Scandi - what is Scandinavian design?

10 of January '22

White walls, wooden floors, modern furniture and minimalist decor are the hallmarks of Scandinavian aesthetics. Today we will look at this timeless minimalism and answer the questions - what is Scandinavian design and what are its characteristics?

How did it start

Scandinavia consists of three northern European countries: Denmark, Norway and Sweden (although sometimes some erroneously add the Nordic countries of Finland, Iceland and Greenland as well).
The formulation of the Scandinavian modernist style may have begun in the 1940s, but it was not until the early 1950s that it began to take shape as a recognizable entity. Midcentury-modern style was strongly influenced by the emergence of Scandinavian design on the world stage in the early 1950s. With an orderly and simple arrangement, the interior became cozy. Staying in such an environment, people felt contentment, which in Danish is referred to as hygge.
One of the first significant steps toward widespread recognition of this style came when the Lunning Prize, otherwise known as the "Nobel Prize of Scandinavian design," was established. This award was first given in 1951, and then annually until 1970 Frederik Lunning - after whom the award was named - was a New York-based importer of Danish designs.

Zycie w zgodzie
z naturą to myśl przewodnia skandynawskiego designu

Living in harmony with nature is the keynote of Scandinavian design

© Minh Pham

Why is Scandinavian design important?

The guiding principle of Scandinavian design is to create harmony with the environment and produce things that will last. Scandi complements the good life by promoting a simple home environment filled with quality items and enhancing an uncluttered lifestyle devoid of excessive consumerism. Additionally, the style is meant to deepen our connection to nature. Scandinavian design is minimal. Craftsmanship and timeless design can be found in every item in a room decorated in this style.

Here are the features and main elements of Scandinavian design and architecture:

  • Minimalist aesthetics
  • An understated design that follows function
  • Bright, neutral colors
  • Subdued, dark hues reminiscent of Nordic landscapes
  • Spacious spaces filled with light
  • Wood furniture and wood accents
  • Decorative, expressive pendant lamps
  • Multifunctional and flexible designs
  • Plush sofas and tactile fabrics
  • Hanging plants and lush greenery
  • Natural textiles
  • Accents in steel, brass or copper
  • Artwork as focal points in a minimalist space

Patent lampy Poula Henningsena Lampa z wieloma częściami
odbijającymi świato

Patent lamp by Poul Henningsen

© Minh Pham


Lighting is a huge part of Scandinavian design because there is so little of it in Scandinavia, especially in winter. In addition to maximizing natural light at every opportunity - with white walls or large windows - lamps and lighting solutions are crucial.
Every room should have multiple light sources, from warm, low candlelight to a bright overhead ceiling lamp. Choosing the right color of light also matters! Scandinavian design is based on the most effective distribution of light without creating a harsh atmosphere. An excellent example is the distinctive lamp designs of Poul Henningsen. The designer was convinced that the bulb is aggressive to the eyes and therefore must be invisible, yet efficient in the way it diffuses its light. This resulted in the elegant floral shape of his lamp, in which each petal shape softened and illuminated the glow of the bulb.

Colors inspired by nature

Many Scandinavian colors rely heavily on neutrals, particularly bright whites with touches of black and brown. However, this doesn't mean that the style is completely devoid of color, just that overall spaces tend to be monochromatic, with shades coming into play as accent elements.
The gray-blue color is among the most commonly used. Warm brown tones are also popular due to the style's reliance on natural wood elements. Other colors inspired by nature, such as sage green or Christmas tree, is also a fitting option.

Natural materials

Scandinavian style is minimalistic and practical. The materials used in scandi arrangements are primarily natural. Designers often use only solid wood to create chairs, tables and other furniture, while materials like leather and linen complement wooden surfaces.

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