Embracing Hygge: A Journey into Scandinavian Furniture Design

The Scandi color palette is muted and relies on neutral colors and soft hues. The white walls, light-colored wood floors and ergonomic furniture made from pale woods create a bright, uncluttered, storage-rich style that makes it ideal for apartments or rooms with limited space.  

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The Scandinavian aesthetic was born in cold northern climates, so reflecting natural light is of the utmost importance. Scandi creates a warm and inviting ambience using organic elements like wood, leather, hemp, clay, and ceramics as well as plants and botanicals. The warmth of Scandi design is described by the Danish philosophy of Hygge, and the Swedish lifestyle known as Lagom.  

Scandi and Nordic Design

REN HOME:  Woven Rattan Lamp with Iron Base

While Scandinavian design originated in the 20th century, it has roots that extend back to the traditional craft and workmanship of 19th century Nordic influences. Scandi and Nordic have influenced each other resulting in similar aesthetics including a shared emphasis on minimalism; however, Scandinavian design is even more sparsely ornamented compared to Nordic.  While Scandi emphasizes simplicity and functionality, Nordic emphasizes coziness and tradition.

Although there are many influences and interpretations, Nordic design is essentially about harmony. It is often experimental, and its eclectic stylings are both homey and comfortable. The use of textures like sheepskins, linen, and wool are some of the defining elements of the Nordic style. In its iconic form, Nordic furniture is handmade and has a rustic feel that sometimes incorporates details like intricate carvings.

Nordic and Scandi design comparison

Both styles rely on shades of white and grey, but Scandi is more monochrome, sometimes incorporating pastel tones, with inconspicuous accessories providing pops of color. Nordic design brings color into a space with textiles like rugs, throws and curtains. Conversely, Scandi is defined by the absence of carpets and window treatments. These two styles merged as part of a return to nature movement in response to industrialism and modernism.  

Popularity of Scandinavian Design in the U.S.

Scandinavian designed venue Gather Greene in New York (credit: venuereport.com)

Whether they realize it or not, most American homes are either Scandinavian by design or mid-century modern, which is strongly influenced by Scandi (so much so that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the two).

While U.S. interest in Scandinavian design dates to the post Civil War period, Americans truly fell in love with Scandi after WWII.  Interest exploded in the mid 1950s thanks in large part to the efforts of Elizabeth Gordon, the editor of House Beautiful magazine. She put together a Scandinavian design exhibit that toured 24 Museums across North America.

Scandi has been adorning American homes for more than 70 years. It experienced a resurgence of interest starting in the 90s with the renewed focus on sustainability and durability.  Scandinavian style is about home and family, and its design has been interpreted as the embodiment of the aspiration inherent in the American dream.  

According to Gordon, Americans fell in love with the second wave of Scandi style known as “democratic design”. This accessible aesthetic was an alternative to the totalitarianism and fascism of Bauhaus which heavily influenced early Scandinavian stylings.

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Common geographical origins

Credit: worldatlas.com

Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe that is commonly considered to be comprised of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Nordic countries include the aforementioned, but also includes Finland and Iceland. These countries share a similar values, history, language, culture, and politics. In the last couple of centuries these similarities contributed to the peaceful cooperation between Nordic countries that has produced the Scandinavian style.

Each country has influenced and been influenced by Scandi. While there are deep cultural and historical similarities, there are subtle distinctions between the respective styles, aesthetic qualities, design heritage and cultural influences.

DENMARK (Danish)

Danish design’s timeless appeal is due to its beauty and craftsmanship. It is well known for its understated elegance and use of high-quality materials like teak and rosewood.  Furniture manufacturers in Denmark pay meticulous attention to detail and precision construction which includes intricate joinery.  

Like Scandi, Danish design is influenced by the German Bauhaus School. It is minimalist, highly functional, and inspired by nature. Danish furniture can be traced back to Denmark’s centuries old Viking woodworking traditions and 19th-century cabinet making.  As a seafaring nation Denmark has incorporated influences that range from English Regency to oriental ceramics.  Despite its ancient origins, Danish design is innovative and constantly evolving.

REN HOME: Talo Sideboard with 2 Cabinets

Sweden (Swedish)

The origins of modern Swedish design can be attributed to the 18th century King, Gustav III, who popularized pastel-tones, pine furniture, and bare-wood floors. Swedish furniture was also influenced by the pale wood furniture of the German Biedermeier style in the 19th century. As illustrated by IKEA, the world’s leading furniture manufacturer, Swedish design is rooted in a highly efficient culture with straightforward ethics and a commonsense commitment to social responsibility. This may explain why it is often described as the simplest and most practical of Scandinavian design styles.  

Norway (Norwegian)

Despite being occupied by Denmark and Sweden for more than 500 years, Norwegians maintained a distinct identity particularly in rural areas.  Like other forms of Scandi, Norwegian design is characterized by its nature-inspired lines. Its distinctiveness is derived from its unique folk traditions which give it an unusual, quirky, eccentric, and playful style. Early Norwegian design embraced the ornamentation of Art Nouveau which stood out in stark contrast to the minimalism of their occupiers.

Influential Scandinavian designers

Each Scandinavian country has its own group of influential designers. For example, Norway has architect Arnstein Arneberg who designed the U.N. Security Council Chamber and Sweden has the distinguished furniture designer Bruno Mathsson as well as companies like New Works and Bonnibonne.

United Nations Security Council Chamber (credit: un.org)

Denmark has created some of the world’s most iconic furniture. This includes Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair, and Hans Wegner’s Wishbone Chair. Scandi has also been influenced by the ergonomic stylings of Kaare Klint, and “the people’s designer” Børge Mogensen. We have also seen pioneering innovation from designers like Verner Panton, and more recently Danish companies like Muuto, Woud, and Hay.

REN Home – The Art of Scandinavian Design

There is a new player on the Scandi furniture scene that has all the elegance of Scandinavian design without the hefty price tag. REN Home is as breathtakingly beautiful as it is cost effective. This unique line of furniture creates a cozy ambiance while providing versatile modern storage solutions. REN Home stands out because it offers the sophisticated sleek silhouette of high quality mid-century modern designs, but on a budget that you can afford.

Left: Pylo Modern 6 Tier Shelf with Steel Frame, Right: Pisa Leaning Writing Desk with Drawer and 2 Shelves

Scandi interior design rules

Scandi has made an indelible impact on interior design. The timeless style of Scandi continues to be a leading source of inspiration. It has been the dominant design force for decades and it remains fresh and current. Whether you are looking to furnish your living room, a hallway, or an office, thanks to design houses like REN Home, you don’t have to break the bank to own the exquisite stylings of Scandi design. 

So, what are you waiting for? There is no better time then the present to elevate your home with the refined elegance of Scandi furniture.