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A brief outline of Scandinavian interior design

We all recognise it, but there’s more to Scandinavian design than just light wood and simple shapes. The furniture and accessories you see dominating large furniture retailers takes inspiration from a movement that can be traced back to the early 1900s. This movement encompasses art, architecture and product design, as well as interiors in a whole range of styles, from Mid-Twentieth Century (think Mad Men) to the Postmodern (Bright colours, unusual shapes, eclectic accent pieces) and everything in between.

We love Scandi-style because of its versatility and how well it works in the context of interior design. With the use of light furniture, simple colours and minimalist room arrangements, we can create space the client may not have known was there. It is simply one of the best design styles to show off a property, particularly smaller and newer ones, such as 2-bedroom apartments and small family homes.

For larger properties, such as 3-bed apartments or 4-bed houses with lots of reception rooms, we can go with the more Mid-Twentieth Century look to bring in more luxury and maturity with large, dark dining tables and studies that feature large bookcases, for example.

So, without further ado, here is a brief background to Scandinavian design and some mood boards to hopefully give you some ideas as to how you can use it to great effect in your own home or show home/interior design project!

The origins of Scandinavian design can be traced back to 1914 when Danish Company for Decorative Arts launched “Skønvirke”, a magazine focusing on the latest Danish styles of arts, objects and architecture. Later, in the 1930s, designers such as Arne Jacobsen (whose most famous work is perhaps the Egg Chair), Poul Henningsen and Alvar Aalto contributed to a revolution of design, with clean lines, simplistic yet novel shapes and functionality being at the forefront of the design. This movement was known as the “golden age of Scandinavian design” and gave birth to a lot of the furniture and accessory styles we see today. A large reason for this is the introduction of innovative manufacturing methods and materials in the 1950s that meant designers could shape furniture much more differently and use ideas that previously would have been too costly or difficult to produce. Plastics, metal and synthetic fabrics could now be manipulated in new ways much more practically, so these are the designs you see appearing in their original or similar forms today.

A collection of works from Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen and Alvar Aalto.

Other themes that are common in Scandinavian design are the great outdoors and a sense of cosiness. Dark, knotted wood and rustic, non-manufactured accessories bring the outdoors in and create a warm and natural look channelling the rugged landscapes and dense woodland that covers much of Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Here, we have put together a number of different characteristics of Scandinavian-style furniture, including minimalist furniture design, rustic materials and dark colours.

In terms of colour, lighter ones tend to work best as they complement the lighter furniture and continue the theme of functionalism and minimalism. They also work to contrast against the darker colours found in the 30s-50s styles and those featuring more rustic items.

In our second mood board, we went with a light green theme to show that you don't have to go with completely muted colours with Scandinavian-style furniture to match the functional and clean look - this mint/seafoam green looks fantastic and is perfectly suited to a student apartment or young family home.

Everything you see in our mood boards is available from our suppliers and can be used in your show home property or residential interior design project!

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