British homes have long been influenced by the architecture and interiors of other countries and cultures. But today, there’s an interior design style which has become increasingly prevalent in the modern UK home — this time, it’s one which we’ve adopted from our Scandinavian cousins.
Perhaps a certain large furniture store has had an impact. Or perhaps, sublimely, we’ve come to realise that the Scandinavians’ approach suits British life quite comfortably.
What is Scandinavian style?
A quiet parity between functionality and aesthetics is at the core of Scandi design. “Scandinavian style is characterised by three key components — functionality, simplicity and beauty,” explains Ikea’s Communication and Interior Design Manager, Craig Ritchie. “Although simple in design, clean lines are often incorporated with understated elegance and warm functionality, which creates a very homely feel.”
A folksy appreciation for readily available natural materials (namely wood) and craftsmanship have long been embedded in the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian ethos, too. An emphasis on wellbeing and, in particular, making the most of natural light, adds to the mix.
Like many interior design ‘styles’, Scandinavian style does not represent one look; it’s a style which has evolved over the years, encompassing many influences and ideas. From the more traditional and rustic, where folk-inspired textiles feature, to the other end of the spectrum, where contemporary Scandi interiors could perhaps be described as minimalist style with a heart, there’s a look to suit most homes.
But there are definitely some key ingredients to achieving a touch of Scandinavian in your own project.
What is Hygge?
You might have heard (or read) the term ‘Hygge’ being used over the last few months, and wondered what it is — and how on earth to pronounce it. In short, it is a Danish concept, originating from a Norwegian word, which roughly translates to ‘wellbeing’. It is characterised by being a cosy, welcoming and convivial way of living, that not only applies to our interiors but our food, clothes and activities too.
Think flickering candles, knitted throws, snuggling up with board games by the fire after a Sunday roast, laughter with close friends and you should begin to get the idea.
Oh, and if you are still wondering, it is pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, rhyming with cougar.
Get the Scandinavian Look
Look at these 12 cosy Scandinavian style interiors, or read on to find out what design elements add to a Scandinavian look.
Wood is not just used for lining Scandi interiors; it’s also burnt on stoves in these cold climes. Unlike British homes, where fireplaces often shout ‘focal point’, a woodburning stove, accompanied by a stack of logs, is often (but not always) a subtler affair in the modern, Scandi-inspired room.
The fact that Scandinavian manufacturers have been providing the UK with high-quality woodburning stoves for many a year – Norway’s Jøtul and Danish Morsø being notable names – is perhaps testament to their influence on the popularity of stoves here.
No discussion on Scandinavian interior design would be complete without reference to at least a handful of iconic pieces from native designers — particularly those which emerged during the mid-20th century. What’s more, investing in a piece (there are some very good imitations out there too) or several is certainly a good way of injecting Scandinavian style.
Hans Wegner’s Wishbone Chair (see image below) is one design of particular note. Another name to look out for is Arne Jacobsen, a highly influential architect and designer; many a chair available today on the high street takes its cue from his SERIES 7.
Lighting design is another area where the Scandinavians excelled in the 20th century; Poul Henningsen’s designs for Louis Poulsen are particularly recognisable.
Light, Bright Neutrals
A healthy serving of white – on walls, furniture and everywhere else – is important in Scandinavian interiors for good reason: with the cold winter climate and short winter days, this neutral colour feels light and airy throughout the year.
“A Scandinavian room should always feel fresh and simple, and working with light is one of the simplest ways of achieving this,” adds Craig Ritchie of Ikea. With our increasingly long winters (which have seen our winter coats remain firmly on well into spring in recent years), this neutral works wonders in British rooms too. Not to mention, white is a far more palatable alternative to the magnolia craze of the late 1990s and early millennium.
Pick up any paint chart and there are many a ‘white’ on offer. Cool whites work well in south-facing rooms, which receive the best of the warm, summer daylight, while warmer whites will work hard to warm up north-facing rooms which receive lower levels of cooler, natural light.
Grey is another neutral which can be used to create a calm, soft interior; the same rules apply when it comes to choosing a warm or cool shade of this neutral. Painting interior brickwork or adding painted tongue and groove are ways of adding texture.
A calming pale palette provides the perfect backdrop for these Hans Wegner Wishbone Chairs (and flooring from Dinesen)
White walls never look sparse in Scandi homes for two very good reasons: not only do natural materials bring warmth and texture, but many an interior scheme features a bold splash of colour. Ideas for introducing accent colour include a sofa, chair or sizable item in a single bright hue.
Alternatively, patterned accessories work well; more traditional folk-style patterns lend themselves to cottage or country homes, while strikingly bold reds, yellows, oranges, blues and greens can be used to add a retro touch. A scattering of pillows, perhaps in an iconic textile – such as those from the likes of Josef Frank – can add just a hint of colour.
“Warmth can be created through the addition of deep reds and purples on cushions or lamps,” adds Ikea’s Craig Ritchie. “This style is all about small touches being used to create the full effect.”
This Kaleidoscope rug adds a retro colour pop against the white BoConcept’s Bergen sofa
Wood flooring is a staple in Scandinavian interiors, with timber in abundance in these densely forested countries. Lengthy, wide planks (suggesting they’ve been sawn from a felled tree trunk, like days of old) in light or bleached wood are de rigueur.
Danish company Dinesen are a good point of call — they’ve even manufactured boards of up to 15 metres long and as wide as 450mm. Also try Ecora Douglas fir Natural Wood Floor.
For those of us who can’t be without carpet, natural floorings such as wool, coir, seagrass or sisal in light colours are good options. Alternatively, combine wood flooring with a large rug in a soft texture or natural material.
Timber cladding – whether it has a rustic appearance, is a painted tongue and groove (which also looks wonderfully Scandinavian on vaulted ceilings), or perhaps the use of floor planks on the walls – is one way of adding texture to walls.
Window dressings are unfussy (there’s no room for swags and tails here) and are often in a soft, light material such as cotton — they lend privacy but do not impede natural light entering. In bedrooms, combine with a blackout roller or venetian blinds. The clean lines offered by shutters (particularly in wood or painted white wood) are also ideal.
Use window dressings that allow natural light to enter, whilst ensuring privacy