It’s not just the haughty beauty of the design, it’s the simplicity and utility of it. Lines are clean, colours are muted and there’s function to match the form. Simple style statements appeal to the permanently indecisive, and if you thought slate grey was a boring colour, look at what our friends up north can do with it.
The appeal is obvious: Scandinavian design is heavily influenced by the natural environment. The northern countries are famously dark, cold and snow-covered for long months of the year with brief, intense light-filled summers. And for them to be able to survive this, they have developed a strong practical bent in making the most out of limited resources, delivering workable solutions. Most of their designs have been inspired by organic forms, materials or natural patterning. There’s a lot of copper and wood going on, but the thing here is in transforming such sturdy materials into mini works of art especially since industrialisation arrived late in the region which what has kept the traditional craft skills alive. As a result, they have refused to allow the machine production to supplant the instinctive handling of materials that is innate to craft.
Neutral backdrops provide the canvas for Nordic design. Greys and whites create the clean look to allow the furniture little background distraction. The simple lines and use of organic materials also help create a smooth flow. The dark winter days and few hours of daylight encourages designers to create bright and functional rooms with traditional methods and clever utilisation of the raw materials available. But this does not limit the Scandinavian design strictly to minimalism. In fact, inside Stockholm’s hotels, restaurants and shops, a slow return to the more colourful, often forgotten periods in the country’s design history can be seen — a vibrant emulsion of the gilded trappings of the 18th-century court of King Gustav III featuring textiles inspired by the Nordic folk motifs and their ornate craftsmanship that rose around the same time as ArtDeco.
But regardless whether the design follows the simple lines and curves according to its new modernist theme or is colourful and embellished with antique clocks, crystal chandeliers and curved rustic white wood furnishing, one thing’s for sure: the Scandinavian design main focus lies on functionality, durability and reliability —a hard balance to achieve when also considering the aesthetics.
The popularity of Scandinavian furniture has reached every corner of the globe, with many classics still in production. Scandinavian style has also spread to accessories and streamlined kitchenware. Yet over the years, its appeal endures: warm modernism with a natural, human feel.