The Philosophy of Scandinavian Design

Modern Scandinavian living room space by Muuto designs
Image source: Muuto

Scandinavian design represents a design philosophy that’s characterized by functionality, simplicity, and clean lines. According to its design principles, one should be in harmony with his/her environment, and things should be made to last rather than be replaced.

To complement the art of living well, the design philosophy promotes a simple home environment that enhances an unencumbered lifestyle.

Scandinavian Design History

The minimalist style of Scandinavian design emerged during the 1930s within the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

The term “Scandinavian design” originated from a design show with the same name that traveled through the United States and Canada between 1954 and 1957. It promoted simplistic ways of living and showcased various works by Nordic designers. The minimalist philosophy emphasized clean lines and simple designs that were inspired by nature and climate to create the Nordic design. It also promoted beautiful designs and quality, sustainable products that were affordable and easily accessible to people in all walks of life.

Exhibitions showcasing Scandinavian design during the 1950s played an important role in the influence of these design principles in Europe and North America.

Design Principles and Designers

The main purpose of Scandinavian design is to improve daily life. To accomplish that, designers focused on interior design style with furniture, lighting, textiles, accessories, and everyday utilitarian items like dishes, silverware, cooking utensils and linens.

In Scandinavian interiors, there’s always a strong relationship between design elements and nature. It’s often seen in the stark contrast between abstract and natural shapes, as well as hard and soft surfaces and materials. Natural materials like stone, wood, leather and hemp are used sparingly in most home interiors.

Within the golden age of Scandinavian design from the 1930s to the 1970s, there were a number of prominent furniture designers that had a huge impact on design philosophy and style.

Known as the founders of Scandinavian philosophy and style, their influence on modern design is still evident today in areas like San Francisco and San Mateo where you’ll find wonderful shops like Article, Muuto, Innovation, and ScanDesign.

The brilliant Scandinavian designers who rewrote history with their innovative designs include Alvar Aalto; Poul Henningsen; Arne Jacobsen; Borge Mogensen; Verner Panton; Hans J. Wegner; and Maija Isola. Just pick up any book on Scandinavian or Nordic design and architecture and these designers will certainly be noted.

Scandinavian Design Trends

  • Floors – Wall to wall carpets never became popular in Scandinavian countries. Interiors typically have wooden floors, in light wood tones, in all rooms except the bathrooms. If rugs are used, they are usually limited to area rugs.
  • Interior Surfaces –Warm woods are often used on walls, ceilings, cabinetry, and furniture. Warm tones found in teak and oak are preferred. If pine is used, it’s often grayed down with a special oil that reduces the yellow wood tones.
  • Eco-Friendly Materials – Scandinavian design principles promote eco-friendly homes with organic, sustainable building materials for flooring, walls, siding and roofing.
  • Colors – White walls and cool blue and gray textiles are common. In some homes, brighter pops of color like yellow and orange are found in Marimekko fabrics and rugs.
  • Accessories – This minimalist style promotes the design philosophy “less is more.” Accessories are usually scaled back to create less clutter and fewer visual distractions.
  • Fireplaces – Scandinavian winters are harsh, so most homes have large fireplaces to provide adequate heat. Fireplace designs are usually simple, but often embellished with beautiful tiles.

If you’re inspired by Scandinavian design, Nordic Design is a great resource for lifestyle tips and style trends.

If you enjoyed this blog you may want to read our blog about, “5 Things Every Bedroom Needs.”

Smith Brothers is a unique team of construction craftsmen, architects, and interior designers. Since 1978, we stress the absolute highest levels of quality, performance, value and service in each and every project. Our award-winning design ideas, expertise, and collective build experience allow us to provide the very best in what we do. For more information please contact us at 877-230-0333, (+01) 858-350-1445, or

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