How Scandinavian interior design emerged

We explore the global phenomenon that is 'Scandi style', looking at where the style came from, what it means for the design world, and how it can be integrated into any interior.

Words by Angus Ponsford

Known for their simplistic structures and elegant designs, Scandinavian interiors have become a global phenomenon that has landed in interior and architectural projects across the world. Originating from our northern neighbours in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, the widely dubbed ‘Scandi style’ fuses accessibility and affordability to create practical spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone.

But where did the Scandinavion style come from, and how has it managed to capture the world’s attention? We explore the emergence of Northern Europe’s breakthrough interior design style to find out what the ‘Scandi style’ means for design, and how it can be integrated into any interior.

Where it came from

A key element of Scandinavian design derives from Northern Europe's desire to build structures for functionality foremost, over fashion. Before the wartime production industries of the First and Second World War, many of the Scandinavian countries had flourishing craft production sectors, which they fought to preserve when demand wavered.

Following the outbreaks of war, much of the mass machine production was moved from Scandinavia to the US - and it became apparent to many that woodworking and crafting had been sacrificed in favour of the war effort. As a result, the creatives of Scandinavia pushed back.

They established art institutions to not only preserve a longstanding history of craft culture but to incorporate commercial mechanical production into a simple yet beautiful art form. Funcitional furniture was born! Through the founding, power-house graphic designers such as Marimekko, and influential furniture designers like Verner Panton, the Scandi style fusion of sleek design and obvious purpose catapulted its popularity into the 20th century and beyond.

What it all means

An idea that Scandinavian locals regard highly is that surrounding yourself with beautiful, practical objects will make your life better - and with simple furniture that looks good and feels comfortable, it’s no wonder Scandi style is as universally popular as it is. Another key aspect of this style is the promotion of what many refer to as democratic design: furniture and objects that are accessible to a wide variety of people, due to their affordability and practicality.

The short window of sunlight many Scandinavian countries experience over the winter months has created the need for furniture and interiors that are innately bright, spacious and adaptable to different social situations -  bringing to life the charming Nordic ideology of ‘hygge’. Not only has this concept become a global phenomenon, but when it comes to furniture, it has inspired many to keep their spaces cosy, functional and effortlessly beautiful.

How you can decorate your home, Scandi style

Instead of opting for fitted carpets, make the floor an accessory by using area rugs to hug the furniture. A wooden floor is the ideal way to honour the Scandi love of nature, though wood-effect tiles may be a more practical option if children will be using the space.

Use light and neutral tones to form the basis of the room’s aesthetic - this will allow a strategically placed splash of a deeper shade to stand out. Metallic, copper colours can shine under simple lights and add variety to the neutral space. Embrace comfort and dot playfully patterned cushions and pouffes around the room for a relaxed feel.

Image: Ponsford

Pick simple ornaments for the space; these will remain functional yet effectively stylish. Whether that means hanging up baskets on the wall instead of paintings, or using a reclaimed ladder as a bookcase instead of investing in a large cabinet, Scandi style should focus on the room's function and in turn create a blissfully practical interior.

It’s easy to inject an interior with a fun, fashionable, universally appealing and functional design by embracing a Scandinavian aesthetic – it’s usually the ideal route to go down to marry comfort with practicality. Prioritise clean lines, and rejoice in minimalism to make your space feel serene, no matter how busy the environment.

Angus Ponsford is the Director of Ponsford Ltd, an independent, family-run furniture retailer that boasts a huge selection to suit every style and budget.

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