How to Use the 9 Principles of Nordic Design In Your Home

The recent obsession with the Danish principle of hygge has been all about making things cosy, with layering, warmth and comfort being key - perfect timing for all those blanket sales people!

But what the emphasis on cosiness ignores is that Scandinavian living is more about practicality, simplicity and ease, not just a few extra throws on the sofa.

In fact, rather than constantly buying new and more, Scandi living is about buying quality that lasts, living with less but better, and being unencumbered by clutter.

Not minimalism per se, but a desire for harmony in your living space and by complementing and accepting your environment.

This new more basic style of design and living came about in the five Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland during the 1930s.

However, the term 'Scandinavian design' wasn't coined until the eponymous show toured north America in the 1950s.

Milk jug, Rigby and Mac

Beautiful design, high quality sustainable materials and product, simplicity and clean lines became the key principles, largely inspired by nature and the Nordic climate.

Scandinavian design's primary purpose is to improve daily life, so everything from cooking utensils to lighting was re-examined and re-designed.

During the golden age of Scandinavian design, from the 1930s to the 1970s, many uniquely talented designers rewrote the design rule book, with some such as Arne Jacobsen becoming household names.

So how can you embrace the principles of Nordic design in your home?

Embrace natural materials

Root your home in nature by using pure materials indoors, such as this charming light wood staircase from Fontanot stairs uk.

Light but warm woods help reflect light and contrasts beautifully with white walls and stair rods.

If pine is used, the yellow tones are usually greyed down with a special oil, or sanded and painted over.  
Eco-friendly materials are ideal, using organic, sustainable building materials for floors, walls, roofs and more.

Mix traditional and modern for an authentic look.

Define areas for comfort

Wall to wall carpet never really took off in Scandinavian countries, with wood the most popular choice for flooring, but tiles or rubber and lino also seen.

Light wood is key, or painted boards, with rugs used to delineate particular areas.

Rugs can be a great way to introduce colour too, like this Happy Color Splash rug by Tom Tailor.  

Note how only the rug and the sofa cushions add colour to this neutral room.

Use a muted colour palette

Contrary to popular belief, it's not all white on white.

Watching Frikjent (Acquitted) recently, I was struck with the amount of colour used in Eva Hansteen's beautiful home.

With sage greens and warm greys on the walls, shades of taupe in the soft furnishings, and accessories in pink, blue and yellow, there was a strong but muted pastel palette throughout.

I was almost as envious of those colours as I was of her cardigan collection!

Use pops of colour

If pastels aren't your thing, try a pop of colour amid all the neutrals to bring the whole scheme together.  

Blue is popular, with shades from sky to turquoise to navy being used to pull the whole white and bright scheme together. 

We love this blue tweed pendant lamp from Odda, or for a stronger colour, how about this stunning teal shade from Fontanot stairs?

Flood with light

Keep window dressings to an absolute minimum, keep colours muted and limited and embrace white.  

Windows should be as large as possible and kept clear and unobstructed so light can flood in for as many hours as possible.

Nordic interiors are light, bright and open, making the most of all that exquisite light, even when it is reflected off snow.

It's about making the most of natural light when the sun sets so early.

If privacy is an issue, use floaty voiles that restrict light as little as possible.

Keep the light

Big, open windows are ideal, but how can you encourage the light to stay, or maximise it if your windows are smaller?  (Without remodelling your whole house that is!)

Use glass and mirrors, glossy surfaces, and wooden or tiled floors to bounce light around and make the most of it.

You can see how this quite dark kitchen encourages the light to play off surfaces, and makes it brighter and sunnier.

Minimise accessories

Accept that less is more and clear the clutter.

Get storage streamlined behind closed doors, and remove anything that is not either necessary or beautiful.

Collect similar shapes or materials together and be proud of what you do display with carefully chosen displays.

On sofas, chairs and beds, add texture and comfort with cushions and throws in different textures, maintaining the same muted colour palette.

Create negative space

In a more minimalist design, the distance between things is as important as the things themselves.  

Don't be afraid of blank wall space, between pictures or between furniture.

Don't fill surfaces with clutter, display just a few carefully curated items, as in the bedroom below.  

Group smaller photos and pictures together, as seen here by the Nordic Design Collective, or have just one or two big statement pieces, as seen above.

Bring nature inside

Nature is vitally important, even in the depths of winter.

Have plants and flowers indoors to cleanse the air, brighten the home, and provide that all important link to outdoors.

Adding a space such as a terrace or balcony that acts as a transition between the outside and the inside, perhaps with a covered area for colder days, is also ideal.

But a few flowers in a jam jar is better than nothing!

Sofa by Tom Tailor

Scandinavian countries are regularly declared the world's happiest, and their pared back design and easy living must play a part in that.

Living in a warm, welcoming and positive space impacts on wellbeing and boosts happiness, plus exposure to all that light boosts mood even at the darkest times of the year.

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