Scandinavian style: the 3 fundamental concepts & 7 ways to adopt it

The Scandinavian style is one of the most popular and recognisable design and lifestyle concepts in the world at the moment.

Whether you are a scandophile (*someone who loves the Nordics) or not, you can tell if something you see is minimal, in muted tones, practical (very practical) and sustainable (yes, you can).

Bingo! You’ve just had a brief description of the Scandinavian style.

At this point, let us clarify this: Scandinavian or Nordic?

Well, geography-wise, Scandinavia consists of Denmark, Sweden and Norway (not even Finland). Nordic is a broader term that considers common cultural, historical and societal aspects. So, we can say that Nordic is anything or anyone associated with the Nordic culture.

That includes the whole of Scandinavia (see above) plus Finland and the insular Nordic nations of Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Some say Estonia is kind of Nordic-ish (because of their shared history and ties with Finland). Some say it is; others claim it’s purely Baltic. We believe it’s somewhere in between; Baltic with Nordic and Eastern European influences. Interesting right?

Hygge time in Denmark – Photo: Niclas Jessen / VisitDenmark

What does all this have to do with style and design? Follow our train of thought.

Whether you say Scandinavian or Nordic style, you are talking about the same thing, more or less. It has the same elements and features, and one can easily distinguish it from other styles.

So, what is the Scandinavian style all about?

The 3 main concepts of Scandinavian style

It’s no wonder the Scandinavian style is so distinguishable. Although its main elements are not something fancy, you can still tell it’s Nordic.

In its simplicity and minimalism, that style can inspire you, create an imaginary canvas for you to paint with your own style and colours, and improve your daily life.

See? We’ve just described the Nordic style in a few words. Let’s now clarify more what its main elements are:

  • Simplicity. You don’t need fancy things in your house or a very fancy personal style regarding your looks. The Nordic style is not only about home design; it spans all aspects of life. Less complexity makes things more manageable and natural looking.
  • Minimalism. That concept almost borders simplicity, but minimalism is about fewer things. You don’t need to wear much jewellery or pack your house with furniture. Too many things make life complicated and harder to manage.
  • Functionality. Nordic style, at its core, is about improving daily life. It does not focus on those special occasions where you need to do extraordinary things. Daily life is much more worth it. Everything has to be practical and help you make your life easier, be it clothes, furniture, or how you organise your office.
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Design by Canva Pro

This combination of concepts makes the Scandinavian style so unique. And although those concepts are very similar to one another, they are different, and each one contributes to the final sum with its own merit.

For example, simplicity and minimalism are not the same. Although similar, simplicity is about the lack of complexity, whereas minimalism is about the lack of quantity. Something minimal can be simple as well. The opposite may not be accurate, though. A simple thing may not be minimal. Those two concepts complement each other.

Furthermore, functionality borderlines simplicity. If something is not complex, it will most probably serve its purpose.

As you can see, the Nordic style requires a deeper understanding of things and life itself. You can’t make something functional if you don’t know what its purpose is and what goal you want to achieve.

You can’t be minimal if you don’t know what excess is, nor can you appreciate simplicity if you haven’t first looked deep into something to discover what makes it complicated.

Style is influenced by the local culture, history, and even the climate. So is the Scandinavian style, which has been shaped and is still being influenced by the Nordic culture and lifestyle, the shared values among people in that region, and the extreme sometimes weather.

7 ways to adopt the Scandinavian style & what each one tells about the Nordic people

As mentioned above, a style is part of and influenced by the local lifestyle and culture first and foremost. As a result, all the tips and ways to adopt the Nordic style manifest a specific aspect of life in the Nordics. Let’s dive in!

1. Colours. The Nordic people like muted and neutral colours, like shades of white and grey. They also love contrast and are not afraid to use black with white. It’s an exciting combination inspired by the contrast of physical objects in the snow. Although not fans of very bright colours, they use some of them very, very delicately.

2. Architecture. Simple shapes and volumes are the best. Clean lines both outside and inside the house are a must of the Nordic style. Complicated structures and shapes make it hard to create a cosy minimalistic atmosphere. Less is more.

3. Light. They have long dark days in the winter and long bright daylight in the summer. So, it’s no wonder light plays a vital role in shaping the Nordic style. In the winter, they appreciate that little light available but don’t mind the artificial lighting indoors. It must be muted, warm, and cosy. Hygge, right?

4. Air. It’s cold in the winter and much cooler in the summer. Still, Nordic people appreciate fresh air and often leave windows open, even during cold winter days. They won’t have curtains as they wish to have air and light into the house. It’s also a matter of privacy. Although they crave it, they expect the neighbours to respect it and don’t need curtains to enforce it.

5. Furniture. You don’t need to pack your house with chairs, tables and shelves. The Nordic people apply minimalism and have the minimum necessary furniture. Furthermore, this furniture is functional and multifunctional. Sometimes, houses are small in the Nordics, and you must be practical while fulfilling your needs. For example, an elegant sofa of minimalistic design can be used as a bed, too. As the Swedes say, “Lagom!”. Not too little, not too much, just the right amount.

6. Materials. The Nordic people loooove natural materials because they are already very close to nature (literally and metaphorically). They embrace the outdoors and prefer materials like wood in muted lighter tones to remind them of their connection with nature. Wooden floors are an absolute must-have.

7. Plants. Bright green plants make a house in muted shades of white and grey more lively. It spices life up. As we mentioned above, a little bit of colour can work wonders. Bringing nature inside the house is healthy and trendy as well.

Now, what do you say? Do you love the Scandinavian style? Are you into the Nordic concepts of design and style? Can they be applied to other aspects of your life, too? How do you apply them in your own house / personal style / life? Share your stories below!