How to Nail Scandinavian Interior Design

Updated 08/12/19

Minimalist style may have come and gone, but there is one iteration of clean design that will never go out of style. Scandinavian interior design uses a blend of textures, contrasts, and soft hues to make sleek, modern furniture feel warm and inviting. It's no small feat to be able to exercise restraint in your décor choices while still managing to make a space feel cozy.

It's no wonder the style is so popular: It speaks to both our tidy tendencies and our desire to live in cozy and comfortable settings. Want to get the look that Nordic countries are so well-known for? Take note of these beautiful layered spaces.

Scandinavian Interior Design
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

Scandinavian interior design is known for its minimalist color palettes, cozy accents, and striking modern furniture. Designs often play with natural light—which is a hot commodity in Nordic countries.

Scandinavian Interior Design Ideas
Courtesy of Liljencrantz Design

High contrasts are the hallmark of Scandinavian interior design.

High contrasts are the hallmark of Scandinavian interior design. In this all-white dining room, stark black sculptural furniture helps create a dramatic, impactful statement. Modern furniture also contrasts with the ornate architectural details that are common in historic buildings in northern Europe.

Scandinavian Design
Courtesy of Pella Hedeby

Even in newly built contemporary spaces, mod furniture is key: tulip tables and swan chairs are warmed up by blonde-wood accents and rich cognac leather tones. Sculptural branches also help make the space feel more organic.

Scandinavian Design Ideas
Courtesy of Tali Roth Designs

In this New York City apartment, interior designer Tali Roth embraced her own version of Scandinavian style. A George Nelson-esque Flos table lamp stands atop a mirrored cube. The colors are muted tones of taupe, ivory, and sage. Black-and-white photography, olive branches, and a small brass bowl all serve as minimalist decorative accents.

Scandinavian Decorating
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

Colorful art is seldom found in Scandinavian interiors, but when it is, it's often in graphic multiples, like in this series of botanical prints. In the dining room, furniture is often kept simple: midcentury chairs and a floating storage buffet. Candles are the hallmark of hygge style and often come in simple brass candleholders.

Scandinavian Decorating Ideas
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

Speaking of hygge, the Danes try to incorporate this philosophy in all aspects of their décor: Make it as cozy and comfortable as possible. In this small space, the unmade bed is pushed up against the window and takes up the whole space. Curtains separate the sleeping space, further adding to the coziness.

Scandinavian Design
Courtesy of Pella Hedeby

Scandinavian design is known for its minimalist flair that still manages to feel cozy. For instance, this living room features simple, clean-lined furniture and muted gray tones, which could easily feel cold and uninviting. But with striking photography and a cozy mix of textures, like the sheepskin throw and kilim rug, it feels welcoming.

Scandinavian Design Ideas
Courtesy of Liljencrantz Design

Scandinavian homes are known to have fireplaces in the corner of a room—not centered on a wall. Thus, seating arrangements are often designed accordingly. Smaller accent chairs float closer to the fireplace while sofas generally anchor the middle of the room, leaving walking space behind it. 

Danish Interior Design
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

Warm wood tones and sepia hues are popular in Scandinavian interior design because they make a room feel sunny and bright without using overwhelming bright colors. In this bedroom, off-whites, sepias, and wood tones work together to create a welcoming, muted space.

Danish Interior Design Ideas
Courtesy of Pella Hedeby

Swedes and Danes are skilled at layering bedding in the most welcoming way. This often includes a blend of linen sheets, wool blankets, and a small collection of accent pillows, often in muted tone-on-tone hues. Iconic lighting is also common in Scandinavian bedrooms—often using the ceiling fixture and bedside lamp to make a modern statement.

Swedish Interior Design
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

When color is used in Scandinavian interiors, it's often in small bursts or bright hues—almost in a gallery style. For instance, in this light-and-bright living room, a neutral base is brought to life with rugs and throws in blue and purple hues, while the various artwork provides a sharp burst of color.

Swedish Interior Design Ideas
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

Though they veer more on the modern side, Scandinavian interiors often feature a mix of periods and styles to make a space feel layered and cozy. In this muted dining room, oil paintings in ornate gilded frames hang above a collection of apothecary jars. Above the stark black dining table hangs an oversized industrial pendant. 

This story was originally published on March 21, 2018, and has since been updated.

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