Scandinavian Interior Design – Philosophy and Style

Caroline Broman

Scandinavian interior design is known for its minimalistic and simplistic approach together with soft hues and an affection for nature.

For over 10 years, curating Scandinavian interior design spaces have become my norm. And was also a style I commonly leaned towards as an interior consultant.

With that I figured out it is now time to do a deep dive into all things about the Scandinavian Interior style.

All with an outcome to hopefully inspire you on how to get the Scandinavian style, what is the known Scandinavian characteristic, where to shop. And most importantly get a feel of the philosophy and thought behind the style.

Scandinavian interior design
Fredenborgs house by norm architects

What is Scandinavian interior design?

As touched on briefly above the Scandinavian decoration style is based on a philosophy on functional and simple designs. A need for warm, light and airy spaces together with a closeness to nature and natural materials are important elements.

Investing in natural materials like leather and wood of quality is common and can be seen in almost any home. A focus on quality over quantity is visible. And with that you will also see Scandinavian design companies bringing up topics like sustainability.

A need for warm, light and airy spaces together with a closeness to nature


Scandinavian interior design characteristics and features

Below you will find features and characteristics that are known to this design style and that you can implement in your space. All to help you to get that oh so nice Scandinavian interior look.


Hopefully they will inspire…

Simple clean lines

Scandinavian interior design kitchen
Photo from Alvhem

In Scandinavian homes you will usually find clean lines throughout the space. This will be shown through objects, the way the design is laid out together with other elements.

Greenery

Scandinavian interior design
Photo from Alvhem

Scandinavian interior design
Photo credit to Historiska hem

Being surrounded by forest and nature is common in these countries. And with that you will also commonly find plants and flowers in these spaces. Plants and flowers are very easily accessible. For people living in houses they usually pick fresh flowers in their own garden and for the other, during summer and spring months, the forests have plenty of them. If you are going for this look, investing in some knowledge around how to care for plants and flowers might be handy.

Natural light

Scandinavian interior design
Found via Coco Lapine, styled by Grey Deco, photographed by Anders Bergstedt for Alvhem
Scandinavian interior design
Found via Coco Lapine, styled by Grey Deco, photographed by Anders Bergstedt for Alvhem

With the long dark winter months, it is no wonder that Scandinavians crave light and light-filled spaces.

Less is more

Scandinavian interior design
Photo from Alvhem

Scandinavian interior designs that you see nowadays is usually known for this simple look. Don’t over complicate. Keep things that you care about and like but try to focus on a minimal approach.

Functional decoration

Scandinavian interior design
Photo from Alvhem

Scandis knows how to decorate and style with functional and useful objects. Objects that serves a purpose more than looking nice. Do an inventory of your space and highlight functional objects that you have at hand and that also inspire you. Create a focal wall around them.

Wood floors and details

Scandinavian interior design
Interior design by Joanna Laajisto

It is no surprise that wood would be a Scandinavian design characteristic that Scandis love. We know from above that, mother nature and natural objects have an importance and meaning to them. A quick home decor improvement for you, would be to incorporate wood flooring and other details around your space.

Fire places and stoves

Scandinavian interior design
Photo from Alvhem

For cold days a fire place or a fire stove is simply a must. Not only does it heat up the space but also adds such a character of older homes in Sweden. Really love this feature.

Carpets

Scandinavian interior design
Found via Coco Lapine, styled by Grey Deco, photographed by Anders Bergstedt for Alvhem

The use of area rugs is common in most rooms. And it is also common to change the rug during different seasons. Like this you will be able to focus on a lighter decor during summer and a darker one during winter.

Colors are usually rather subtle

Scandinavian interior design
Photo from Alvhem
Scandinavian interior design
Photo from Alvhem

Colors are kept natural and subtle. Not too much, not too little (lagom) as they say in Sweden. Usually wall colors are of light colors, as well as kitchens and fitted decors. It goes back again to the crave of simplicity, minimalism and also crave of light.

Juxtaposing

Scandinavian interior design
Interior by AnnaLena.Interiors and found via MyParadissi

Mix up and balance stark lines and materials with warmer materials. Like this the spaces feels both warm, soft yet fresh.

Graphic posters

Scandinavian interior design
Photo from Alvhem

Common to Scandinavian interiors is the graphic posters on the walls. Whether you hang them or lean them. Say it through forms and words on the wall.



What do you think – will you implement some of the Scandinavian interior design ideas above?

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So what about trends (as you may know I am not an avid follower of decor trends). But some that I have seen popping up are:

Dark wood: Used in kitchens and flooring
Darker and more musty colors: Can be found on furniture and walls.
Form before function: Decoration pieces don’t serve a purpose as much as before, but can be there purely for the look.
No longer only less is more: More decorative rooms filled with objects from travels instead of clean surfaces.
Plants indoor: And plenty of them.


Scandinavian interior design
Photo from Alvhem

Scandinavian colours

So what about colors? When it comes to Scandinavian interior colors in these type of spaces there is a difference between traditional and more contemporary colors.

The traditional homes usually had red hue, cream color, blue navy, yellow, and green. This changed and later became a mix of stark whites combined with bold graphical prints. Other known Scandinavian colors are subtle and natural hues.

See Also
scandinavian living room


Scandinavian interior design color chaty

Minimalism

Close to my heart is not only the Scandinavian design, but also the minimalism approach. These two aspects is most probably why I am leaning towards this design philosophy when I decorate my own spaces.

When looking at minimalism and simplistic interior design one can spot a difference between Scandinavian Minimalism and other regions. While they keep the same approach of using the different design principles, nordic designs usually have a more closeness to natural materials than some other minimalist spaces.

Mother nature is important to Scandi people

A question that I have been thinking about a lot lately. With around 2,940,086 images on Instagram attached to the hashtag, Scandinavian design, and around 60,000 searchers monthly on Google, it is clear that this style has made an online impact on the design community. So with that information, why do I think that this style is so popular?


Here are my thoughts:

  • The impact the Scandinavian interior design bloggers had on the online design world early on for sure had some impact. Scandinavian countries were early adaptors for blogging and influencing.
  • An increasing interest in minimalism. The wish of downsizing and having a sleek yet warm interior makes Scandinavian homes attractive.
  • 3. More awareness abroad of Scandinavian shops like Ikea.

Where can I buy Scandinavian decor?

It is super easy today to find online Scandinavian interior shops and Scandinavian designed furniture. Some pointers here is to source different shops and to look for the one that offers free shipping, as the shipping really varies depending where you are located.

Scandinavian design on a budget – is it possible? 

While the word budget can mean different things to different people. I have here listed some ideas about what you can do and where to source the products.

  • There are plenty of DIY ideas and step by step guides to save some bucks for the person who feels brave or for the one with the lucky DIY gene. An example that I really like is this lamp by Scandinavian feeling.
  • Auctions and flea markets: If you constantly keep a lookout you might be lucky to jump into some good pieces.
  • Look in some mainstream shops. Check out Huffposts list of Scandinavian online shops.
  • Look out for companies that partner with Ikea products, like Reform.

A minimalism approach to decoration

DESIGN PHILOSPHY

Where does this Scandinavian interior design style come from?

So lastly lets look back a bit at the history of this design style. Traditional Scandinavian interior design originates from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. These three countries make up the Scandinavian region, north of Europe.

(One thing to add is that Finland geographically do not belong to Scandinavia, but in the design world is often included in the Scandi design style.)

The term Scandinavian interior design originates from around the 1950’s. The design style was influenced by clean lines, simplistic and functional designs. During this time there was a hype around modern furniture designers, like Alvar Alto and Hans J Wegner. All which had similar design philosophy and who’s name for sure pops up if you search for the history of this design style.

And with that little history lesson I hope you have enjoyed this Scandinavian interior design guide. Since I am collecting all things about Scandinavia I would love to hear below your go-to design shops, blogs for inspiration, instagram accounts etc.



KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Think less is more
  • Play with natural light
  • Use natural materials
  • Use subtle colors
Scandinavian interior design
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