What defines Scandinavian Design?

Every few years, a new design pops up and lasts for a few months or a year. We’ve seen multiple designs from rustic farmhouse to eclectic bohemian rise to prominence and then getting buried in history. Scandinavian style is the only style that has stood the test of time. The style is suitable for those who believe in the beauty of simplicity. Since the early 20th century, the Scandinavian style has been a sense of minimalism and functionality. It includes the use of wood, leather, and hemp. The style is inspired by nature through a combination of natural shapes and usage of natural elements.


Scandinavian Style Design: What is it?

Scandinavian Style Design is a design marked by focusing on simple lines, minimalism, and functionality without throwing beauty out of the window. White walls, modern furniture, wood floors, and lack of clutter, all those elements are part of the Scandinavian aesthetic. This type of design originated from Nordic influences.

Scandinavian style is also a clean design. The style is even more popular because it is tidy and inviting. If you work at home, especially in the current Covid-19 restrictions, the Scandinavian style can be great to implement. It transforms your home into a serene environment away from the busy world.


The Scandinavian Countries

Scandinavia comprises Northern European countries, namely, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. While some people mention Finland and Iceland as part of Scandinavia, they are not! However, all five nations are considered Nordic countries.

Sweden and Norway sit on the Scandinavian Peninsula, while Denmark is situated in the south of Sweden. All the Nordic countries have inspired the Scandinavian style design in fashion, lifestyle, beauty, graphic design, architecture, urban planning, furniture, lighting, and home decoration.

For sure, the Scandinavian Style design is vast and touches almost all aspects of life. You may have noticed some Nordic style design elements in John Wick movies. The pencil weapon, however, was solely Keanu Reeves’ idea.

Danish Design Essential

Simplicity, functionality, and elegance – these are the calling cards of Danish design. Known for its sleek lines and sophistication, Denmark is also the country you’re most likely to find a touch of luxury. Chairs are most commonly associated with Danish design, but the industry has found roots in fashion, beauty, electronics, ceramics, and homeware alongside furniture and product design. Denmark is also now the only country to host a fashion week in the Scandinavian countries.

Swedish Design Essential

Photo by IKEA
Photo by IKEA
Photo by IKEA

Swedish design is minimalist, with an emphasis on functionality and clean lines. Its most famous export, IKEA, also emphasizes democratic design, meaning good, the quality design should be accessible to all – especially when it comes to furniture. Sweden is also known for its traditional crafts, including glass, the instantly recognizable Dala horse, and Sami handicrafts. These are the bone and leather items crafted by the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sápmi.

Norwegian Design Essential

Photo by fjordfiesta
Photo by fjordfiesta

Factors such as nature-inspired forms, graceful lines, and light are prominent in Norwegian design, but its biggest influence is a function. Norway’s design is geared towards the outdoors and thriving in harsh winters, with very little room for luxury. Instead, a sense of well-being is found in comfortable and robust.

Finnish Design Essential

photo and inspiration by finnishdesignshop.com
photo and inspiration by finnishdesignshop.com

Finnish design is about more than looks. In Finland, the design is about the nature that surrounds it as it is about the everyday lives it needs to support. Finns take inspiration from nature and turn it into objects, architecture, and a blueprint for a way to live. There’s an emphasis on timeless, natural design, recognizing that everything is borrowed from nature and will one day return.

Icelandic Design Essential

Photo by FÓLK
Photo by FÓLK
Photo by FÓLK

Contemporary Icelandic design is perhaps an anomaly amongst Scandinavian design. While it’s by no means impractical, it is perhaps the most avant-garde, as the need for resourcefulness and innovation in a country so limited when it comes to natural resources have seen creativity flourish. Wool is ever-present and plays a large part in Icelandic traditional design, while more modern materials like fish-leather can be found in modern contemporary design.


The History of the Scandinavian Design

Photo by Architonic
Photo by Architonic

The Scandinavian design sprung in the 1930s within the five Nordic countries. The term should be Nordic design, as some people call it. The title “Scandinavian design” was a design show that traveled through the US and Canada from 1954 and 1957.

The design promoted the Nordic culture, their simple ways of living, and various works of their designers. The philosophy emphasized on simple designs and clean lines that were inspired by climate and nature to create an outstanding Nordic design.

It promoted fantastic designs and quality and sustainability that were not only affordable but also accessible to people from different backgrounds. The exhibitions played a crucial role in introducing the Nordic design principles to North America and Europe.

The core principles haven’t changed a bit. The emphasis remains, “create a nature-inspired, minimalist space which focuses on function as well as simplicity.” Scandinavian style brings a divine look, and it’s the best definition of “cleanliness is next to godliness.”


The Importance of the Design

Photo by visitfinland.com – Creator: Kira Gluschkoff – Copyright: Kira Gluschkoff

Practical Beauty

Scandinavian designers look at the objects function and create beauty with it, rather than decorating and filling up a place. The goal is to choose every aspect carefully to serve a specific purpose in the room.

Despite most Scandinavians having a few furnishings in every room, the colorful minimalism creates an ambient and welcoming feeling in those rooms. Each piece of furniture is elegantly stationed because of its practicality and beauty.

The Difference

The simplicity in Scandinavian design makes it more important than other designs. When designing a piece, designers draw inspiration from the Nordic culture. From sourcing local wood for use to the features, natural shapes, and coloring, it’s evident this design is fantastic.

In the Scandinavian nations, during winter, when the sun hardly shines, homes turn into families’ focal points. The point is to create a home with elegant minimalism and a friendly atmosphere.

The importance of furniture holds in many homes is the reason why Scandinavian designers do their best to create bright and functional rooms. That’s why Scandinavian design is alluring and refreshing compared to other designs.

You Embrace an Identity

When investing in the Nordic design, you are doing more than having a beautiful piece of furniture. You are promoting people’s pride, identity, and investing in their history.

One of the founders of Scandinavian design, a Swedish philosopher, Ellen Kay, wrote a book in 1899 titled ‘Skönhet För Alla’ (Beauty for All.) In the book, she aims to change the society. Kay argues, ‘fewer but better things which work well are more attractive.”

This idea is what inspired the Scandinavian design today. It’s also the reason many people prefer the signature style.


Various Nordic Styles according to Specific Areas

1. Architecture & Urban Planning

One of the things that make the Scandinavian style popular is the rich influence the architects and designers possess worldwide, especially in modern architecture. Sleek, uniquely shaped skyscrapers with environmentally-smart yet human-friendly designs define Scandinavian architecture. They can be seen all over the world.

Scandinavian architecture also means the natural way of life. It helps homeowners stay close and connect with nature, even in urban surroundings. In a Nordic setting, a house is made with pine logs and features wood surface finishing inside and outside. The large windows give a vivid view of the surroundings and create a connection with nature.

There are five principals of Scandinavian Architecture, namely:

# Light

Designers use natural light to illuminate every space. They use massive translucent walls, glassed roofs, skylights, and they are generous with windows.

# Comfort

Long winters and cold weather subjects the Scandinavians to spend most of their time indoors. This culture led to the “hygge” (The word hygge comes from a Danish word meaning “to give courage, comfort, joy”.) concept. The concept can be achieved by creating cozy spaces, using natural textures, using the right materials, colors, and shapes to improve comfort.

# Energy Efficiency

For Scandinavians, heating their homes is essential. Living in a place where people’s lives are at risk if they run out of fuel requires energy solutions. From cabins to skyscrapers, they build everything with a central focus of utilizing the available energy while reducing the building’s carbon footprint. That’s why the Scandinavian architecture leads as the world’s best green, environmentally-friendly option.

# Sleek shapes

Designs vary from simple to complex compositions. Even when creating these designs, they remain clean and away from any distractive elements to ensure the building is fully functional without compromising its appearance.

# Connection with Nature

Scandinavians focus on aspects such as aesthetical beauty, building with local materials, and merging projects to their specified terrain. All the sentiments can be applied to any architectural design.

2. Graphic Design

If you have come across Scandinavian art before, you probably noticed that the graphic design colors had high contrast and vibrant colors. Most people believe the bright colors are due to the greyish nature of these regions. They tend to have long, dark winters.

Graphic designers have to use bright colors for more creativity and brighten up their designs. This is why you see many vibrant colors in Scandinavia. The characteristics of the esthetic are simplicity, minimalism, and form. Artists squeeze more value and utility for less while achieving a beautiful Scandinavian design.

The designs are nature-inspired. People from Nordic countries love the outdoors. It’s common to see babies bundled up in carriages outside, even in harsh weather. It’s no brainer that the Scandinavian graphic designs are inspired by the leaves, barks, trees, wood, and other gifts from nature.

The traditional designs contain patterns arranged symmetrically via animal or flat botanical illustrations. For instance, you might come across vivid dala horses, colorful evergreen tree silhouettes, stylized geometric flowers or snowflakes, or cheery folk art birds. If you have ever worn a Christmas sweater, it’s almost certain it’s a Scandinavian pattern.

3. Fashion, Beauty, & Lifestyle

Scandinavians have their own style, and it is part of their lives. The whole world admires their fashion and way of dressing. You may be wondering how they look fantastic, and the ladies are beautiful, but the truth is, they were not born like that. If you want to look like them, simply copy their gorgeous style, and they will assume you are one of them.

Casual Nordic wear comprises a great coat, jeans, knitwear, and a lot of basics like a watch and shoes to wear them with.

When it comes to beauty, Nordic makeup is all about keeping things natural while slightly enhancing your features. Most Nordic girls prefer giving their skins a little breather or a fresher and lighter look because it’s simple and natural, and it helps them look healthy and polished. Scandinavian products are all-natural and are not harmful to the skin.

On matters of lifestyle, people from Nordic countries have been named the happiest people in the world. Plenty of surveys have proven so. The close relationship they have with their surrounding nature has made them appreciate simple and authentic things: the results, a healthy ecological way of living. You can draw inspiration from the Nordic lifestyle and become a happier soul!

4. Furniture, Lighting & Home Decoration

When people hear of Scandinavian style design, what comes to mind is the Nordic furniture, lighting, and home decorations styles. The Nordic style is for those who love nature, uncluttered space, and modern size.

The Scandinavian design features some of the best furniture designs in the world. They are modern, simple, and functional. The wood furniture is incorporated wherever possible to bring the outdoors in. Most of them are built with oak, pine, maple, and teak wood.

The Scandinavian style designers focus on lighting as one of its elements. Scandinavians are experts in lighting. They hardly see any natural daylight during the winter months, and in summers, the sun barely sets. These conditions demanded innovative use of light. Their lighting is all about neutral colors, focused floor lamps, glass roofs, and large windows.

Price Vs. Quality

Scandinavian furniture is of high quality yet characterized by minimalism, functionality, and beauty. Everything produced in a Nordic country is an integral part of the people. Everything from furniture to architecture or clothing to food combines the timeless appeal and high quality. They all create a distinctive style that’s meant to last in every sense.

That said, you may be wondering about whether it’s expensive to transform your home into a Scandinavian style inspired one. I may not address the price question, but you get the value for your money. The quality of furniture, fabrics, architecture, and even their food is outstanding.

The prices can be high, but again, quality determines the price. Even though it’s about quality, don’t be fooled to spend more on a product because it has hygge inscribed on it. However, buying them may cost more upfront, but you will save a lot of money over time.

Final Words

Designs come either in trends or timeless staples. Trends come and go, but timeless staples like the Scandinavian style are here to stay. It’s been around for so long, and it remains wonderful to those who love it. So, embrace minimalist design, brighten up your life, be happy, and leave it up the Scandi lifestyle.

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