If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ll know that Scandinavian design is having a moment. And it’s easy to see why! Traditional Scandinavian style is simple, clean, cheerful, and very achievable for basically any budget. When you think about this style, usually lots of white springs to mind, but the reality is that Scandinavian design can also have lots of vibrant color and fun patterns.
above: promotional image from retailer Gudruns Joden / below: Sandra Freij
The patterns you’ll find in traditional Scandinavian designs are typically simple, botanical illustrations in a symmetrical style. Animals are also common themes, such as the traditional dala horse (as seen in top image), most commonly seen in a poppy red hue. Modern Scandinavian patterns usually have bold colors and graphic, high contrast styles, like the oversize prints and patterns from the Finnish company Marimekko. (above sofa upholstered in Marimekko fabric)
above: unknown with Marimekko wallpaper / unknown via homedit
A favorite Scandinavian designer is Austrian born Josef Frank whose patterns exhibited the folk-style traditional to Scandinavian style, but with a mod flair. You can purchase Josef Frank wallpaper and fabric for your home these days, but be ready to pay a pretty penny! Sometimes just investing in a yard or two will give you the perfect pop of pattern in a pillow or chair cover.
above: La Maison d’ Anna G. / below: Josef Frank prints available from Svenskt
above: House to Home / image from the book Scandinavian Design by Lars Bolander
Scandinavian style has a long history, traditionally marked by simplicity, bright whites, natural wood tones, folk style ornamentation, and color washed furnishings and trims. Hues of medium blues, bright reds, and pleasant greens, pinks, and yellows are common throughout Scandinavian design. In old Dutch homes, folks used to build their beds into warm, closet-like spaces, and to save space, would hang spindle-backed chairs on the walls when they weren’t being used. The modern version of Dutch and Scandinavian design isn’t always about efficiency and space-saving solutions, though it is still both practical and beautiful. A lot of modern, Scandinavian-style homes showcase a mix of the traditional style of almost rustic simplicity alongside the sleek designs of forward-thinking designers who emerged in the 20th Century.
A lot of iconic modern designs came from Scandinavian designers in the 1900s, and above you’ll see some of the most popular pieces.
1. Wishbone chair by Hans J. Wegner (knock-off linked to down below)
2. Panthella lamp by Verner Panton
3. Artek stool by Alvar Aalto (knock-off available at Ikea)
4. Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen
5. PH5 hanging lamp by Poul Henningsen
6. Tulip side table by Eero Saarinen (knock-off linked to down below)
above: Better Homes and Gardens/ flodeau
1. Bentwood pendant light
2. Flip clock (knock-off of the Karlsson Big Flip clock)
3. Marimekko teapot
4. Candle holder
5. Marimekko cereal bowl
6. Mongolian fur pillow
7. Panton floor lamp
8. Tulip side table
9. Wishbone chair
10. Grid pillow cover
11. Dala horse ornaments
above: House & Home / Anna Kern for Svenska Dagblaet
Paring down the color palette in your home and utilizing pops of color amidst a more neutral background is a great way to get the Scandinavian look if you can’t really afford to do much redecorating. Instead of dark wood tones, try natural wood colors or painted wood instead. Combine sleek modern pieces like the iconic Panton chair with soft, rustic elements for the effortlessly chic looks shown here. Or it might be easier for you to find an old spindle-back chair and paint it a glossy black for a touch of Scandinavian charm. A classic windsor alongside streamlined pieces (think Ikea if your budget is anything like mine!) is a look that works wonders.
If in doubt about how to go Nordic, your best bet is to just keep it simple! There is always elegance in simplicity, and I think that’s really what we all love about Scandinavian style. –Mandi
Credits // Author: Mandi Johnson. Images: Noted individually.