Scandinavian design has long been a favorite interior style for the home. It’s Mid-Century Modern’s quiet but cool cousin, defined by clean lines, simple forms, neutral and natural tones, and layers of comfort.
More than any other style, Scandinavian interior design has a way of seamlessly blending modern and sleek elements with a cozy, welcoming aesthetic. Case in point: Step inside any Scandinavian living room design and you’ll likely find streamlined sofas and chairs mixed with nubby pillows, woven accents paired with light-wood tables, and steel or metal lighting displayed alongside graphic art. It all adds up to a space that’s thoughtfully curated for both style and function. Which means a Scandinavian design approach is also great for family-friendly living rooms.
To help you create the perfect Scandinavian living room, we’ve rounded up our favorite simple and chic tips for how to bring the look to life in your home. Check them out below!
1. Incorporate Natural Woods
A hallmark of Scandinavian style is the use of beautiful natural wood furnishings, which are often in light tones or unfinished to reveal raw grain details.
To set the foundation for a Scandinavian living room, consider a mix of natural wood pieces. Start with a clean-lined sofa with an exposed wood frame or tapered legs. If you want to instill a feeling of warmth, lean towards darker woods, such as walnut and maple; if you want to play up an airy vibe, try a lighter wood, like birch or pine. Balance it out with a wood table or chair in a similar tone for a cohesive and curated look.
2. Keep to a Neutral Palette
A simple neutral color scheme works perfectly with natural woods and materials, and it’s a key design element for a classic Scandinavian living room look.
An easy way to play up neutrals for a Scandinavian feel is to keep to soft, cool tones. Consider a light gray sofa, which can bring a versatile and serene look. Mix in warm white accents, such as a plush rug or sheepskin, a fluffy pillow or a cozy armchair, all in ivory or eggshell tones. Round out your larger neutral furnishings with barely-there notes of blues and greens for a hint of color—think pops of color from patterns, art, and even greenery. Finally, make sure to contrast these with different natural wood tones for a calming and curated Scandinavian feel.
3. Layer on Textures
Coziness is a virtue in the Scandinavian living room, so adding layers of pillows and throws on sofas and chairs is an essential component of the look.
A great way to work in cozy textures is to layer from the ground up. Start with a plush rug that’s light on the eyes and soft on the feet, such as a Moroccan rug or sheepskin. These have a soft touch while also adding bold visual texture. From there, consider comfy accent pieces, like a woven pouf, table, or stool, which lend a warm look and feel. Finally top off your seating with lush pillows and throws, like a cable-knit cushion or a cashmere blanket, for the ultimate final soft layer.
Just be sure to stick to cozy Scandi decor in neutral tones to keep your space feeling layered and luxurious as opposed to cluttered.
4. Contrast with Notes of Black
Pops of black provide rich contrast and a hint of edginess that can balance out the serene, neutral tones in a Scandinavian living room.
The most important thing to remember when decorating with black accents is to think of them as contrasting pops. Try sprinkling in a patterned pillow, monochrome photographs, and small ceramics for black accents that will add depth and blend seamlessly with the rest of your Scandinavian decor.
Remember you don’t want to overdo it by adding in too much black and you end up with a living room that feels boldly graphic with a high-contrast look. It’s about juxtaposing black and using the color as small anchors without taking away from the calming, curated Scandi look.
5. Choose Furniture with Clean Lines
Scandinavian design is underscored by its clean-lined approach to furniture and decor. Not only does it impart simple streamlined appeal, it also lends a sense of calm and order to rooms.
Similar to spaces that play up the Japandi design trend, Scandinavian living rooms are anchored with clean-lined foundation pieces that emphasize style and functionality without frills. Opt for a linear sectional or sofa, rectangular or square coffee table, and accent chairs and tables that emphasize angular shapes and forms. Then mix in smooth curvy pieces for balance, like a pouf, rounded stool or even a globe pendant. The idea is to bring focus to sleek forms and designs that provide a modern and airy appeal.
6. Embrace Natural Materials
Beyond cozy textures and woods, what gives a Scandinavian living room a feeling of warmth is a mix of natural materials that provide added texture, color, and an organic touch.
To curate a simple and sophisticated mix of designs made with natural materials, look to the small details. While you can opt for linen upholstery and natural cotton pillows, an array of artisanal accents will instantly draw attention to the beauty of natural materials and finishes. Think a mix of wooden bowls, a collection of hand-thrown ceramics, a textured stone vase or even a knotted jute rug—which all make for accents that emphasize organic materiality.
7. Add Varying Light Sources
Another key element that amplifies a sense of warmth for a Scandinavian living room is a balanced mix of lighting, which helps create a space that feels at once cozy and airy.
The key to lighting in a Scandinavian living room is allowing for plenty of natural light to fill the space first and foremost. Keep windows unobstructed by curtains or opt for sheers that maximize daylight. By emphasizing sunlight, it adds an instantly cozy feeling to your living space. Then work in multiple types of lighting at different heights, such as table lamps for surfaces, wall sconces, and hanging pendant lights that draw the eye up. Finish it all with candles that you can easily move around to play up ambient lighting to set an inviting tone.
8. Prioritize Cozy Comforts
Scandinavian design is often perceived as minimalist, simple, and spare. Even so, it’s never lacking in comfort and in fact emphasizes coziness as we’ve mentioned. And the resulting design look and feel perfectly captures the concept of hygge.
Rooted in comfort and inviting textures, hygge decor is a staple in a classic Scandinavian living room. You’re likely already familiar with these decor pieces, which can range from a fluffy sheepskin rug to knitted throw blankets to even chunky woven ottomans and rugs. Layering these tactile elements along with plush fabrics and textures will play up the hygge sensibility and give your room a distinctly Scandinavian look and feel.
9. Mix Minimal and Graphic
While Scandinavian style has a streamlined and pared-down look, graphic art and accents are essential decor elements. They offer bold visual counterpoints which lend depth and dimension to spaces.
Opt for artwork with strong graphic elements, such as a black-and-white print or photograph, which can liven up blank walls. Or you can hang minimalist paintings or linework drawings that are in keeping with the clean lines of Scandinavian decor and furnishings. When in doubt, choose art that blends into your space quietly instead of pieces that pop and overtake the room.
10. Work in Earthy Tones
Neutrals are the default color palette with Scandinavian design, but you can also branch off into earth tones for a warmer, slightly more rustic feel.
For a Scandinavian living room that conveys a deeply sumptuous look and feel, consider mixing furnishings in a range of earth tones such as natural wood tones, light browns, and creamy whites. It will all add up to a warm living space that’s richly layered, softly hued, and deeply inviting. Try adding muted pastels on top of an earth tone palette for a hint of color that doesn’t overwhelm the space.
11. Keep Patterns Simple
Scandinavian design doesn’t mean you have to skip patterns altogether. The key is bringing in simple patterns that are within a soft neutral palette, which add texture and dimension to a space.
When choosing patterns for a Scandinavian living room look, simple designs and geometric motifs are foolproof. Just make sure to keep to an equally simple palette. A Moroccan rug, a two-tone geometric pillow, and even a large-scale black-and-white photograph are all easy ways you can inject pattern into a Scandi room while keeping a minimal and calming atmosphere.
12. Make Room for Greenery
The easiest way to warm up a Scandinavian look is to layer in pops of greenery that not only provide color and texture to the space but also lend an organic, welcoming feel.
With greenery and plants, you can work in as many or as few as you want. A tall tree in a corner can make for a sculptural focal point that invigorates a space. Meanwhile, a few well placed pots of leafy plants can fill out bookshelves and tables with a lush, natural look that adds to the overall feeling of minimal serenity in a Scandinavian living room.
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