Design Styles Defined: Your Guide to Scandinavian Interiors

Christyanne Wheeler
Dec 2, 2021 8:30:00 AM

Choosing a specific interior design style — rather than filling your home with a mishmash of furniture, fixtures, objects, and tonal elements — helps you create interconnected spaces that feel calm, cohesive, and thoroughly inviting.

Scandinavian Design Living Space with natural wood and neutral palette. Featuring a large sectional couch with multi-textured charcoal and white patterned pillows, a modern coffee table and a corner fireplace. Room is lit by  ample natural light flooding in through a large picture window.

It can be challenging to pinpoint the one style of décor that matches your sensibilities above all others. To help you out, we’re launching a blog series that explores the defining features of every major interior design concept, from traditional to modern and everything in between.

With the winter holidays just around the corner, we thought it’d be nice to start our series with a fresh and inviting aesthetic: Scandinavian design. Here’s what you should know about the interior style that’s just as clean, bright, and modern as it is earthy, intimate, and cozy.

Scandinavian Interior Design 101

Minimalism may be one of the “on trend” darlings of today’s design world, but there’s a more classic iteration of clean style that’s been in vogue for decades: Scandinavian design. 

What makes Scandinavian design so singular is its inherent duality; as a décor style, its two key characteristics — restraint and comfort — merge beautifully to create layered spaces that are clean and tidy as well as warm and inviting. 

Minimalistic, spacious, and light, Scandinavian interiors emphasize utility, clean lines, and simple furnishings. Scandinavian design also incorporates soft hues, natural materials, and contrasting textures to make its take on modern décor feel cozy, personal, and welcoming. 

Elements of Scandinavian Design

If you see beauty in simplicity and elegance in understatement, then Scandinavian interiors will probably appeal to your sensibilities. Combine these design elements to create an unmistakably Nordic vibe in any space:

1. Install light-colored flooring

Light-colored flooring is a classic choice in Scandinavian design because it makes a home look brighter, cleaner, and more spacious. You’ll want to skip the wall-to-wall white carpeting, though; light hardwood floors — including painted wood and natural maple or birch — are a definitive feature of Nordic interiors.  

2. Select a muted color palette

Scandinavian design relies on a low-key palette of natural hues to create a cohesive and soothing backdrop. Soft whites and grays are the colors of choice for walls, ceilings, and painted trim; muted browns, blues, and greens (and sometimes black) serve as contrasting accent colors. 

3. Choose modern furnishings

Well-chosen modern furnishings with clean lines and simple aesthetics are a defining element of Scandinavian design. When in doubt, choose mid-century modern furniture as your main pieces, and resist the urge to overfill your rooms. Leaving ample “negative space” in your furniture arrangements brings the beauty and utility of each piece straight to the foreground.    

4. Minimize window treatments 

Sunlight is scant during the long Nordic winter, so it’s not surprising that Scandinavian design emphasizes natural light — usually in the form of bare or minimally dressed windows. Forget heavy draperies, gauzy curtains, and formal valances; instead, choose minimalistic fabric blinds that you can leave completely open whenever you’re ready to let the light in. 

5. Add dramatic pops of color

A minimal, understated backdrop doesn’t just set the stage for stunning furniture and stand-out decorative pieces, it also creates space for bold pops of color. In the right places, vivid paintings, bright throw rugs, colorful bedding, and cheerful dishware can elevate the “mod mood” of Scandinavian design and make it a lot more personal. 

Scandinavian design master bedroom with neutral palette, a floor to ceiling wood panel centers the headboard on the wall and a modern rocker.  Multi-layered textures achieved through wicker, rattan, wood and textiles and plant life completes the modern design.

6. Maximize the coziness factor

Beautiful natural materials like warm wood can go a long way in helping modern spaces feel welcoming, but it takes sumptuous fabrics and layers of textiles to make “modern” feel incomparably cozy and inviting. That’s why Scandinavian design features soft wool rugs, sheepskin and mohair throws, layered bedding, and plenty of pillows. 

7. Include contrasting elements

Scandinavian design may skew modern, but it also invites a mix of complementary decorative elements. From a prized oil painting in an ornate gilded frame to a collection of antique glass cloches, family heirlooms and vintage pieces can bring layers of personality to any Nordic interior.  

8. Infuse your space with life 

From lighting and materials to space and form, the natural world is front and center in Scandinavian design. To that end, no Nordic interior is complete without a few well-chosen house plants — large or small, potted plants bring the outdoors in, infusing your space with living beauty.  

9. Illuminate in warm layers

Just as Scandinavian design makes the most of natural daylight, it strives to illuminate dark spaces in warm layers, from general lighting to task and ambient lighting. Achieving balanced lighting is key to creating a space that’s perfectly hygge — or cozy, convivial, and comfortable — all year long, especially through the dark winter days. 

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