In the light of growing concern for the environment, Scandinavian design is as popular as ever. Flowing through everything from product design to fashion and interiors. The Nordic countries are famous for their beautiful nature, long winters, and breathtaking wilderness. However, there is also a typical image of the Nordic interior too.
Bright walls, wood floors, and finely crafted furniture. With zero clutter and plenty of space. Above all, sustainability and finely crafted furniture are the domain of Scandinavian minimalism. But what exactly reflects the essence of the Scandinavian style?
Beyond chairs, you buy from Ikea. The Scandinavian style originates from Nordic culture and tradition. Emphasizing clean lines and simple designs that are heavily inspired by nature. Incorporating the minimalist way of life in everyday objects. Whether a jacket or table, the design process combines high-quality materials with timeless charm.
A Brief History of Scandinavian Design
The Scandinavian style was born in the 1930s in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Sweden. As a result of the economic and cultural situation in these five countries. It derived from the modernist movement in Europe and America – characterized by functionality and simplicity. Scandinavian design term comes from a traveling exhibition that traveled across the United States in the 1950s. The most famous figures of its golden era include Alvar Aalto, Finn Juhl, Verner Panton, and Hans J. Wegner.
The Scandinavian design offered a practical solution for simple living. After World War II, gone were the days of expensive Victorian designs. In the light of newly gained freedom, and a rapidly growing middle-class. The demand for more accessible furniture was growing across Europe and the US. During that time, democratic and affordable designs were in demand. Scandinavian designs were sleek and simple and offered lower costs of the manufacturing process. Their affordable prices helped in the popularization of Scandinavian brands all over the world.
As can be seen today, the Scandinavian style eventually evolved beyond just the design. Emphasizing more interest in sustainability, and the role of comfort (hygge). The Nordic people are now more focused on the importance of finding a balance and inner peace in everyday life.
Elements of Scandinavian Minimalism
Whilst Scandinavian style is characterized by empty walls and white space, it also has a soft sense of warmth. The minimalist design comes from functionality, not just aesthetics. It’s about delivering simplicity – to make room for the more important things. The idea of decluttering our mind and enjoying simple pleasures. In other words, to live a hygge life.
Let’s explore some of the main elements of Scandinavian design.
Minimalist Spaces Filled with Light
Light is essential. Exposure to natural light improves our health, sleep pattern and helps us to focus. It is a key to our wellbeing, essentially making us happier and healthier.
Relatively long winters and short winter days influenced the Nordic approach to design and life. Scandinavian homes had to be designed to maximize natural light. As a result, Scandinavians tend to avoid covering the windows. Low sunlight throughout the year also affects the choice of colors and materials. Neutral colors such as white, grey, and beige are most common. Especially white, as it makes space seem even more spacious. However, it doesn’t mean you have to go for all-white everything. Soft pastel shades are also very popular.
A bright interior is one of the most important features of the Scandinavian style. It helps to create a sense of harmony and inner balance. And allows you to relax after a long day of work. No heavy curtains. No clutter. Just airy spaces filled with light.
Minimalism Inspired by Nature
The wildness of the Nordic climate has been inspiring Scandinavians for decades. A strong relationship with nature plays a significant role in every design. Think of the rocks smoothed by water, patterns that the wind leaves on the beach, or the structure of wood. Nature seems to have a solution for everything.
Most importantly things made of natural materials are timeless and last long. That’s why the Nordic style celebrates natural materials like wood (especially pale woods like ash and beech), wool and linen textiles, leather, and glass. And uses brass, or copper accents to create a contrast with a bright base. It’s the core of Scandinavian simplicity.
While white walls and the lack of curtains are associated with cold space. The use of natural materials, such as leather, or pine can effectively warm the interiors. Chairs, lamps, and decorations made of bamboo or rattan can also make a home feel warm and closer to nature. Let’s not forget the glass objects. Such as lamps, vases, and candlesticks – they are elegant additions that also accumulate light. For the extra layer of coziness, you can add woolen rugs or pillows. Linen and cotton elements are healthier than those made of artificial materials.
Nordic interiors, decorated with handcrafted objects, have a personal, unique character. Scandinavians love using products made by local craftsmen, ranging from porcelain to textiles, lamps, and furniture.
But why are handcrafted things so appealing?
First of all, the undeniable charm of hand-made things. Handcrafted products can offer higher quality and more attention to detail. They are unique and made to last. No two hand-made items are the same. Each one has its history. To illustrate, think of how much passion and skills the craftsman puts into their work. Hand-made objects are made by a real person, not a machine. And it has a significant impact on the appearance and final shape. During the creation process, minor imperfections like underpaintings may appear, which only proves their uniqueness. Items that are imperfect yet beautiful. And it resonates with us. Humans value objects with soul and history.
Another unique way to decorate your space in Nordic style is combining old and new. For instance, you can use that old ceramic kettle you got from your Mum or an old mirror found in the basement. Think about it as statement objects with history rather than gathering dust in the storage.
Functionality Above All
Functionality, next to simplicity, is the most important feature of the Scandinavian way of life. Let’s be honest. What’s the point of beautiful objects if they serve no purpose?
Scandinavians love functional solutions. For example, multifunctional furniture can be used in various ways. Coffee tables with a storage compartment or a shelf that holds magazines. Tables with a removable tray, on which we can serve tea for guests. Modular sofas that can be combined to form sets. Folding tables that you can use in your garden. Drawer and storage space to make getting dressed in the morning even quicker. These are just some examples of how functional Scandinavian interiors are. The same philosophy applies to other forms of design. And of course, all other aspects of your life.
Hygge Decor: The Role of Comfort in Scandinavian Design
Hygge is a Danish word that means enjoying life’s simple pleasure. Therefore, the hygge decor is all about creating a peaceful and clutter-free space. This makes a lot of sense – considering that Denmark is
known as one of the happiest nations in the world! And has been, for decades.
One of the easiest ways to add some hygge in your life is to start with decluttering your home. Mess creates stress and anxiety and is the opposite of peaceful space. Then make sure you make it feel cozy – with greenery, knit blankets, fireplaces, and lovely-smelling candles! You can also add a few artworks as focal points in a minimalist space.
The presence of greenery in the house is very important. Plants and flowers brighten up space and help us live closer to nature. Not only beautiful, but they also purify the air by absorbing harmful chemicals. Making us feel relaxed and comfortable. Plus the green color is great for our eyes – helping them rest after a long day in front of the screen.
The key point, however, is not to feel overloaded with decorations. Above all hygge refers to finding a balance in creating a peaceful and functional space.
Scandinavian Minimalism as a Way of Life
Let’s be honest. We are consuming too much. No surprise, there’s been a rising popularity of Minimalism in the last few years.
If you decide to follow Scandinavian minimalism, you’ll focus on emptying your home from things that are not practical. When you start applying this idea to your life, you become more aware of everything that surrounds you. Enjoying more hygge moments as a result. Minimalism is just another way of protecting your energy. Being stuck in the cycle of overconsumption makes us tired and anxious. More than ever we need to learn to protect our attention. But how do we calm the overstimulated brain?
Less is more. In your home and all other aspects of your life.
Most importantly, be honest with yourself. Do you have too much clutter in your life? Do not store things you don’t need. Be firm, selective, and sometimes brutal when it comes to keeping your space organized. Cleaning the space around you can be a very therapeutic experience. When you learn how to let go of emotional attachments to things, you create more space in your home. You’ll be amazed how quickly it will create more space in your mind too. Learning how to let go is one of the most important lessons of Nordic minimalist philosophy.
Say No to Waste
Scandinavian design is not only about taking inspiration from nature. But also caring for the environment. To preserve nature, we need to respect it. You can take positive action now to drastically reduce waste in your home.
Scandinavian countries have found balance in saving energy and living in harmony with nature. The environmental awareness of Scandinavian society comes from environmental education, largely influenced by Scandinavian minimalism.
Living a sustainable lifestyle is about decreasing your consumption and waste. Start recycling in areas that you can. Avoid using plastic at home, especially in the kitchen. You can also make compost in the garden. And grow your products when possible. Such as vegetables and fruits in your garden or herbs on your balcony.
Using what you have, rather than craving more things is the key. A huge amount of human consumption in the world gets wasted every year. Be more aware of waste and stop buying too much food. And try to freeze or dry things (mushrooms, herbs, etc) instead of throwing them in the bin.
Practice Being Grateful
Another way to reduce your consumption and live a more simple life is to be more grateful. Are you appreciating the things and products you already have in your life? Learn to be grateful. When you start intentionally saying thanks for all that you have, you may realize that you don’t need more. Notice good things. Remember how happy you were when you got those things in the first place? Practice being more present at the moment. And aware of what you already have. The benefits of gratitude are endless. Being happier and in control of your greed.
Anthropology: Scandinavian vs Japanese minimalism
Minimalism is an idea that aims to create space and simplicity. But the desire for clarity is not a new concept. Japanese minimalism and stoicism have been saying similar things for centuries. There’s a distinctly philosophical and spiritual undertone in all of those ancient ideas. What, then, makes Scandinavian minimalism so different?
Beyond the design aspects, Scandinavian minimalism also has a distinctively spiritual tone but the practical approach is more significant. It stems from the Scandinavian response to the harsh Nordic climate and the idea of making everyday life easier. Japanese minimalism, on the other hand, is based on traditional Zen Buddhism with more complex spiritual aspects. Nordic philosophy is then more about democratized design and simplicity, rather than a spiritual response to overindulgence. Japanese spaces embrace imperfection (wabi-sabi) while Scandinavians prefer conviviality and sleek design – from Domino Magazine. The Japanese minimalism is heavily influenced by past ancient knowledge. While Scandinavian minimalism is focused on practical, simple solutions for the future. Above all, Nordic minimalism is founded on functional principles to leave plenty of space. And to embrace the most important things in our everyday life.
Scandinavian designs empower people to live better and more sustainable lifestyles. And in the end, minimalism and functionality are always the priority. But is up to you to find the things that resonate with you. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to living a simple and practical lifestyle. Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything you have. As long as you are aware of what works best for you.
Did you find some useful ideas that you can apply in your everyday life? What are your thoughts on Scandinavian design and minimalism —and how are you implementing them?
Let us know in the comments.