Nordic design has been a tour de force in the world, ever since the invention of the Viking longboat in 1000 AD. Cut to centuries of development later, and still the ‘Norden’ steam ahead and conquer the world with innovations like the Ink Jet printer, and the world’s first mobile phone by Lars Magnus Ericsson. For many creatives around the world, Nordic style, as a result of its great heritage, is instantly recognisable.
In essence, Scandi style boils down to these three design principles:
Everything from Nordic recipes, to architecture and interiors, encompass some, or all, of these Scandi concepts. But of course, while the three main principles may amount to a low-key and pared-down aesthetic, true Nordic design talent is anything but dull and boring. Everything from the Nordic designer’s first draft, to manufacture, and finally, the product’s lifespan is meticulously planned to maximise efficiency.
Indeed, Nordic design is a precious gift to the world. One that stretches far beyond the reasonably-priced, self-assembly furniture you can buy from IKEA.
Let us take you on a whistle-stop tour of what constitutes striking Nordic design…
1950s Modernism And The Birth Of Nordic Design
Image credit: Unsplash
“Modernism released us from the constraints of everything that had gone before with a euphoric sense of freedom.” – Arthur Erickson
Scandinavian design, as we understand it today, originated in the 1950s with the modernist movement. In a move away from the overly ornate Art Nouveau era, modernism and futurism brought a whole new approach to manufacturing and designing consumer goods.
With the uptake of new building materials, such as plywood and plastics, interior designers had to go back to the drawing board and rethink how decorative pieces could be produced en masse and built to last.
‘S’-Shaped curves and clean lines, therefore, became indicative of mid-century Scandinavian design. This is thanks, in part, to Danish designers like Finn Juhl (creator of The Baker sofa) and Hans Wegner (famed for the Wishbone chair), and their willingness to embrace new design challenges.
Image credit: House of Juhl
Sustainability – Ecology Influencing Design
As Northern Europe is home to some of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural landscapes, caring for the environment and ‘leaving no trace’ is imbued in Nordic populations from a very young age.
As a result of this, many Scandi homeowners consider very carefully the materials used in their buildings and interiors. Pieces of furniture and fittings should be very hard-wearing – this could mean tables and chairs made from robust and locally-sourced oak and birch timbers.
Going further, many of us dream of taking a long winter break in a rustic log cabin in the Nordic countryside. Well, these iconic Scandinavian chalets are not just made from wood to give a traditional folksy appearance – wood-framed buildings are also ecologically-friendly. Timber is the most renewable building material, as well as possessing a superior weight to strength ratio.
Image credit: Pxhere
The addition of a wooden annex, or garden cabin, can be an affordable way to increase the amount of living space in your home. Take this stunningly expansive living space from the architects at Copenhagen’s Leth and Gori, for example.
Image credit: Dezeen
Wooden walls and floors in Nordic interiors are often treated with preserving agents, as well as stained in white, to create a brighter, fresher look.
Many contemporary homeware designers, such as Mari Isopahkala, also like to experiment with different timber textures. This year, Isopahkala displayed her ‘All Wood’ Sculptural Light design at the famous Stockholm Furniture Fair. This playful lamp comes in many various shapes and colours and displays perfectly, the quirky sense of humour also evident in many contemporary designers.
Image credit: Yellowtrace
Functionality – ‘Not Too Little And Not Too Much’
Clutter is noticeably absent from Nordic everyday life, with interior design schemes being no exception.
Many Nordic design enthusiasts swear by the process of ‘slow decorating’. This is a practice where interior design schemes are prepared high-quality piece by high-quality piece. Investing in the best fixtures and fittings costs more money in the first instance. But, the payoff comes with years of use and classical styling notes that will not change with passing fashion fads. This principle of slow decorating halts many Nordic decorators need to splurge and hoard fast interior fashion trends.
Image credit: Unsplash
For those looking for high functioning Scandi design pieces at reasonable prices, the infamous Arne Jacobsen Swan and Egg chair designs have been replicated many times over. Great imitations can be found at Muloco and they still look as fresh and trendy as they did over half a century ago.
Image credit: Muloco
Pieces of furniture with multiple uses is another important hallmark of great Nordic furniture design. Multifunctional items are perfect for open plan living spaces; a common architectural trend within Scandinavian homes. Open spaces allow maximum penetration of natural light through windows and skylights.
Image credit: unsplash
KlipKlap from Denmark offer a range of great multifunctional pieces – check out this sweet little daybed/coffee table, for example.
Image credit: Klip Klap
Simplicity – Create A Graphic Statement With ‘Pops’ Of Colour
The quality of light – both natural and artificial, – is very important to Nordic interior design. Treated walls and flooring reflect the maximum amount of light on surfaces. In countries with nearly 24 hours of darkness for half of the year, this is not simply a style note, but highly functional.
With the clean lines in furniture and stark walls, Nordic living spaces create feelings of cosiness with their calm and neutral colour palettes. Think sage greens tones, rustic clay and wood hues and all shades of grey, from off-white to slate.
Image credit: Pixabay
Use of organic fixtures in the home also tie closely with Nordic culture’s affinity with the great outdoors. In many homes, sprucing up a table or shelf with some pinecones or fresh sprigs of foliage is a great way to give a inexpensive nod to Scandinavian interior style.
And finally, don’t forget to add a pop of colour or surprise to your perfect Nordic interiors scheme! Quirkiness is also celebrated in Scandinavian design circles. Scandivis have a great range of cutesy Nordic-inspired homeware, like this Ferm Round Dorm Shelf.
Image credit: Scandivis
For classic design, check out Josef Frank, best known for his fun and funky fabric motifs – perfect for prettying up your bed or cool, grey, modernist sofa.
Image credit: Svenskttenn
So there you have it – Nordic home design is minimalist and lovingly curated piece by piece. Take your time to invest in key furniture pieces that will last a lifetime. Treated wooden fixtures and fittings add warmth and a rustic edge to your interiors. And, don’t be shy to add a splash of colour to an otherwise, pared-down and neutral colour palette. Scandi style is timeless and easy to replicate in rented accommodation – just imagine your own cabin in the woods. So why not hygge-up your home today?