Scandinavian Design Explored

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Scandinavian design is synonymous with on-trend. Its minimalist lines, layered textures, mixed timbers, and spacious aesthetic each participate to create a rugged refinement that’s widely esteemed.

Its organic good looks have enthralled us for over a century now without appearing dated. That is some serious allure. To steal from Shakespeare –

“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety. Other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.” (Antony & Cleopatra, Act II Scii, ll.246-9)*

*You like? A bit of culture… 🙂

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Left: Pin Oak Entertainment Unit, Absolon Round Jute Rug and Santorini Cushions, available online at Zanui. And right, image sourced: insideout.com.au.

So why has Scandinavian design endured so long?

Perhaps the secret lies in Scandinavian design’s marriage of opposites – masculine with feminine, clean lines with organic textures… Or perhaps its power lies in its raison d’être – a desire to bring a “democratic design” to the masses where beauty meets functionality to improve the quality of life.

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Origins

The term “Scandinavian design” grew out of an exhibition of the same name that toured USA and Canada from 1954-1957. Yet the origins of Scandinavian style were sown in the preceding decades.

With the rise of modernism in the late 19th century, Europe experienced a renewed appreciation of the handmade. Modernism itself had arisen in reaction to realism (and the birth of photography), conspiring against realism’s conservative restraints and its monotonous uniformity.

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Jute rugs make an ideal base for Scandinavian-inspired interiors. Images sourced L to R: brit.co, houzz.com and lovingit.pl

Art Nouveau revived the arts and crafts movement in the face of the industrial revolution. It placed Romanticism and folk arts back on the agenda. The decorative arts took their inspiration from nature, prioritising human creativity over the regularity of the machine.

Scandinavian design got its start in these competing environs. It was born between the organic lines, subtle decorative elements and craftsmanship of Art Nouveau, the precision of the Machine Age, and the futility and constraints of war. This cultural legacy created an aesthetic that prioritised beauty, humanism, and democratic ideals.

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Unlike the US and other parts of Europe, the Nordic states (Denmark, Sweden, Norway et al) experienced a delayed industrialisation in the interwar period. Scandinavian design sought to emphasise the individual, the unique, and promote the domestic environment.

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Turner Sofa, Ernest Jute Rug and Twist Oak Coffee Table, and Galle Lantern, available online at Zanui.

SCANDINAVIAN DESIGN’S 5 FOUNDING PRINCIPLES

  1. Function at the foreground

This lies at the essence of Scandinavian style and dates back hundreds of years to times when survival couldn’t be taken for granted. Scandinavian design specialises in utilitarian excellence.

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From L to R: Ernest Jute Rug and Kerala Hand Woven Jute Rug, available online at Zanui.

  1. Feed the emotional needs

With the sophistication of culture, survival came easier. And with it, the desire to feed the emotional needs of the populace. The democratic impulse behind Scandinavian design – to enhance the everyday with superior design – therefore became increasingly concerned with aesthetic.

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Images sourced L to R: houzz.com and srta-pepis.tumblr.com.

  1. Find the light

With the lengthy Nordic winters delivering little sunlight, luring light into interiors was important. This has now become a fundamental element of this look that is echoed globally.

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  1. Forward-thinking design

Scandinavian design was influenced by the Bauhaus, De Stijl, Futurism + Dada movements among others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a progressive style that pares things back to essentials of form + colour, as well as experimenting with abstraction.

Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Eero Arnio are examples of this forward-thinking design at its best.

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Images sourced L to R: desiretoinspire.net and en.paperblog.com.

  1. Fuse grace with vibrant colour pops

Scandinavian style has an inherent elegance – but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be dynamic. (See the works of the above gents for proof!) Vibrant colour pops add edge to this aesthetic.

We hope this helps you to apply a little of this luxe style to your home. Later this month we’ll be exploring a fusion of Hampton’s and Scandinavian style for a rustic yet elegant look.

Watch this space. 🙂

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.