandinavian design aesthetic.
In Denmark, the design was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus School where designers created items around the ideals of form and functionality. It leans heavily on technology and innovation to create items that were useful and comfortable. The word 'hygge' originated from Danish and means "an atmosphere of warmth and coziness", which is prevalent in Danish decor.
Design in Iceland
Iceland had very limited resources, so they are known to be very creative and innovative with what they have. Icelandic decor is cool and simple, with wool being a primary textile due to its commonplace availability.
Swedish design emphasizes efficiency and functionality. It utilizes clean lines and primary light color interiors with pops of color. Furniture combines straight lines with soft curves. It also incorporates traditional crafts, like Swedish glass.
Finnish design places an emphasis on its relationship with nature to create simply designed items that are well-crafted and timeless. Textiles are frequently patterned and bright bursts of color can be found giving life to neutral living spaces.
As one of the northern-most countries with short winter days, Norwegian design takes lighting very seriously. Rooms are designed to make the most of any available natural light, as well as incorporates simple lighting arrangements to bring a cozy glow when the sun in hiding. Designs are simple and cozy, yet tend to have a quirky edge.
What Are The Main Elements of Scandinavian Decor
Scandinavian Decor focuses on the relationship between humans and nature. There is an emphasis on simplicity, natural products, light, and comfort.
Lots of Natural Light
Due to the long winters, with short hours of daylight, Scandinavian design makes the most of whatever precious sunlight is available. Large open rooms with undressed windows and streamlined furniture minimize the infiltration of shadows and keep things light and bright.
This room boasts large skylights as well as a large picture window to allow as much light in as possible. Crisp white walls and pale wood floors reflect the light and keep the room bright and cheery.
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Keeping the colors in the room limited to the natural wood tones against white everything else emphasizes the light streaming in from the large windows.
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Open Living Spaces
By leaving out partitions from walls, smaller square footage homes can seem larger, as well as brighter as there is nothing standing in the way of the lighting. The Scandinavian design makes the most of a small space with innovative design with hidden cabinets, sleek furniture, and objects that do double duty.
In this small apartment, the lack of partition, pale colors and sleek, minimal furniture give the impression that there is more space than there really is. Flat front cabinetry in the kitchen area is the same color as the walls so it all blends together and keeps clutter hidden away.
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The furniture in this room is placed carefully to prevent blocking ay of the precious light coming through the large window at the end of the space. The view is the focal point of the living quarters creating a connection with the natural world outside.
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Pale Cool Colors
Light colors that are cool in nature are typically used in the Scandinavian decor. These colors emphasize the light and are a reflection of the environment in these areas.
An entirely white room, accented with dark wood elements, makes the most of the light in a small room.
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With an emphasis on eco-friendliness and using natural materials, wood is a natural fit. Light-colored wood is most commonly used in order to keep the look bright and cheery. Teak, Oak, and Rosewood are commonly used.
Wall-to-Wall carpet is not used in this design style, opting for wood floors with area rugs instead.
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The nearly white wood floor is used throughout all of the rooms tying everything together.
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The core philosophy of Scandinavian decor lends itself to being very eco-friendly but using minimally processed, natural resources like leather, hemp, stone, and wood.
Green plants add color and vibrancy to light-colored rooms, as in this room below. The unique chandelier made from natural wood and the large tree fill the open room and bring the outdoors indoors.
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Sleek wooden chairs that are only slightly darker in color than the flooring add graceful beauty to the room.
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Minimal Decorative Items
Scandinavian design is not afraid of white space. In fact, it embraces the lack of clutter. As in minimalism, each piece in a room should be chosen carefully for what it adds to the room. In Scandinavian design, you can go one further in that the items should be useful as well as decorative.
As you can see in this home, decorative items are kept to a minimum and are mostly white to blend in with the walls. No pictures adorn the walls, maintaining the serene simplicity of the rooms.
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Here, one large black and white abstract painting is a focal point for the dining room that works with the simple decor and emphasizes the lines of the dining room set.
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Simply Designed Furnishings
Furniture in the Scandinavian style is simple and well-made. It is beautiful in its simplicity in the clean lines and curves and quality craftsmanship.
This table is a perfect example. Large and heavy, it is crafted from light-colored wood that has been minimally handled. Straight lines enable it to almost disappear in the space if it weren't for the gracefully curved white seats on the chairs.
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A simple gray sectional sofa fits right in with the simple style of this decorating style. A furry throw and soft pillows add a cozy element.
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Warm and Lush Natural Textiles
Nordic Countries have long cold winters, so warm cozy interiors are a must. When you consider that the design style is made up of large open rooms that are light-colored and furnished with simple, clean-lined furniture, this might seem challenging.
This is accomplished by using lush natural textiles to add softness to the hard edges. Soft and fuzzy throws and pillows, and thick, furry rugs from wool, woven cotton, and sherpa are great choices.
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Which Materials Are Used for Scandinavian Home Decor?
The most common woods used in this design style are light, unstained woods, especially oak, teak, and rosewood. Floors are usually made from wood planks. Wall trim, cabinetry, and sometimes even natural wood wall panels can be found as well. Gracefully shaped furniture it very commonly made of wood as well.
A simple wooden coffee table is just the right touch for this aesthetic.
Leather furniture is a common addition to a room decorated in this style. Leather is sleek and natural and adds a luxurious element to a room.
A set of brown leather chairs like these will add warmth and character to an otherwise cool dining room. Or use one or two as accent chairs in the living room.
Fabrics made from natural fibers are common, especially warm fabrics, as the Nordic countries can be quite cold. Sheep farming is a common occupation, so wool is in good supply. A woven wool throw or blanket makes a cold room cuddly and warm.
A Merino wool throw blanket can be tossed across a chair waiting for a chilly morning.
Fur is used for the same reason that wool is. It adds warmth and coziness to a room. Furry pillows or floor poufs are a great choice, as are a furry throw blanket.
A furry white stool with wooden legs is a perfect addition to a Scandinavian living room or bedroom. It will add texture without distracting color.
Decorative items or light fixtures made from highly crafted glass is common in Scandinavian decor. This art is typical of the region, so it is frequently incorporated into Nordic homes.
A unique glass light fixture adds style and brightens the long dark days of winter. Look for something that is handcrafted, or that has that look, as that is more in keeping with the craftsmanship found in Scandinavian homes.
Hemp is a renewable resource that is really coming into its own as a building and decorating material. Hemp flooring can be found from select vendors, but the fibers are most commonly found as a woven textile.
A large woven hemp pouf is an easy and unobtrusive way to add more seating or use it as an ottoman when you are curled up on a cold winter's evening.
What Color Schemes Are Typical of Scandinavian Home Decor?
The primary color scheme for Scandinavian decor is white. Other pale colors, like gray and blue, are also commonly used. Rooms can be all pale, or incorporate pops of color to create interest and warmth, but these pops should be minimal.
This room is so white that the windows become the focus of the space. Minimal black items delineate items to set them apart from the white.
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Black and White
This all-white room has just enough black in the window trim, kitchen counters and throw pillows to break up the white and make it less sterile.
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White and Wood
Light wood paneling on the wall matched the base fo the bed in this tiny bedroom. White walls and flooring are
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Gray and White
By using matching light gray for the sofa and area rug instead of white, a faint contract is made between the white of the ceiling, while still breaking up the warmth of the wood floor.
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Blue and White
Blue and white is a beautiful combination and when blue is used as an accent wall, a deeper tone can be used without sacrificing the lightness required from Scandinavian decor. Here the focal wall is a deep blue, which matches the wall art.
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6 Quick Tips For Decorating Any Room in the Scandinavian Style
Scandinavian decor can be applied by any home decorator by following these 6 easy steps:
- Get rid of your carpet and replace with wood floors. Light-colored laminate is an acceptable option as well.
- Paint everything white, or light gray or blue.
- Remove your drapes to let in the maximum amount of light. If you are worried about privacy, cover your windows with peel and stick opaque window glaze. This will allow light to flow in, but block visibility.
- Minimize your clutter. Knick-knacks are a no-go for Scandinavian style, so pack up your tchoskies, and hide away your family photo gallery into an album. Decorative items should be limited to useful items or a rare accent piece. Don't be afraid of blank wall space.
- Furniture should be clean-lined and made from natural materials, like wood. If you are redecorating on a budget, then cover your furniture with simple white slipcovers and paint anything too colorful a bright white.
- Add comfy rugs, fuzzy throw blankets, and cushy pillows to make the room cozy and relaxing.
Scandinavian Furniture By Type (Including Examples)
Try something different! Instead of one large coffee table, try using two smaller, nesting tables. True to the Scandinavian aesthetic, using two tables allows for maximum flexibility. Use them side by side, as separate end tables, or nest the smaller underneath to minimize the space that is taken up.
A cafe-style table provides a place to dine without taking up a premium of space. The right white top and wooden legs blend in with the aesthetic easily.
The matching chairs have the perfect curved shape common for the style and time period.
This blue chaise sleeper will add a bit of color, as well as the utility that is expected from furniture in this design style. This sofa doubles as a sleeper sofa, which makes it ideal for a small space. Add a fuzzy throw blanket, or fluffy pillows to up the comfort.
A simple gray mid-century sofa fits the bill here as well. The clean lines and light color will create the right look.
This simple black faux-leather chair with wood trim is a perfect example of the type of furniture that belongs to this style
Another nice choice with its graceful curves is this wood and charcoal chair. The shape is graceful and will add elegance to your room.
A simple wooden platform bed is all you need for the foundation of your Scandinavian bedroom. No frills are needed, just well-crafted support for your sleeping comfort.
Scandinavian Decor Items
Scandinavian design does not rely on a lot of decorative items, and those that are included are simple and focused.
Add a soft area rug to your room to keep your toes warm! A white rug with a simple gray pattern goes perfectly with this sty without competing for attention.
Scandinavian Wall Decor
Wall decor is very minimal and carefully chose to add to the overall look of the room. Black and white prints are very common, as this abstract print.
Simple greenery also would look very good. These hoops of bright green Eucalyptus are light and natural, as fits the Scandinavian philosophy.
A Stunning Aesthetic, Pure and Simple!
Scandinavian decor is the perfect fit for someone that is looking for a simple, more earthy living space. Light colors and natural materials evoke the calm peacefulness of nature and by eliminating clutter, we can keep our minds clearer and more focused as well.
We hope you enjoyed this guide! Leave us a comment if you made it through to the very end and enjoyed it. If you're interested in design styles, check out the other guides in this series -