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Scandinavian interior design is simultaneously cozy and functional. When you look at some of the gorgeous Scandinavian living rooms out there, it’s not hard to understand why the world has fallen in love with this style. It combines elements of minimalism with a more natural, comfortable feel that mixes utilitarianism with a high aesthetic.

The Basics

Warm and inviting yet modern and sleek, incorporating Scandinavian influences into your home decor is surprisingly easy. The key is to create a comfy, homey environment without going overboard.

After all, trying too hard to make a room feel cozy can easily lead to an overly busy, cluttered feel if you’re not careful. It’s all about fully embracing decor that you truly love and making each piece count. At the same time, Scandinavian design is more subtle  without being boring.

While you will want to exercise restraint, this isn’t bleak, sterile minimalism. Scandinavian designers often use a variety of contrasting soft colors and unique textures and accents to add life to a design rooted in practicality. In other words, you get both form and function.

This style frequently incorporates bucolic elements without the aging, rustic cabin-in-the-woods feel. It is very clean and precise while still making a home feel like, well, a home. For example, the furniture may be handmade from wood — trees are revered in Scandinavian culture — but the actual pieces are striking and contemporary in overall design. Scandinavian furniture finds inspiration in the past and in nature (especially forests), while embracing embrace current and futuristic aesthetics too.

Finally, Scandinavian design is timeless. With Scandinavian furniture, it is easy to create a room that never feels either over-the-top or boring, lending it an ability to continue inspiring happiness decades (or even centuries) from now.

The Color Palette

scandinavian colorsPhoto by decor8 holly on flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Your color choices are going to play a big role in achieving an authentic Scandinavian look. The core hues of this type of design tend to be a whole lot of shades of white, as well as greys and timber shades. From there, the colors (or lack thereof) you choose depend on your personal vision. After all, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to design.

If you want to add a splash of color to a room, pastels are ideal. Soft pinks, blues, yellows, and oranges are often basics in Scandinavian design. Just make sure you don’t overuse them. Create your base look with whites, greys, and timber shades, and then add accent colors tastefully.

If you plan to use color but you still want a more modern, minimal aesthetic, a great trick is to use chromatic tones, rather than using too much color. For example, you could have white walls, grey and wood furniture, and various shades of orange as your accent pieces. Using varying orange shades rather than a combination of colors keeps the room more focused.

Certain two-color combinations can create cohesive aesthetics too. For example, white and gold naturally conjure visions of royalty and purity. As you select colors, don’t just choose your personal favorites. Try to envision the finished room and how it will make you and your housemates and guests feel.

Finding Inspiration

nordic designPhoto by Unique Hotels on flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

If you’re having trouble deciding on a color scheme, start by examining your key pieces and working from there. Do you already own the furniture you love? Maybe you have some artwork to hang? Or, do you have a favorite rug? You can use those essential pieces as a starting point and then work from there.

For instance, say you have a piece of art that features blue as a primary color. Now you could find other pieces (rugs, lamps, etc.) with the same or complementary shade of blue. Now you know that you have those blue shades ready to go, so the next step could be choosing shades of white for the wall or shades of timber for the furniture.

If you’re not tied to any specific pieces, you can use the opposite approach — start with a neutral base and work out from there with home accent pieces. For example, after you paint your living room, you now have a blank canvas to work with. Once you add furniture or shop for accent pieces, each step naturally follows the previous one.

How you approach design is really a matter of preference (and sometimes necessity). While it can be a daunting prospect, sometimes you may need to get rid of existing pieces to make the new design work. Even if you love that big plaid sofa from the ‘70s, it may be time to donate it to your local Goodwill if you want to really make the design work.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just taking inspiration from Scandinavian design — you don’t need to dive in all the way. Just keep in mind that the room may not feel cohesive or put-together. Scandinavian is very intentional. Each piece serves a purpose (especially when decorating small spaces), whether it’s aesthetic or practical.

Functional Furniture

scandinavian furniturePhoto by decor8 holly on flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Scandinavian rooms often feature furniture that’s both functional and pleasing to the eye. Scandinavian design is clutter-free, and, often, your furniture can help with that. For example, an ottoman could also open to reveal storage space for magazines or your TV remote. You can also use elegant mirrors to give your walls a greater sense of purpose beyond typical wall art.

As you seek out the perfect furniture, try to find pieces that are innovative without being cheesy. You’re looking for smart pieces that genuinely provide value, rather than gimmicks that will get old after a month. Scandinavian design often features striking, compelling furniture, but be wary of designs that are too excessive. Clean lines and rounded curves are your friends.

Lighting Is Essential

scandinavian lightingPhoto by designmilk on flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Scandinavian countries can get as little as seven hours of daylight during the winter season, so it’s not surprising that lighting is a focal point in Scandinavian design. You’ll commonly see a lot of large hanging lights, often with industrial elements. The lights are often very round, sleek, and overall very minimal in design.

If you want a more rustic, bucolic feel, living room fireplaces and candles add a romantic feel (especially in the winter). While you’re going to want electric lights too, a well-maintained fire can be a truly stunning addition to a Scandinavian living room. Just make sure you’re extremely careful, especially if you plan on using fire-based lighting on a consistent basis. Make your design decisions with this in mind, like opting for fireplace tile, which and can is safe to help you achieve a natural and elegant look.

Embrace Hygge Culture

scandinavian designPhoto by designmilk on flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

According to Wikipedia, ‘Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.” As you try to gain inspiration for designing your home, it’s easy to get so caught up in the “rules” that you forget the most important aspect of Scandinavian design — creating a living space that you truly love.

Hygge culture is all about making yourself and your loved ones truly happy, so don’t feel like you have to abide by any guidelines that don’t spark joy. At the end of the day, it’s your home. It’s where you make memories and spend time with the people you cherish. Make a room that makes you smile — it really is that simple.

 

Get the Look in Your Living Room: Scandinavian Home Design was last modified: March 29th, 2019 by Katie Tejada
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