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Know your styles: Scandinavian design

When it comes to the influence one region has had on the world of design in modern times, no area can quite compete with Scandinavia — the area of Europe we can thank for the furniture titan Ikea, pioneers of trendy speakers Bang & Olufsen and the fashion giant H&M. Outside of the big brands the Nordic region is also responsible for giving us two of the most ineliminable buzzwords in lifestyle circles — ‘lagom’ and ‘hygge’.

Since the 1950s the Scandinavian design movement has become almost synonymous with ‘good interior design’ meaning that many may consider it so all encompassing that it’s hard to characterise the difference between a Scandi-influnenced room and simply a well decorated room.

Wikipedia suggests that the three key principles that make up the attitude of Scandinavian design as being simplicity, minimalism and functionality. However, there are a few aesthetic traits that seem to be mostly consistent with rooms that people would consider classically Scandinavian. So, just what are they and how could you achieve it in your home? Follow these points…

Keep the floors bare

Being such a cold region of the world, many would expect that the most common flooring utilised in Scandi-interior design would be carpet. However, carpet has never really caught on in this region. The Danes, Swedes, Finns, Norwegians and Icelanders all favour hardwood flooring.

Light coloured woods such as birch and pine are particularly popular. Although woods painted white or given a light treatment are also common assets of a Scandi-influenced room, with the exception of the bathroom where tiles are more prevalent, for obvious reasons.

While hardwood flooring is not as good an insulator of heat as carpet, you can mitigate much of these insulation inefficiencies by installing some underfloor insulating boards and by putting down a few chic rugs, which will also help you on your way to creating a super-Scandi aesthetic.


When it comes to the colour palette of a room, Scandinavian interior designers have always favoured pared down tones typically blending a combination of pale greys and blues with whites and creams.

Scandinavian design is not all about plain, muted colour combinations, however. Think of designers such as the Finish company, Marimekko, who are famed for their vibrant use of bright patterns in their ceramics and fabrics, Scandinavian interiors work brilliantly when accented with a powerful coloured or patterned element such as a feature wall.


Due to central heating and other innovations over the 20th century that provided us with new ways to heat our homes, here in the UK the majority of fireplaces in our houses have been blocked up. In Scandinavia, however, they retained a primal love for fire places, with many homes still featuring them in at least one room of a typical home.

Unlike the ornate, central fireplaces with mantel pieces which are typical of British homes, the Scandinavians favour more modern looking log burners typically positioned in a corner of the room.

Ornament is crime

Scandinavia, most notably Finland, has produced a wealth of modernist furniture designers, such as Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen. As a result, Scandinavian interior design heavily embraces modern furniture with a focus on functionalism rather than the unnecessary adorations of more traditional furniture designs.

Modernist-influenced furniture can be picked up inexpensively from a variety of shops, however if you want an original example expect to fork out considerably sums as certain signature pieces of the movement are now icons of design and, as such, collector’s items.


Perhaps why Ikea is so famed for its clever storage solutions is that the Scandinavians tend to really hate the very sight of clutter in their interior design. While they don’t favour stark minimalism, there is certainly an air of minimalism into their attitude towards decorative accessories. Perhaps following the rule of lagom that ‘just enough, is as good as feast’ their interior design utilises a scaled back approach, with a select few statues, ornaments and other artworks to accentuate the overall beauty of the room, rather than overstimulating the room with dozens and dozens of items.

When it comes to other items such as game controllers, shoes, magazines, when not in immediate use try and give them all a storage space to prevent them breaking up those chic, soothing clean lines we all love when we look at a truly great Scandi-influenced space.

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