If you love a minimalist aesthetic but want something that’s a little more warm and organic, then Scandinavian design might be just the thing.
What is Scandinavian Design?
Scandinavian design is an interior design and furniture style hallmarked by clean lines, minimalist features, and warm, light woods contrasted with darker-toned woods or metals such as iron. A mix of mid-century forms with minimalist, curated styling, Scandinavian design is definitely a less-is-more style. It’s all about a clean and minimal aesthetic with an organized and styled vibe. Functionality is also key in Scandinavian design. This no-frills style, while it tends to have a beautiful aesthetic, values function over form. So, in a Scandinavian home, everything should have a purpose—even the decor!
In terms of color palettes, Scandinavian interiors tend to have a black and white color scheme. They feature a neutral base, with a lot of whites and creams. But there’s almost always some dark contrast in a Scandinavian space, which—combined with the use of natural materials—helps keep the look from feeling sterile. Scandi design also celebrates the use of natural light whenever possible. Fabric curtains and layered lighting keep the look cozy at night, but during the day a Scandinavian space should be bathed in sunlight!
The Origins of Scandinavian Design
As the name suggests, this look has its roots in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. So, it’s no surprise that this interior design style celebrates nature—which is embraced in all its forms in Scandinavia. This is done by bringing natural-toned and raw-edge woods indoors, giving the look a more organic vibe.
Scandinavian design as an interior design style hit the scene in the mid-1950s, around the same time as Mid-Century Modern design began to rise in popularity. While there are a ton of similarities between these two styles, there are some distinct differences, especially in the materials used.
Learn more about the differences between Mid-Century and Scandinavian design styles on our podcast episode that’s all about Mid-Century Modern design!
The Popularity of Scandinavian Design
Today, this Nordic style continues to grow in popularity for its calming nature and aesthetic appeal. People are drawn to the clean lines, simple storage solutions (see: IKEA), and the appeal of neutral base furniture crafted in light woods and whites. Nothing about this style is too “in your face,” which means it can be personalized in terms of colors, patterns, and decorative accessories.
We’re seeing Scandi styles being reimagined across the design world today. You’ll see a lot of Scandinavian-inspired design elements in the popular Hygge design style—which makes sense since hygge is a Danish concept! In fact, it’s really a mix of the coziness and approachability of rustic interior design ideas with the minimal forms and organic materials of Scandinavian design. And then there’s “Japandi” style, which is a mix of design influences from Japan-inspired rustic minimalism and furniture forms, but with a focus on that Scandi functionality. There are so many ways to personalize this design style, whether you go for straight-up Scandinavian design or mix it with other design styles.
Want to see this look brought to life? Keep reading for a room-by-room tour of a home designed with a Scandinavian interior design style.
This entryway is all about minimalist function. There is no clutter and no unnecessary objects in this space. It’s all about optimizing functionality—but doing so with beautiful furniture. This bench is a lovely combination of Scandinavian-inspired materials, with its warm wood finish and iron base.
The Key Elements:
Embrace minimalist styling. When it comes to a Scandinavian-inspired entryway, you don’t need much to complete the look. Take a no-frills approach with your Scandinavian decor and just include the basics—some hooks to hang your coat, a place to set your shoes, and perhaps a surface for your wallet, purse, or keys.
Opt for function over form. While this entryway is beautiful, it’s functional above all else. The bench gives you a place to sit down as you come and go from the house, gather your belongings, and put your shoes on or take them off. The hooks give you an easy place to hang your coat, with a mirror right beneath to check your look before heading out the door!
Incorporate moments of warmth. A minimalist space can easily feel cold. But, as the welcoming space of your home, you want this area to feel inviting! So, we made sure to incorporate some visual warmth through the warm wood of the bench, the layered sheepskin rug (giving your feet a soft place to land when you take off your shoes!), and the textural pampas grass.
Scandinavian Living Room
Warm, cozy, and welcoming, this Scandinavian living room is both functional and relaxing. Everything in this room has a place and function—which helps it from feeling overcrowded or overwhelming. Yet it also feels like a space you can easily unwind and relax in.
The Key Elements:
Look for minimalist-inspired furniture. In this living room, Scandi style comes alive through the accent furniture. The chair has a spindle design which is very common in trendy Scandinavian styles. The minimal design of the cabinet and the no-frills sofa keep the overall look simple and streamlined.
Layer in comfortable accents. The textiles in this space—from the plush rugs to the pillows and throw blankets—are what make this living room feel extra inviting. They all add touches of warmth and contrasting textures throughout this neutral space.
Add in high-contrast elements. Dark accents, such as the pendant, accent chair, and cabinet, offer a nice contrast to this neutral space. These high-contrast elements help offset the neutral base and add visual interest to the room.
Scandinavian Dining Room
This sleek, organized, and minimal dining room is discerningly styled. Even so, the vibe in this space is warm and welcoming because of the wood tones and textures that are used. Scandinavian design style shows up in this space particularly in the furniture itself. The dining set is a classic Scandi design with streamlined, minimalist legs that have a slight taper to them—though not enough to be classified as super Mid-Century.
The Key Elements:
Embrace warmer wood tones. In your base furniture—the dining table, chairs, and a credenza or sideboard—look for wood pieces with warmer finishes. You could also go for a light natural finish which is still very Scandinavian but would give your space a slightly different vibe! For a Scandi dining room, you’ll also want to look for furniture with softly tapered legs—but nothing that’s too loud or mid-century modern.
Layer in touches of contrast. In this space, the accent decor, light fixture, and sheepskin rug bring some visual contrast to the space. Without these darker elements, the space would just be light neutrals and wood tones, which would make it lose that inviting warmth. Speaking of which…
Bring in elements of textural warmth as well. Unexpected textiles like the layered rugs, along with the fabric drapes, help offset the visual monotony that can come from wood-on-wood styling.
Can you say cozy?? This space is all about softness and plush textures with a refined and relaxed vibe. Natural textures like cane, jute, and rattan mix together with warm wood tones to create an inviting warmth in the space. The Scandi vibe comes alive in this space through the furniture shapes, the metal finish of the light sconce, and the visual contrast in the decorative accents.
The Key Elements:
Start with a plush base. A Scandinavian-inspired bedroom is all about comfort. An upholstered bed offers an element of warmth and comfort to the base layer furniture, which is complemented by a plush rug and cozy Scandinavian-inspired bedding. (Of course, you could also go with a minimal light wood bed frame and just add a couple extra pillows for added comfort!)
Use natural materials to bring in texture. The wood nightstands, dresser, and bench contrast nicely with the plush bed and rug. This helps incorporate that organic element to the space, with the clean-lined furniture supporting the Scandi vibe. Natural textures like pampas grass and a woven pendant light add visual warmth to the space, which adds to the feeling of coziness.
Incorporate subtle pops of color. To give this space a little more personality, we added small pops of earthy blue through the throw and Scandinavian decor on the nightstand. Since there’s less contrast in this room than other spaces of this home, the pops of blue help bring a little more life to the space!
Want to bring some minimal and functional Scandinavian style into your home?