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The Basics of Scandinavian Interior Design

Scandinavian interior design is known for a reason. Discover the brightest talents of today.

Styling by Emma Hos
The Basics of Scandinavian Interior Design
Clara Carlino de Paz
January 17, 2024

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Scandinavian interior design is known for a reason. Discover the brightest talents of today.

Neutral, sleek, and cosy: Scandinavian style is the perfect foundation for your next design.

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.

By the way, we are Portaire. We give designers the tools to source, specify and schedule interior design and architectural products. You can create an account for free here.

Where and how did Scandinavian design originate?

Well, the “where” is in the name! Scandinavian design started in the Scandinavian region also known as Scandinavia, 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 the modern Scandinavian home. Prepare yourself for the coziness and minimalism provided by nordic countries' love for natural materials, clean lines, modern furniture and sophistication.

What is the Scandinavian interior design style?

And more importantly... How do you achieve it? Hygge is all about that feeling of cosiness you derive from a well furnished and conceptualised space. In the Scandinavian context, it often refers to neutral palettes, high quality furniture, natural materials and warm lights.

01. Beyond monochrome neutral palettes

Scandinavian design is renowned for its subdued and controlled use of colors. 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 colors may interrupt.

A typical approach includes a neutral color scheme, often including a monochrome vibe with black and white accents. The fact that you're going for a neutral colour palette doesn't mean that bright colors are totally off the table. You can add greenery for a natural element that possesses that distinctive "pop" or you can even add some colorful wood furniture, wall art or ceramics.

02. To Ikea or not? Sculptural simplicity and decor

As we just explained, Scandinavian craftsmanship starts and ends with design – smart design. So, when you’re choosing elements of your interiors, think about function, simplicity and ease. Traditional Scandinavian interior design is all about high quality furniture and accessories, many of which you'll find in mid-century modern specialised shops. If you're adventurous and in Europe, we would highly suggest sourcing from shops located in Copenhagen or Stockholm. They will have the most authentic Scandinavian decor possible, and will add a touch of beauty and sophistication to your next design. Of course, you might have budget constraints, in which case we'd suggest looking at Ikea. Beyond their usual range, you'll surprised at their pieces, which take inspiration from nordic design and the natural world.

03. Scandinavia needs all the bright, warm light it can get – fireplace or not!

Scandinavians are known for many things: but sunlight is not one of them, especially during the harsh winter months. To balance this lack of natural light, it is key for designers to prioritise lighting that makes a statement without overwhelming the senses.

04. Soft textiles to provide visual interest

Sleekness and elegance might be a priority, but that doesn’t mean things should be boring! To incorporate a little more visual noise, we suggest incorporating soft textures that give off a cosy “hygge” vibe.

05. Introduce vintage elements

The rich history of the Scandinavian interior design movement means that there is a wide variety of vintage and antique pieces available to source from. Go beyond the modern ranges and investigate the old stuff in the back room... That's where you'll find the real gems!

mid century furniture
Via Architonic

06.  Invest in rugs – you won't regret it!

Let's imagine something together. You're in your gorgeous dining room, surrounded with home decor that emulates that found in Scandinavian countries. There is no clutter, just a neutral color palette, a Bauhaus inspired chair set and a 20th century table. You turn to the living room, barefoot, and feel the wool underneath you, keeping the house warm, cozy and beautiful. It is a simple home environment, but it's yours. Now, that is the power of a rug. Don't hesitate and add one to your next design!

scandinavian interior design
Rug by Nordic Knots via Scandinavia Standard

Clichés are normally overstatements, but here, they have space. Scandinavian design is special, and it does what it’s supposed to. There are thousands of fantastic Scandinavian and Scandinavian-style interior designers, and here you’ll meet some of our favourites. Scroll down for more.

Our favourite Scandinavian interior designers

Now that you know the basics when it comes to nordic interior design, we believe it's time to five into some amazing examples of interior designers putting these principles in action. As an interior design software company, we see some amazing interior design on a daily basis, so for these designers to stand out they really have to have something unique, special and totally chic. We hope you enjoy these designers as much as we have!


Fyra is one of the leading interior design agencies in Finland. Established in 2010, this interior design agency specialises in working environments, retail, hotel and restaurant spaces. Their style is always client-focused and elevated, with a strong focus on pre-existing architecture and legacy.

scandinavian interior design

Space Coppenhagen

Founded in 2005 by Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützoum, Space Coppenhagen is a critically-acclaimed interior design and architecture studio. Their approach is self-named as “Poetic Modernism”, which is characterised by contrast, balancing opposites, and minimalism.

scandinavian interior design

Emma Hos

Emma has been working in interior design for over a decade, and her style is mysterious, sophisticated and playful. While keeping Scandinavian principles of neutrality and good design close to her interiors, her spaces are uniquely personal and chic.

Tegnestuen LOKAL

Tegnestuen LOKAL is a Danish interior design and architecture studio founded in 2015. Their objective is to create future-proof, sustainable designs that respects and further develops their Nordic cultural heritage.


Norwegian-founded studio Kvistad is proud of their Scandinavian heritage, and willing to play with futuristic and playful elements. They focus on commercial and working spaces full of joy and excitement.

scandinavian interior design

Ingela Berg

Ingela is passionate about creating sustainable interiors that prioritise genuineness and warmth. Her color palette is subdued, and unafraid of using pockets of darkness to create balance and comfort.


Yatofu is a Helsinki-based international interior design studio. Their projects span many countries and cultures, which makes their designs almost liminal in their otherworldliness and simplicity.

Thank you for reading! We're so happy you read our article and hopefully got what you needed. If you're an interior designer looking for software solutions, we may have what you need here at Portaire. We help interior designers source, specify and schedule architectural materials. On one hand, this means creating a directory with some of our trusted luxury brands, who offer the leading edge in interior design.  On the other, we build software that simplifies the design process and connects the work of designers with that of their team mates, contractors and clients. If you'd like to experience Portaire, don't hesitate to join our platform for free.

If you have any suggestions for content or you have a particular topic you'd like us to research, please contact us at From tech tools you want to try to interior designers you want to meet, we're always open to exploring new fields of interior design. If you like face-to-face content the best, you can also check out our YouTube channel and see if we've covered the subject you're interested in. Without further ado, thank you!