a beginner's guide to scandinavian design

anyone who is remotely interested in design has heard of scandinavian design; it's currently all the rage and all over the place, with no going-out-of-trend in sight (and I have zero qualms with that #scandilove). but asides from the fact that ikea specializes in it, does anyone really know what it is that gives your favorite room inspiration picture its spot on your "scandinavinspiration" pinterest board?


scandinavian style is characterized by three key components – functionality, simplicity and beauty. although simple in design, clean lines are often incorporated with understated elegance and warm functionality, which creates a very homely feel.
— craig ritche, ikea communication & interior design manager

in essence, scandinavian design is the "natural makeup" of the interior design world; the end goal is to make a room appear effortless, welcoming, functional, and cozy, whilst not being blunt or obtrusive. as with makeup, it's deceivingly difficult to pull off.

faint color, not for the faint of heart

scandinavians feature light, neutral color palettes showcasing a range of warm and cool greys, soft blues, muted pinks, and taupes. hard, contrasting materials such as a black iron or copper accents offset the neutral and light hues and creates a visual break between elements in the design, as well as varying wood tones, washes, and specie.

scandinavian design living room 1
scandinavian design living room 2

not plying around

as made wildly popular by ikea, birch, plywood and white veneer are extremely affordable, durable, and versatile materials that help sculpt the picture of scandinavian design. ~in fact~ scandinavian were some of the first to use plywood-bending as a method of manufacture. the iconic element of formed ply bench legs, or formed chair seats are often mimicked in modern day design.

scandinavian design plywood bookshelf
scandinavian design plywood kitchen
scandinavian design stools

textiles fit for a king...or someone surviving a scandinavian winter

rich and cozy textiles are also key elements to the design style. chunky knit throws, flokati pillows, billowing white duvets; take me now!

scandinavian design bedding chunky throw
scandinavian design bedding loft
scandinavian design bedding duvet

|||||| a linear appeal ||||||

what has morphed into mainstream scandinavian design is also based primarily around streamlined silhouettes and linear patterns. plank (whitewashed) hardwoods, single panel cabinets, platform beds in their simplest form - these all are the apex of scandi.

scandinavian design kitchen cabinets
scandinavian design kitchen
scandinavian design kitchen 2

i'm sensing a pattern here...

scandi design often includes a graphic punch; this doesn't necessarily include color, but it is focused on geometric play. it doesn't overwhelm, and takes on just a small part of the space.

scandinavian design statement textile
scandinavian design textiles

wide. open. spaces.... wide. open. spaces... wide. open. spa-

one of the main directives in scandinavian design is the consciousness of space; decluttering and optimizing organization to maximize the flow of air within open space. sorry, but if you're living the 150 square foot efficiency apartment life in nyc, you're not living the scandi life.

scandinavian design open space
scandinavian design open floors
scandinavian design open living room
scandinavian design open dining room

any type of design is completely up for interpretation - and that's the beauty of design: complete subjectiveness! is there anything that stands out to you as a hit or miss, or is something that's glaringly obvious and missing from this list? sound off in the comments!

x - mk