Scandinavian Design 101: How to Create a Nordic-Inspired Home

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated May 27, 2022
Bright and cozy Scandinavian style living room
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus


  • Scandinavian design first originated in the early 20th century but didn’t become popular until the 1950s.

  • Comfort, natural light, muted colors, and modern furniture are just some of the features of Scandi design. 

  • With the right tips and tricks, incorporating Scandinavian design into your own home doesn’t have to empty your bank account. 

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

When it comes to creating cozy-yet-functional environments, Scandinavian design can’t be beat. This mid-century favorite is still a hit now because of how easy it is to integrate into just about any space. And understanding a bit about what makes it so special will help you decide which elements are best for your abode in particular. 

Whether you want to go all-in or bit by bit, keep reading to find out all the big and small ways to bring Scandi design into your own home. 

What Is Scandinavian Design? 

Scandinavian design encompasses the work of designers and architects from the five Nordic countries—Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, and Norway. Light colors, open spaces, clean lines, functionality, and minimalism are just some of its defining characteristics. 

What Are the Origins of Scandinavian Design? 

Scandinavian design first began to appear in the early 20th century. It was influenced by corresponding design movements like Art Nouveau in France and Bauhaus in Germany, as well as the advances made in furniture manufacturing during the Industrial revolution. For one of the first times in the history of furniture, pre-fabricated, modern furnishings were becoming more accessible to the average population, and this had a huge impact on the development of Scandi design.

In 1914, the Danish company for the decorative arts (or Selskabet for Dekorativ Kunst) formally introduced Scandinavian design to the world of interior design with the publication of a magazine called “Skonvirke”—which literally translates to “graceful style.” 

However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that it really became a global sensation. This was largely thanks to the visionary work of designers and architects like Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, Borge Mogensen, Hans J. Wegner, Verner Panton, Poul Henningsen and Maija Isola, who ushered in a golden period for Scandi design from the 1950s to ’70s.

What Are the Key Elements of Scandinavian Design?

6 key elements of Scandinavian design, including comfort, light colors, and minimalism

While comfort and coziness are two major hallmarks of Scandinavian design, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. This style is all about modernism and functionality and achieving that aesthetic through all means possible. That includes cosmetic elements like furniture and lighting, as well as behind-the-scenes efforts like sustainability and out-of-sight clutter. 

From hygge to IKEA, here are some of the most famous and beloved traits of Scandinavian design. 

1. Comfort 

Hygge is all about getting cozy and enjoying the little things, and this logic plays a huge role in Scandinavian design as a whole. Great attention is paid to anything that can create comfort in a space like soft textiles, candles, humidifiers, roaring fireplaces, and even the perfect coffee-making set-up. 

Because everyone’s idea of comfort is highly individualized, the amount and distribution of these elements can vary a lot from one home to the next. At the end of the day, it’s all about including what makes you feel comfortable. 

2. Sustainability

Much of Scandinavian design relies on eco-friendly principles. Many Nordic designers make use of natural or recycled materials, as well as ethical means of production and collaboration with local craftspeople and resources to reduce environmental impacts as much as possible. 

3. Modern Furniture 

Interior of Scandinavian style dining room
Photo: imaginima / E+ / Getty Images

Unlike in the work of corresponding eras like Art Nouveau, you won’t find any ornate or intricate carvings in Scandinavian design. Instead, Scandi design is primarily composed of clean lines and organic shapes. Pieces are meant to look great and function just as well.  

4. Minimalism 

Cutting down on clutter is a key aspect of Scandinavian design. Doing so creates environments that are more organized and easier to function, as well as light, airy, and open. 

5. Light Colors

Light or muted colors are frequently used in Scandinavian interior design to create airy and open environments. Though white walls are a common feature of Nordic homes, pastel greens, blues, pinks, and beyond are also fair game. In a similar vein, light and mid-toned wood fixtures are another common feature of Scandinavian design. 

6. Natural Light

Because light is limited in Nordic countries for a large part of the year, huge importance is placed on the presence of natural light in Scandinavian design. Unlike other European-style lighting, the light fixtures that are used are simple yet impactful and include everything from stylish pendant lights to modern chandeliers. 

How to Incorporate Scandinavian Design Into Your Home

Intrigued? Here’s how you can get a taste of Scandi design in your home.

1. Stock Up on Cozy Throw Pillows and Blankets

Cozy sofa with pillows and blanket
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Investing in comfortable textiles is one of the quickest ways to infuse your home with Scandi style. That doesn’t mean you have to cover your home plush from wall to wall. Most spaces will benefit from just one or two soft and cozy additions, whether that’s a bright, white shag rug, or a beige wool tapestry. Even just a bit of accessorizing will highlight this style

2. Cut Down on Clutter

Removing clutter is a must if you want to truly embrace Scandinavian design. And, unlike the other tips on this list, it can cost practically nothing to do. In general, try to store everyday objects in easy-to-access yet out-of-sight places, so that you can get to them quickly without having to look at them all the time. Keep only design-friendly, utilitarian objects on display, like hand-crafted pottery. 

3. Simplify Your Home’s Color Palette

Though you don’t have to get rid of color entirely to embrace Scandinavian interior design, you may have to tone it down a bit to achieve the desired effect. In general, bright or vibrant colors are only featured on smaller design elements—like on textiles and art—and light ones are reserved for larger fixtures like interior walls or furnishings. 

4. Change Your Lighting Set-up

If more natural light isn’t an option where you live, there are still ways to brighten your home in a Scandinavian-inspired way. Invest in LED lights to have better control over light temperature, color, and mood lighting. Set up accent lights in especially dark areas to add an extra layer of coziness. Even simply switching out dark curtains for light drapes will have a huge impact on the brightness of your home. 

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.