What Is Scandinavian Interior Design? 8 Key Principles to Follow


Scandinavian interior design is an aesthetic rooted in simplicity. It features subtle textures, a soft color palette, and sparse styling. For Sigurd Hadland, founder of FJØRN Scandinavian in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, Scandi environments are also at one with nature. “Natural materials are the driving force,” he affirms. “The awareness of nature has driven design toward natural materials and an organic, integrated style.”

For Swedish interior designer and stylist Pella Hedeby, Nordic design produces “an airy, calm and relaxed feeling.” Her best advice: Keep color tones and textures aligned. Since Nordic homes are “harmonious” and truly easy to live in, Hedeby notes, “A guiding principle is to establish harmony with one’s environment.” To incorporate the soothing aesthetic into your own home, keep the key elements of Scandinavian interior design in mind.

Sara Medina Lind

Scandinavian Interior Design Principles

1. Use Natural Materials

Scandinavians find great inspiration in the outdoors. “We honor it with the use of nature’s materials,” Hedeby says. This includes wood and stone that patina beautifully with age. “A local limestone such as Norrvange,” is ideal, Hedeby says, as well as “concrete and plaster or matte painted walls.” Look for textures with natural warmth, she suggests. “Schemes are inspired by pale sea views, white stone beaches, and the grays of the winter woods and mountains.”

Kristofer Johnsson for Nordiska kök

2. Choose a Neutral Color Palette

Stick to a soothing palette of whites, warm grays, and sandy hues, Hedeby says. The designer and stylist’s favorite wall color is a shade of greige—10341 from Norwegian paint company Jotun Lady. Painting with added minerals can provide a natural lime paint texture, too. If you’re building or renovating, honor the beauty of raw materials. Choose “a divine Dinesen floor and keep the rest pure and simple.”

For a stateside paint color match, try a light gray-beige like Farrow & Ball’s Drop Cloth or Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter.

Carl Hansen

3. Shop Scandi Classics

Once your space is a blank canvas, add Danish design staples to bring the Scandi interior to life. Hedeby recommends Carl Hansen’s Wishbone Chair by Hans J. Wegner and the J39 Chair by Borge Mogensen. “They give an instant Nordic minimalist and Scandinavian feel to an interior,” she says.

For a one-stop shop, Hadland’s retail store FJØRN Scandinavian curates the best of the region, including brands like PP Møbler, Carl Hansen & Søn, Kasthall Rugs, and House of Finn Juhl.

4. Accessorize Intentionally

When it comes to accessorizing, do so minimally and with great care. Shop for decor from the Swedish brand Bonnibonne, search for an Alvar Aalto vase, and bring in simple branches from the woods, Hedeby suggests. “Or try a decorative collection of beautifully shaped stoneware vases by any of our well-known Swedish ceramists, Carl Harry Ståhane, or Gunnar Nylund.”

5. Make It Functional

According to Hadland, Scandinavian capital cities grew quickly during the post-war period, and apartment living became the norm. “Since living spaces were small, everything needed to be functional, comfortable, and attractive,” he says. To be genuinely Scandinavian in your approach to interior design, prioritize functional items, like Alvar Aaltos Stackable Stools for Artek. “They perfectly combine the simplistic design, form, and function,” Hedeby says.

Erik Lefvander

6. Layer Natural Textures

A Scandinavian space isn’t complete without hygge, a word meaning warmth and comfort. “Adding some cozy textures, sheepskins, and blankets in linen and wool create that soft Nordic look,” Hedeby says.

These comforting textures work well for sofas and chairs, too. “Sheep’s wool is typically used for upholstery fabrics and pelts,” Hadland explains. “Colors tend to be natural and undyed. Since chemical dyes were expensive and less frequently used, grays, blacks, beiges, browns, and whites became the prominent colors.”

Kristofer Johnsson for Nordiska kök

7. Keep It Simple

Hedeby says Scandinavians follow the basic principle that less is more. “The decluttered style is easy to live with, and the materials age beautifully with a natural patina. It’s sustainable and long-lasting,” she says. “With a beautiful base with natural warmth, you don’t need a lot of things to get an inviting feeling at home.”

Nordic spaces lack excessive ornamentation, so start editing! According to Hadland, the Nordic style is “clean and clear, avoiding clutter or disorganization.”

8. Add Ambience with Lighting

Due to extreme changes in temperature and sunlight, table and floor lamps are crucial in Nordic countries, Hedeby says. “Creating a warm ambience and convivial setting for the home, especially in winter, has been an important priority.” But unlike homes in the United States, Hadland says Scandinavians rarely rely on canned ceiling lights. “The quintessential living room in a nice Scandinavian home will have several lighting zones with up to 10 different fixtures, from pendants to floor and table lights,” he says.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use Scandinavian interior design principles in my kitchen?

  • Can I mix Scandinavian interior design with other design styles?

    Yes. Case in point: the popular Japandi design aesthetic, which first popped up in 2016, but hit peak trending in 2021. The aesthetic combines Scandinavian and Japanese interior principles into one meditative approach that showcases simplicity and craftsmanship. The style honors both origin cultures and effortlessly melds minimalism with cozy comfort. Other design styles that blend beautifully with Scandinavian interior design include midcentury modern, modern, and bohemian design.

  • What kind of art goes with Scandinavian interior design?

    When choosing art for a Scandinavian design-inspired space, let your heart be your guide. The beauty of Scandinavian interior design is in its flexibility. On one hand, soothing neutral artwork, nature-inspired wood pieces, and black and white prints will feel right at home in a simple, harmonious space. On the other hand, given the minimalist space, you can afford to use bold, colorful artwork as a focal point. Bright colors, animal prints, and dramatic shapes will stand out and sparkle against otherwise understated decor.


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