Scandinavian interior design is one of the most recognizable and emulated interior design styles in the interior design world. Because of its purposeful simplicity, Scandi design is widely loved by many. For some, it’s the elegant and sophisticated look and feel of the space, and the way warmth and light are prioritised. For others, it's all about the intelligent, pragmatic design of the furniture and interiors.
Whatever your reason is, Scandinavian design lays wonderful foundations for design; many of which you can build on with your own design style and taste. In this article, you’ll find out more about the history of Scandinavian design, and how to achieve the look without sacrificing your own design personality.
Where and how did Scandinavian design originate?
Well, the “where” is in the name! Scandinavian design started in the Scandinavian region, comprising Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Finland.
When it comes to the “how”, the story gets really interesting. In the interwar period from 1918 to 1939, many Nordic designers started thinking about the effects of mass production and how they could elevate design. The modern, mechanical violence many had witnessed or heard of during WW1 was influencing how intellectuals and artists thought about the future and progress.
This led to Scandinavian designers playing around with the natural features of different materials, in an attempt to create a design that used organic structure to its benefit. This was done to ease mass production without compromising functionality and beauty.
What resulted from these efforts was an incredible range of sleek, groundbreaking furniture that took the Scandinavian name worldwide. Some notable designers include Alvar Aalto, Borge Mogensen, Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton, Hans J. Wegner, Poul Henningsen and Maija Isola.
How did we go from Scandinavian furniture to an interior design style?
There is no clear answer for this one. Rather, a set of circumstances that transformed furniture into style. First notable mention is the Lunning Prize, which ran from 1951 to 1970. This yearly event highlighted the eminent designers in the Scandinavian furniture design space, which led to a more solid and consistent definition of what Scandi design looked and felt like.
Second and last, the rise of Scandinavian furniture design had to influence what interior designers were doing: otherwise how could these pieces be used in conjunction with others in a single space? Because Scandinavian furniture prioritised sleekness, function and neutrality, the rest of the room had to do the same; and so some principles for Scandinavian interior design were born!
Ok, maybe we’re exaggerating with the word “principles”. There are no set rules on what Scandinavian interior design looks like. In fact, we have a tendency to group all Scandinavian interior designers in this box when not all of them are partaking in the same style whatsoever. Nevertheless, it would be misleading to say that there is nothing tying Scandinavian design together.
In this section, we’ll go through some of the foundations that currently define Scandinavian design, and some products that can help you achieve the look.
01. Neutral palettes
Scandinavian design is renowned for its subdued and controlled use of colours. While a pop of something is nothing to fear, the overall palette of your space should be tightly controlled. This is done to create an illusion of space and calm, which colours may interrupt.