written by Pam Hein
“Real comfort, visual and physical, is vital to every room.” Mark Hampton
Scandinavia is an area of Northern Europe and generally considered to consist of
the three countries Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. When it comes to design,
often a broader group of countries is included consisting also of Finland and
Iceland. This group is more accurately described as Norden.
Of course there are as many design styles in Scandinavian and Nordic countries
as there are in any other part of the world, but the style we most closely
associate with Scandinavian Style evolved in the early 20 th Century and
flourished from about 1930 onward. Scandinavian Design represented a
rejection of Victorian mass production and excessiveness and a move towards
functionality and simplified designs. It was built upon handcraft, as seen in the
Arts and Crafts movement, and nature-inspired designs from the Art Nouveau
period. The decorative qualities of these early 20 th Century movements lent
elegance to the up-and-coming Scandinavian Design. The emerging style
married this elegance with characteristics of the Modern Movement, emphasizing
clean lines, geometric shapes, and functionality.
A large part of Scandinavian Design is about creating a feeling rather than a
specific look. The essence of Scandinavian Design is calm and balance. The
Danish have a word that embraces that concept, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah).
The word roughly translates to “coziness” or “creating a warm atmosphere and
enjoying the good things in life with good people.” Over time, this concept has
been incorporated into Scandinavian Design in a number of ways. Light and
nature play important roles in the design, and Nordic interiors often pair rustic
alongside modern forms.
Incorporating Scandinavian Design Into Any Décor
The wonderful thing about design today, and especially about incorporating
vintage into your home, is that you needn’t be a purist. Scandinavian Style
doesn’t have to be white interiors and minimalist spaces. A lot of Scandi and
Nordic Style today mix modern with a rustic or folk-art look. No matter what your
decorating style, here are a few ideas to incorporate a little Scandi-feeling in your
The Nordic countries have long winters, and with that comes minimal hours of
sunlight. To compensate, light and neutral background colors are a standard
Scandinavian design interior feature. Probably the most used neutrals are warm
whites, but soft hues of pinks, gray-blues, and greens are also popular.
Although a soft monotone background has traditionally been associated with 20 th
Century Scandinavian Design, the style also embraces color. Home décor
accessories are often bright and bold and found in every imaginable color from
simple primary colors to vibrant jewel tones.
Natural wood is back in style and trending after years of magazines showing us
nothing but painted woodwork. Think about using warm natural wood for
architectural features such as woodwork and doors. Wood can be incorporated
into large-scale decorative elements in your home with natural wood kitchen
cabinets and beautiful wooden furniture pieces such as sideboards and hutches.
Danish Modern designers used a lot of teak and walnut. Smaller accessories
such as wooden serving trays, bread and cutting boards, wooden boxes, and
wooden candle holders can all lend a warm and natural feel to your interior
Textiles are an excellent way to add some Nordic charm to your interior. Chose
pieces with simple graphic designs and bold colors like those produced by the
Finnish company, Marimekko. If you like a more neutral palette, try color-block
patterns in monotone colors like browns and grays. Simple homespun linen table
runners and tea towels, as well as wool blankets and throws reflect the Scandi
aesthetic. They are functional, beautiful, and lend a sense of comfort.
Glass emerged as an important design material in Nordic countries in the early
20 th Century. Many Scandinavian and Norden glass pieces have an ice-like
quality that mimics nature, but brightly colored glass can also be used to add
pops of color to your space. Glass has brilliant reflective properties helping to
create lightness to an interior.
You can incorporate glass décor items in your interior through glass tableware,
candleholders, and art glass. Look for beautiful vintage pieces made by Nordic
companies like Iittala (Finland), Holmegaards (Denmark), Hadeland (Norway),
and Kosta Boda (Sweden).
Another Scandinavian term that has become popular in the past few years is the
Swedish word, Fika (fee-kuh). Used as both a noun and a verb, fika roughly
translates to “coffee break,” or “taking a break in your day.” Coffee, tea, and
snack service tableware can be added to your home, but remember this isn’t
about formal entertaining. For Swedes it is about making time to relax and
socialize. In your own home have vintage trays readily available, perhaps even
hung on the wall like the Swedes do it. Invest in a vintage ceramic teapot or
coffee pot you can carry onto the patio for a mid-morning social break with the
neighbor. Keep a stack of small vintage plates to serve a sweet or savory snack.
Today’s designers take inspiration from many historic sources and it is fun to do
the same in our own homes. Scandinavian/ Norden Style is clean, simple, and
functional making it is easy to incorporate these beautiful vintage pieces into
about any home and bring more hygge to your interior spaces.
SHOP THE LOOK: on our Scandinavian page,
See more of Pam’s Shop: 1006 Osage