Classic interior design styles and how to light them – Scandinavian


Simplicity, sophistication and cosiness, that’s the Scandinavian way. Continuing our series on the great interior decor trends and how you can use them for inspiration in your own home (with a special emphasis on lighting), here’s a guide to Nordic interior design...

See also: Classic interior design styles and how to light them – 1. Mid-Century Modern 2. English Country House style 3. Industrial style 4. Eclectic style 5. Coastal style When author Meik Wiking’s Danish home was burgled, the thieves took his most prized possession – a Hans J Wegner 1968 walnut and dark brown leather Shell chair. Recalling the incident later, Wiking paid tribute to the thieves’ ‘good taste…’

Hans J Wegner 'Shell' chair. Image: Palette & Parlor

Denmark’s love of design is something that Wiking, founder of the Institute of Happiness and best-selling author, knows all about. Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge – an engaging look at the key elements of the good life, Danish style - has sold a staggering two million copies worldwide since it was published in 2016. Embracing the principles of hygge – and, in our case, hygge lighting – has been part of a wider fascination for the Scandinavian way of doing things. As more than one pundit has observed, ‘We’re all Scandinavian now.’ The pacy storylines of television serials, such as Borgen (politics in Denmark) and Wallander (crime in Sweden) may have gripped us but we have also been thoroughly seduced by all those stylish interiors. The appeal of Scandinavian design is far from new and is remarkable for its staying power. Architects and designers including Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) had built a solid reputation in the first half of the 20th century and Finnish-born Aalto was celebrated as much for his distinctive streamlined furniture, which dates from 1929, as he was for buildings, such as the Paimio Sanatorium. We can trace the UK trajectory of popular appeal from Heal’s groundbreaking 1951 exhibition, Scandinavian Design for Living, via the launch in 1958 of Danish architect, Arne Jacobsen’s Egg chair, and Terence Conran’s first Habitat store (Fulham Road, 1964), which offered a distinctly Scandinavian focus on natural materials and simple lines, to the arrival of IKEA’s first British store 33 years ago. Yes, it has been that long. Our love of Scandinavian style shows no sign of diminishing as Larry James, now 92, and his family have found. In the 1950s and early ‘60s, Larry’s work involved regular trips to Sweden, where the furniture, ceramics, textiles and glassware that he and his wife, May, saw in Stockholm and Gothenburg left a strong impression. When it came to furnishing a new family home in 1959, they opted for G Plan in every room. Made by British company E Gomme, G Plan furniture – like the 1960s dining table set below - was strongly influenced by mid-century Scandinavian designs and both companies actively recruited established Scandinavian designers.

G Plan dining table by Kofod Larsen. Image: Vinterior

To complement their G Plan furniture, Larry and May added a wide selection of distinctly Scandinavian accessories, including ceramics and Orrefors glassware, bought on their many visits to Sweden. Larry and May’s children and grandchildren inherited the Scandinavian design bug, and now their great-grandchildren are continuing the tradition.

What is Scandinavian interior design?

Chalet by Bryan O'Sullivan Studio

Scandinavian countries are used to extremes: winter days are among Europe’s shortest, summer days some of the longest, and their long winter nights continue for many months. And then there’s the snow. But there are also breathtaking landscapes, with lakes and forests, and Scandinavians believe in making the most of their picturesque surroundings. This feeling for nature is one of the strongest influences on many areas of Scandinavian design.

Light and a whiter shade of pale

It’s not surprising that natural light is a valuable commodity in Scandinavia, so interiors are kept as airy and open as possible. Walls and paintwork can be white or a soft, pale grey. Clutter is kept to a minimum and, when it comes to keeping stuff out of sight when not in use, Scandinavians have led the way in terms of creating stylish, clever storage systems and units. And, unlike some countries where heavy curtains are designed to keep the world, the weather, and the dark out and the warmth in, especially in winter, Scandinavians like to look outwards. If windows are dressed, they wear sheer, pale muslins and voiles year round. If that sounds counter-intuitive, remember that Scandinavians also produce superbly designed and highly efficient woodburning stoves. The undoubted comfort that woodburning stoves provide makes a major contribution to those uniquely Nordic lifestyle concepts of hygge (Denmark and Iceland), lagom (Sweden), koselig (Norway) and kalsarikänni (Finland). The Scandinavian love of light stretches back through time and it featured strongly in the works of 19th century artists such as Sweden’s Carl Larsson and his wife, Karin, and Denmark’s Vilhelm Hammershøi. The Larssons are often referred to as the creators of Swedish style and their home, Lilla Hyttnäs, appears in many of Carl Larsson’s paintings .

Flowers on the Window Sill c1895 by Carl Larsson.


Clean and balanced lines

Scandinavian designers have long been adept at balancing form and function, so that one is never at the expense of their other, however innovative the design. Furniture surfaces are smooth, edges are rounded, and individual pieces are invariably space efficient.

Kitchen by Rebecca Hughes


Wood – with a touch of metal

Surrounded as so many of them are by vast forest areas, it has always made sense for Scandinavians to use wood, mainly light woods including ash, beech and pine, in their homes, with sustainability being the watchword in the 21st century. If you’re aiming for the Scandinavian look in your home, forget fitted carpets and opt for pale wooden floors, with rugs where you need warm spots – beside beds, for example – or for spots of colour. Wooden floors are left natural, to make the most of the grain, or painted white or soft grey.

Image: My Scandinavian Home

Scandinavian furniture often combines wood with metal, a style that had a major influence on Mid-Century Modern design. And, in Denmark, decorative metal is highly prized in its own right, none more so than silver: take a look at this contemporary range that British-Danish designer, Ilse Crawford, created for leading Danish company, Georg Jensen.

The importance of plant life

Scandinavians have always recognised the value of houseplants, which add valuable light and air to interiors, but they pay as much attention to plant holder design as they do to the plants themselves. There is a long tradition of craft stoneware, in natural tones, often with roughened surfaces. This type of stoneware offers not only an ideal setting for natural greenery but is very tactile and pleasing to look at. Metal holders are popular too, as are plant holders and hangers made of natural fabrics, such as jute and cotton.

Kitchen by Interiordesigned


Textiles at work

If the underlying palette for Scandinavian interiors is neutral and pale, textile accessories are where the colour comes in, although colours tend to be soft and muted. Rugs, throws and cushions, all of which add warmth as well as a touch of hygge, feature bold designs, which are often geometric or reflect the natural world. Marimekko, which was founded by Finnish designer, Armi Ratia, in 1951, specialises in home furnishings and women’s clothes in original, strong prints and is now a worldwide brand. And the work of many pioneering Scandinavian textile designers, such as Viola Gråsten (1910-1994) is still in production today. This is her 1966 Korgpil (willow) design:

Image: Design Arkivet


Lighting the Scandinavian style home

According to Meik Wiking, Danes are as obsessional about lighting as they are about chairs but, given those short days and long winter nights, that’s probably true of most Scandinavians. If you are going to spend many of your waking hours in artificial light, your lighting had better be not just highly effective but good to look at too. Metal, wood, glass and natural materials are preferred.

Hattermorn in oak

Here at Pooky, we think that our Hattermorn pendant light is the woody, earthy epitome of Scandi loveliness. It’s one of those deceptively simple designs – a cone of eight oak laminate layers oak – that is actually quite difficult to make… Then there’s Thea, a copper pendant shade inspired by one we saw in Copenhagen. It would work beautifully over a kitchen island or dining table. For a floor lamp, you can go for the modernist version of Scandinavian with the Bow Tie...

Bow Tie Floor lamp in black

...Or alternatively, for a touch of Carl Larsson homeliness, how about our Moonshine floor lamp, with its natural whitewash finish, teamed with a straight empire lampshade in natural linen? Add some houseplants on the window sill to complete the Lilla Hyttnäs look!


Let Pooky light up your Scandinavian design home – browse our full range of affordable designer lighting here.