Room Decor

Why Has Scandinavian Interior Design Gone Global?

For many, Scandinavian design is already in our homes – IKEA has certainly made sure of that! But what exactly is Scandinavian interior design and why has it gone global? Also, are we missing the best bits?

What is Scandinavian design?

Scandinavia, apparently named as such in the 18th Century, is a cultural-linguistic region in Northern Europe that includes the countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Today, the tourism industry now enjoys including Finland and Iceland in the mix.

Despite this rich history, Scandinavian design united in the 1950s as a contemporary design movement that celebrated minimalism and functionality. Its hallmark is simplicity. It belongs to the era of modernism, but it’s modernism done well and done in an age where postmodernism was springing to the fore.

Some look back on 20th Century modernism with disdain.

“The modernist aesthetic, which dominates our age, takes a variety of forms in the respective arts — in architecture, a lack of scale and ornamentation combined with the overwhelming deployment of materials like glass, steel, and brutalist concrete; in the plastic arts, a rejection of natural forms mixed with an unmistakable tendency towards the repulsive or meretricious; in literature, non-linear narrative, esoteric imagery, and an almost perfect lack of poetic form and diction.” (Briggs, 2012).

In contrast, Scandinavian design added to the art of design rather than taking away and, today, it continues to stay true to that form. It combines fresh white, light fundamentals with natural elements like timber, leather and hemp. It celebrates colour, but only by using it in small amounts to create greater impact.

While it might reject tradition, it welcomes the natural world – a tradition that surpasses humankind’s modernist intervention.

Scandinavian Interior Design - Snow Trees - Colour - Calm

CALM: Scandinavian interior design celebrates colour, but only in small amounts for greater impact. This Winter Reflections print is available for sale in our Photography collection online.


If trying to spot Scandinavian design, fundamentals include: simplicity; lighting; white with pops of colour; wood and entertaining. (Guastello, 2014)

Think white timber shutters, light coloured flooring, natural wood inclusions, clean lines in furniture and architecture, fireplaces, outdoor entertaining and lack of clutter.

Why has Scandinavian design gone global?

The simplicity of this design style continues to be a hallmark of multinational company IKEA which offers an affordable, pulp version to shoppers all over the world.

But how can a design form that started in such an excruciatingly cold climate make its way to the other end of the earth and feel so at home? Why is Scandinavian design so popular in Australia?

Let’s break it down. Given the many stresses of modern urban life, we all yearn for things in our lives that make things easier; we yearn for a connection to nature; and we yearn for calm. Scandinavian design brings all three into our everyday lives.

Minimalist, simple interiors are easy to clean and force us to declutter our space and mind. Scandinavian art – that which celebrates the natural world – invites a sense of calm into our homes.

Scandinavian Interior Design - Trees - Black and White

CELEBRATION OF NATURE: These two black and white photography tree prints bring the calm of nature into an uncluttered space. View them in our Black And White Photography Collection.

But it’s not brutal or glib. Dapples of colour provide fun and joy without overwhelming the senses.

Scandinavian Interior Design - Colour - Fun Art

FUN: Unlike some other modernist forms, Scandinavian design is not brutal or glib. This Retro Earth Rings piece, which you can buy now, brings the 1950s back to life.

That’s why so many interior designers, interior photographers and property marketers love it. It sings out to us as the place we’d rather be.

Are we missing the best of Scandinavian design?

Absolutely! When discussing whites, lights, timbers and function, we sometimes think that means a denial of art or a denial of a colour or a denial of creativity. Absolutely not.

Scandinavian art is less about clashing and more about complementing. The bonus with adding Scandinavian art to a Scandinavian interior is this: everything goes with white.

Scandinavian Interior Design - Breakwater Photography

CREATIVITY: Inspired by the Scandinavian sense of celebrating calm, this Boathouse print is Australia’s version of all things calm, giving an otherwise minimalist space a subtle splash of colour. Find it in our Photography Travel Gallery.

And while we may immediately think ‘functional’ when we think Scandinavian design, this doesn’t mean ‘serious’. Scandinavian art contains as much cutesy fun as any other modern art form.

Scandinavian Interior Design - Breakwater Photography

CUTESY: Chattering Birds On A Branch is in the style of Scandinavian art – cute, fun, colourful.

And it’s this sense of fun that will see Scandinavian design remain in our arts and our homes for many more years to come. To create a spirit of Scandinavian calm in your own home, browse through our black and white photography art gallery now.

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