A Scandinavian approach to interior design first became popular worldwide just a few short years ago. Still going strong, Scandi style embraces the concepts of hygge and lagom, which roughly translate to mean ‘cosy’ and the idea of ‘enough’ or ‘just right’.
Scandinavian design is all about creating simple interiors, which are functional and aesthetically pleasing, but never overwhelming. Read more on the French approach to pairing furniture with coherence here.
Cosy with clean lines, soft and warm lighting and lots of textures, the Scandi lifestyle encourages us all to value what we have by taking a less is more approach to interior design and our everyday lifestyle.
This style can easily be incorporated into our homes, in both modern and period properties. Once you commit to a few Scandi updates in the home, you’ll quickly find that you fall in love with this simple and pleasing approach to home decor.
Read on to discover 21 simple interior updates to create a modern Scandi style...
Photo credit: pinterest.com
1.Introduce raw materials
There’s a lot of focus on raw and natural materials in Scandinavian design. Untreated wood plays an important role, adding warmth and texture to the otherwise typically neutral schemes. Wooden floorboards are often the only floor covering you will find in Nordic homes, dressed with simple rugs to soften the look and feel.
Try updating the flooring in your home - wood flooring looks striking in reception rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. To add warmth in the living room or bedroom, introduce a contemporary rug in a palette of neutrals.
2. Create a monochrome scheme
Nordic style mostly focuses on greys, black and white, with a touch of colour added through wood and greenery. A monochrome palette can be incredibly striking and is very on-trend.
For rooms that are dark and lacking in natural light, focus on white tones to make the space appear bigger and brighter. Soften the look by introducing soft furnishings in grey, and ground by adding a few statement pieces in contrasting black.
For bright and airy spaces, you can be bolder with darker shades, but don’t forget to balance the look by introducing white too.
3. Layer up textures
Because of the lack of colour, without lots of textures and tactile materials, Scandi design can feel a little cold. This is the opposite of the concept of hygge, which is all about creating cosy and relaxing spaces.
This can be done by layering textures to soften the look and add interest. Whenever possible, add blankets, cushions and rugs in varying textures. In the summer consider lighter materials such as linen, and in the winter introduce woolen knitted pieces to up the cosy factor.
4. Style open shelving
Open shelving can look very stylish. It’s also great for spaces that you want to keep open and airy by keeping storage light, opting for open shelves over large chunky pieces of furniture.
Choosing shelving instead of top units in the kitchen can be especially effective, as it helps make the space feel more open at eye level. Styling open shelving is key to creating a cohesive and well put together look. Open shelves should only really display items of beauty, and ideally these items will share a colour palette.
When grouping items for shelf styling, try grouping in threes, and avoid making the shelves look too uniform, by leaving varying spaces between each group.
5. Paint exposed brick
Exposed brick has been increasingly popular due to the rise in the industrial trend. While bare exposed brick might be a bit too harsh for Nordic style interiors, a painted brick wall will add texture and interest to an otherwise simple scheme. Try painting an exposed brick wall white - this works brilliantly as an alternative to a statement wall.
6. Zone open plan spaces using texture
Open plan living is a big part of Scandinavian design, but the flow and focus of an open plan is so important to create that effortless style and practical lifestyle.
If you have an open plan living room and dining room, keep the look cohesive by using the same colour palette throughout. Add focus and define each area, by using lighting and area rugs. Essentially establishing each space as it’s own will create two focal points in the room, while maintaining a minimal aesthetic.
Try using pendant lighting dropped directly over your coffee and dining tables, and place a rug under each too to pull the look together. Go for a more textured rug with a longer pile under the coffee table to create a cosy feel.
7. Create a cohesive gallery wall
Prints and artwork scattered around the room are distracting and often look a little messy, which is the opposite of the Scandinavian approach to design. To create a stylish look that’s more focused, group artwork together to create a focal point.
Arrange in a gallery wall style - avoid lining frames up vertically, instead fit together like a puzzle to create an interesting finish. Try drawing out your plan for how your frames will fit together first, or arrange on the floor to see how everything will fit together.
A gallery wall works brilliant above the bed, sofa or up the staircase. Create a cohesive feel by grouping together artwork in the same palette, and stick to one colour in your frames too.
8. Introduce house plants
Embracing nature and bringing the outside in is the perfect way to introduce colour to Nordic decor. Not only do house plants completely transform the look and feel of the home, they also filter the air, making them ideal if you live in a city or busy area.
Try introducing house plants in varying sizes and styles, and at varying heights throughout your home. Mix floor standing plants, small plants on shelves and hanging plants to add interest and embrace natural materials in a different way.
9. Create a cosy feel
Hygge is all about creating that warm and comforting feeling, much like a hot bath at the end of a long day, or a comforting meal when the weather is cold. Lots of texture and soft furnishings will go a long way towards creating a cosy home.
As mentioned previously, hardwood floors can be softened with rugs, soft materials such as wool and velvet can be used to dress sofas and beds, while the addition of candles in relaxing scents will add to the overall homely feel.
10. Mix and match furniture
While remaining simple, there’s a real authentic and unique feel to Scandinavian design. Generally, it’s best to add interest with textures, but if you favour an eclectic look, it’s possible to incorporate this into your Nordic inspired home.
Rather than creating a ‘matchy matchy’ look, mix and match a few pieces for an unexpected but highly effective finish.
In the dining room, try sourcing vintage and antique chairs in the same tone of wood, or painted, but in different styles to create a unique look.
11. Keep things simple
When it comes to planning and styling your home, avoid overthinking things to achieve an organic finish. Source items and furniture that suits your scheme, but include items that you love that really mean something to you too.
Nordic interiors shouldn't look too stuffy or overly planned, it’s all about creating a fuss free space that appears natural and comfortable, while being free from clutter and unnecessary distractions.
12. Introduce subtle colour
If the idea of all white interiors seems like it might be a little too stark for you, it is possible to embrace the Scandi style while still including a little colour in your home. Pastels and muted shades work well with this scheme.
Try introducing a few key pieces of colour throughout with soft furnishings and accessories.
You might find all you need is a cosy deep pile rug in a pastel tone, and a few vases in the same shade to add warmth and interest to your otherwise neutral scheme.
13. Create a reading nook
This style is all about making your home functional and comfortable. We all want to find time to escape and unwind from time to time, even if you just manage to steal 15 minutes of alone time here and there, having a space to retreat to can be absolute bliss.
If you have an unused corner or a space that’s currently a little wasted, restyle it to create a dedicated space for reading and relaxing. Invest in a comfortable and stylish accent chair, a cosy fluffy rug, a simple bookcase in white or wood, and if you have enough space, a side table for mugs of tea, or a magazine rack.
14. Create a contrast
With this kind of decor it can be tempting to do everything in white and light shades, but in order to balance and ground any scheme there needs to be a contrast between light and dark.
Decide whether you’re going to focus on light or dark tones, and then invest in a few contrasting pieces.
For example, if you were to paint your walls dark grey, you might opt for light wood flooring and white ceilings, or in a white room, ground your scheme with a dark grey sofa, or dark rich wood dining table.
15. Add additional storage space
Clutter is a big no in Nordic homes, which is why clever storage is a must, to keep anything unattractive that might be considered as clutter tidied away.
For any unsightly objects, concealed storage is a must. Sideboards and other storage units should still be stylish, but practical too.
16. Introduce industrial elements
Simple and solid, industrial elements work really well in Scandinavian interiors. Avoid making the look too harsh, by just introducing a few industrial pieces in contrast with cosy soft furnishings to add a modern and contemporary feel.
The industrial look is all about stripping back seemingly unnecessary decorative finishes and embracing the raw material. For example, you might strip the plaster off a steel to expose the structural elements of your home, or remove the plaster from a wall to expose the brick.
For a subtler nod to the industrial trend, introduce concrete planters and tealight holders, and unpolished metals such as brass and copper. Keep the look simple and stick to one metal, which can be used through hardware such as taps and pipes, as well as table and chair legs, lighting and frames.
17. Strip back windows
Because of the lack of natural light in Scandinavian countries in the winter, the approach to windows is often to leave them undressed to let as much light in as possible during the daylight hours.
Generally, curtains can often be a little fussy and block out what could be used space under the window too, and so they don’t always suit this style of interior design.
Instead of curtains, consider investing in quality shutters made from natural wood. Traditionally these are left in their natural form, or painted white to maximise the light from the widows. If shutters are a little out of budget, simple roller blinds can work well too.
18. Embrace empty space
Many of us have a tendency to want to fill empty space in our homes, but the Nordic approach is to embrace the feeling of space and being able to move freely around the home.
If you have an unused corner, leave it this way, or if you have a corner full of clutter that’s just become a dumping area, clear it.
If you feel like your home looks a little to bare or strange with a space or two with nothing in it, try putting up a large piece of artwork to draw attention to the space, while adding interest and character too.
19. Create a cosy feel with lighting
Lighting is really important in Scandi interiors, with the Danish being said to invest large amounts of their home decor budgets in striking lighting. In order to create a versatile, function and cosy home all in one, layering lighting is key. Check out some fabulous Danish lighting designs here for inspiration.
For a home to be practical, the light levels need to be adjustable to suit all occasions. On dark evenings when your little ones’ are doing their homework, they will need adequate lighting so that they can see properly, but also so that they feel alert and engaged. Equally, it’s also important to have a cosy lighting option, for relaxed evenings or dinner parties with friends to create the perfect atmosphere.
This can be achieved by layering various levels of light. This doesn’t mean filling your room with lots of light fittings, as this can create a confusing scheme with little coherence. Instead consider a main light fitting where the light levels can be adjusted, a pair of dimmer wall lights, and a few table top lamps or a floor standing lamp for lower lighting.
You can also create focus and zone open plan spaces with lighting too. In an open plan living and dining room, try pendant lights over the coffee and dining table, a floor lamp in the corner of the living room and a table top lap on a sideboard for just the right balance.
20. Add that personal touch
Your home shouldn’t be deprived of your own unique sense of style. It’s part of what makes the Scandi look so unique and charming, as while there are some style rules and a general look and feel, it’s more about creating a cosy space that you feel relaxed and at home in.
Don’t hold back from investing in pieces that you really love just because they don’t necessarily perfectly fit with your Nordic scheme. Give a nod to your personality and what family life means in your home, by introducing a few key pieces that you love, that might not necessarily typically find their way into a Scandinavian interior. This will go a long way to add buckets of character and charm, while still maintaining the overall look.
21. Invest in fresh flowers
Taking the time to consider your wellbeing and how you feel in your home is all part of the Scandi way of life. Fresh flowers go a long way to brighten up the home, and make you feel like you’re investing in something a little bit luxurious that will lift your spirits day to day. Consider investing in fresh flowers regularly, and place them in a high traffic area so that you see them often. Fresh flowers will also add a lovely scent to your home too.
22. Stick to simple form
When choosing furniture for your Scandi scheme, look for simple pieces with clean lines. Mid-century modern furniture works brilliantly for this look. Often simple and functional in dark wood hues, think sideboards on legs, round wood and glass coffee tables, upholstered accent chairs and simple grey sofas on wooden legs, all of which would fit perfectly in a Nordic home.
23. Introduce woven baskets
As great storage solutions, woven baskets are aesthetically pleasing and can be used in a number of different ways. Stick to natural belly baskets in jute, to use as floor standing plant pots and additional storage around the home. Try styling three in varying heights together. To make a few of your baskets unique, consider adding oversized pom poms to the brim to add interest and a soft edge. Avoid covering all of your baskets in pom poms though, to keep the look organic, rather than uniform.
24. Add a subtle pattern through soft furnishings
Because of the neutral colour palette, it can be easily to accidentally allow Scandi interiors to become a little too plain. A great way to add interest in addition to natural materials and metals is through pattern. Modern patterns work best in this scheme - think bohemian, aztec and geometrics, but if you prefer more traditional designs, a persian rug will also work well to add warmth, a touch of colour and pattern.
Try introducing pattern through modern and contemporary extra large rugs, cushions and blankets to add personality and interest.
25. Upcycle your own pieces
If creating a Scandi scheme on a budget, consider upcycling some of your current pieces of furniture to suit this style. As mentioned previously, this trend suits rustic pieces perfectly well, you just have to think about keeping the look coherent. For example, if you wanted to give your kitchen a Scandi finish without having to pay for new units, paint kitchen doors white and replace handles with simple brushed brass ones, and, if your budget will stretch, replace worktops for warm wood.
In addition, you could consider reupholstering an armchair in a beautiful grey fabric, or even making a rustic coffee table or dining table out of railway sleepers and hairpin legs, for a fraction of the cost of similar styles.
Not only is the Scandinavian style wonderfully aesthetically pleasing, it also encourages you to live in a different way too, by making time to relax and creating a space that’s tranquil as well as functional.