The good news is, anybody can do it, and it’s not even a question of budgets or the size of your home. Here are eight steps to “living Scandinavian”.
Step 1: Always buy an original
Yes, design classics can be expensive. Yes, it is easy to be lured in by the companies who sell badly produced rip-offs, thinking nobody will tell the difference anyway. But there’s one thing a copy product will never do – hold its value.
If you invest in a Poul Henningsen lamp like the PH3, you can enjoy it for a lifetime and still put it towards the grandchildren’s university fund. Henningsen designed his PH-lamps in the late 1920s and early 30s, and nearly 100 years on they still look modern and stunning.
Step 2: Love light
We all know the Nordic love for white walls and pared-back interiors, right?
Of course that’s a bit of a cliché, and there is plenty of colorful homes around, but the fact remains that Scandinavians love all shades of white – perhaps in celebration of both the sunlight in summer and deep snow in winter.
The walls of this room are absolutely perfect in regards to reflecting the light, and the architects Norm have installed sloping ceilings that casts light out throughout the space which end up in small ceiling windows along the top edge that catch even the lowest rays in winter.
Step 3: Shop and live sustainably
Photo: Hannes Söderlund
With large swathes of our five nations covered in forest, no wonder Scandinavians use wood as a prime source for materials. From stools to saunas, everything is clad in or constructed from pine and spruce that give interiors that typical Nordic look. But it’s also about using the materials that are close at hand and can be sourced sustainably.
As consumers, Scandinavians hold enormous power in their choice of products, and they know that the smarter they shop, the better the world will be. So support local firms and those who tell the story of their production process openly, and you can make little changes every day.
Step 4: See things in black and white
Photo: House of Beatniks
You might think Scandinavians are a bit middle-of-the-road, gently diplomatic and maybe even a tad… boring?
Far from it. The Nordics are nations of extremes, with deep-running currents of emotion. No darkness in summer, and no light in winter, remember? Opposites attract, even in homes.
Too much white in a room, and you go snowblind. Too much black, and there is forever gloom. But the perfect balance of black lines in a white setting is pure poetry to us – like the Scandinavian version of interior Yin and Yang that works all around the world.
Step 5: Make space for children
Kids should be both seen and heard in the Scandinavian countries, and as often and as loudly as possible.
Playtime is taken very seriously indeed, from the little ones experimenting with Lego from Denmark to the older building cyberworlds with Minecraft, a Swedish invention. In this summerhouse in Sweden, the loft on top of the parents’ sleeping cubicle has been turned into a playpen/indoor tree house, made secure by netting.
Step 6: Live close to (and in) nature
While other Europeans may flock to beaches and resorts in summer, the height of luxury for many Scandinavians on holiday is an isolated spot far from a madding crowd. Perhaps with no running water or central heating, but preferably with good Wi-Fi – they are some of the most connected nations in the world after all.
Nordic landscapes and sceneries are deeply ingrained in the culture, and new architecture makes good use of advances in insulation and triple-glazing to create floor-to-ceiling glass walls like in this summerhouse. Nordic design also tends to bring nature inside, with plants in simple terracotta pots taking us through the months when there is not a green leaf to be seen outside.
Step 7: Organise and declutter
Photo: Studio Esinam
Scandinavians do like a bit of order and selection. After all, two Swedish words you might all know are ‘ombudsman’ and ‘smörgåsbord’.
But it’s also about seeing everyday beauty in the simple things, and taking pleasure in a pile of well-folded towels or run a hand along a shelf of color-coordinated books. Something akin to ‘mindfulness through design’, and something that can be done no matter how you live or what your budget is.
Step 8. Embrace ‘hygge’
We’ll round off this guide on how to enjoy slow design from the Nordics with a Danish word that encapsulates all of the steps above: hygge.
It means cosy warmth, spending time with the ones you love, in a home that is filled with light and well-loved items that fill you with everyday joy when you use them. You can’t buy ‘hygge’, nor can you get someone to create it for you. It is the Nordic state of contentment that can only be found at home.