The Ultimate Guide To Scandinavian Decor

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Simple, beautiful, and bright, Scandinavian style goes well beyond hygge and IKEA furniture. This design aesthetic hails from three countries, including Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. According to Apartment Therapy, Scandinavian design first stepped onto the international scene in the 1950s and has stayed around ever since. Part of its enduring appeal is the calm feeling it tends to inspire. There is a complete lack of clutter in these homes. You certainly won't find unnecessary objects, heavy furnishings, or bold color palettes in Scandi spaces. Instead, there are comfortable and functional furnishings, neutral tones, serene greenery, and rooms flooded with natural light.

The Scandinavian passion for nature is often reflected in its interior design. Expect to find natural materials like wood and stone, along with warm textures to stay cozy during the cold winter months. Basically, Scandi homes are perfect for relaxing and unwinding after long, stressful days. Keep reading for decorating tips and tricks if you want to give your home a cozy refresh with timeless Scandinavian style.

Organization is key

Everything has its proper place in the typical Scandinavian home. From blankets to dishes, no item is left unorganized. According to MyDomaine, Nordic style is never a cluttered mess. Instead, there is plenty of open space for rooms to breathe. Having so much empty space creates a relaxing atmosphere.

If you want to make your home more organized, start by decluttering and removing outdated or unnecessary items from your home. While it can be difficult to part ways with old pieces, you'll feel lighter and calmer after getting rid of stuff you don't need. After decluttering, you can rearrange and organize the remaining parts in each room. For example, in the kitchen, designate specific drawers for utensils, plates, and pans. If you have open shelving or glass-fronted cabinets, organize your display with function and aesthetics in mind. If you need more storage space, consider investing in decorative bins, baskets, or containers.

Emphasize natural light with white walls

Considering how dark and gray Scandinavian winters are, it makes sense that sunlight is a top design concern in these countries. Homes are designed to maximize natural light with features like bare white walls, pale furnishings, large windows, reflective surfaces, and skylights. As reported by North Hem, design elements like glass walls create incredibly bright, open, and polished rooms.

To let light into your home, consider removing dark drapes or curtains from the windows. This will increase the amount of light that flows through your room and brighten up any shadowy corners. As for your interiors, you can decorate with shiny, high-gloss materials that bounce light around the space. Pieces like tables, chairs, light fixtures, or cabinets with metallic or lacquer finishes will add a glamorous shine to any space. If you really want to brighten up a room with consistent light, install a skylight on the roof or ceiling.

Incorporate natural elements like wood

Scandinavian design reflects a passion for nature and the great outdoors. According to BBC, getting outside and relaxing in fresh air is a key component of Nordic culture, even when the temperature drops below freezing. There's even a Scandinavian term for expressing the cultural love of outdoor living: "friluftsliv." Perhaps this is why natural materials and other outdoorsy elements are a common theme in Scandi style spaces.

To bring the outside in, incorporate soft textures, textiles, and light woods such as ash and pine. Add a soft mohair or wool throw to your sofa for warmth or decorate with a sheepskin rug in the living room. For a decorative touch, arrange small twisting branches or trees above a mantel or fireplace. Crystals and pinecones are other ways to add the spirit of the great outdoors to your home. These natural elements evoke a relaxing mood that will help inspire your next adventure.

Leave windows bare

Another tip to make the most of natural light is to leave your windows bare. According to Yahoo Life, Scandinavians typically skip the heavy curtains, drapes, or blinds to maximize light in their homes. You can leave your windows completely free of coverings or add sheer curtains to get the look. Sheer curtains flow beautifully in any room and are made from various materials, including cotton, linen, and lace. For a minimal Scandi look, stick to shades of white or pale neutrals for your curtains.

However, if you want to sleep in or require a little more privacy in your home, consider using removable blinds or temporary blackout coverings on your windows. Amazon offers portable blackout curtains that attach securely to windows with suction cups. Adjustable silver rings allow the curtains to fit windows of different shapes and sizes. When it's time to let the light inside, simply remove the suction cups from the window.

Keep it simple with a minimalist aesthetic

Part of the reason why Scandinavian homes are so visually appealing is due to their minimalism. According to Scandification, Nordic homes share many elements with the traditional minimalist style. They are designed for convenience and practicality, with clean lines and serene pieces. While you won't find clutter or frilly accessories in the average Scandi-style living space, you will probably see beautiful, functional furnishings. Greenery and black-and-white photography often serve as minimalist decorations. 

To create a more minimalist home, start by decluttering (via MyDomaine). While it can be challenging to let go of sentimental pieces or that old pair of favorite blue jeans, you should try to donate or get rid of items in your home that no longer serve a purpose. Along with decluttering, you can also repurpose existing furniture items to give them new life. For example, spruce up an old wooden crate and use it as a nightstand in your bedroom.

Embrace a neutral color palette

According to The Spruce, one of the defining characteristics of Scandinavian style is the simple color palette. Most homes are painted almost entirely in white with subtle shades of black, tan, gray, pastels, and pale blue, making the space feel more open, bright, and spacious. Vibrant shades don't often make an appearance except for subtle pops of color on pillows, blankets, or other small, decorative accents.

If you want to spice up a neutral color palette, consider adding unique wall art or vintage vases to your room. If you have open shelving, decorate the shelves with a few key pieces to add personality to the room. Or, spruce up a bookshelf with some colorful decoration. However, don't go overboard with the decorating. The focus should remain on creating a neutral color palette and soothing, minimalist interiors. There's no space for gaudy knickknacks or unnecessary accessories in the Nordic-style home.

Bring the outdoors inside with lots of live plants

Nature holds a special place in the heart of Scandinavian culture. Live plants are a common feature in Nordic interior design because they bring the outdoors inside and add a breath of fresh air (literally). According to Hunker, Scandi spaces are known for focusing on nature by incorporating houseplants. Plus, the vibrant greenery adds a cool pop of color to the muted color palettes.

When decorating with houseplants the Scandinavian way, choose your plants to compliment your minimalist interiors. The snake plant is a stylish choice due to its sleek and straight leaves that typically grow from 6 to 10 inches tall. It also is known to remove toxins from the air and grows well with minimal care. Another great choice is the classic rubber plant. The dark green leaves on this plant pair nicely with the subtle color palettes in most Nordic-style homes. They thrive best in environments with indirect sunlight.

Get cozy by adding some hygge

If the word "hygge" sounds familiar, it's probably because the term is a defining concept of Danish culture. According to Country Living, hygge refers to a feeling of coziness in mind and body. The term first appeared in the 1800s and became a lifestyle trend in 2016 after several books were published on the topic. Many things are hygge, including crackling fireplaces, candles, wool socks, and homemade sweets. Drinking hot chocolate with friends inside on a snowy day is a good example of hygge, or spending an extra hour in bed in the morning. If you've curled up under a soft blanket with a good book and hot mug of tea, you've experienced hygge.

To bring the spirit of hygge to your home, decorate with chunky knit blankets, cozy rugs, heated throws, and anything soft to keep you warm during the winter. Light up some calming scented candles and feel your spirits lift in their warm glow.

Choose geometric furniture with clean lines

Scandinavian furniture design is famous the world over. After all, it probably took at least a few IKEA trips to complete your home. According to Skandihome, geometric shapes and clean lines are staples in Nordic interior design. To create a Scandinavian-shaped home, add square or rectangular frames to your wall art and photos, install shelving to frame your decorative pieces, and show off window shapes. You can also decorate with geometric accessories like floor lamps, vases, and rugs.

When it comes to furniture, look for streamlined pieces with a comfortable warmth. Curved wood armchairs, couches with clean lines, and functional side tables are great pieces to incorporate into your Nordic-style home. If you're looking for Scandinavian furniture, check out websites like 2Modern, Design Within Reach, and Connox. These online stores all feature chic furnishings that will transform your living space into an oasis of Scandinavian style.

Layer lighting to create an inviting mood

Layering lighting in your home instantly makes interiors feel warm and inviting. According to Linesmag, adding multiple artificial lighting sources in a room will supplement natural light and brighten up dark spaces. You can hang a cool pendant light from the ceiling for a source of overhead illumination, place a floor lamp next to your favorite reading chair for task lighting, and add small table lamps or sconces for additional light. If you have a fireplace, the flames will also act as a great source of mood lighting and create a cozy atmosphere.

When selecting light fixtures, look for beautiful clean lines and warm, diffused light. Pieces should be visually appealing and functional. Ideally, you should aim to achieve a candlelight effect instead of lighting that feels harsh or too bright (via Scandinavia Standard). Some great brands for contemporary Nordic-style lighting include Louis Poulsen, Le Klint, and Nuura.

Don't shy away from bold patterns

While Scandinavian style is certainly minimalist, you will find some cool and colorful patterns thrown into the mix. According to A Beautiful Mess, repeating botanical illustrations, animals, bold colors, folk-style prints, and graphic designs are all common designs in Nordic interior design. Some of the most popular prints include the Dala horse and oversize prints from the Finnish brand Marimekko.

To incorporate these bold patterns into your home, consider decorating an accent wall with wallpaper, piling soft cushions on a sofa, refreshing your bedding, or adding an area rug to your living room. For example, a botanical patterned cushion cover is the perfect addition to a couch or armchair. To add pattern to your bathroom, cover your floors with tiles in soft hues. The key to introducing a pattern in your living space is to ensure it doesn't overwhelm a room or distract from your overall design scheme. 

Mix old and new for a lived-in feel

According to MyDomaine, Nordic interiors typically feature pieces from different time periods to create a cozy atmosphere. For example, vintage credenzas mix with mid-century modern chairs and contemporary light fixtures to make the space feel layered and lived-in. The mix of old and new makes your home feel like it has a unique story to tell. 

To achieve this effect in your living space, try pairing unexpected pieces in the same room. You could hang up paintings or photos in antique frames next to industrial and contemporary lighting or place a sleek leather couch next to a vintage wooden coffee table. A colorful vase set on a streamlined black dining room table is another pairing that works well. When shopping for pieces online or in local secondhand stores, look for items you naturally gravitate towards that reflect your unique personality. You should feel comfortable in your home with the things you choose.

Seek out quality when shopping for furniture

As reported by The Modern Dane, a tradition of craftsmanship is well-established in Scandinavia. Furnishings are known for their high-quality materials and construction built to last for generations. No matter which pieces you are buying for your home, look for high-quality and functionality. However, you certainly don't need to sacrifice style when shopping for quality furnishings. Get the best of both worlds by choosing items that look and feel great to you.

Furniture can definitely be a big investment. If you're shopping for furniture on a budget, check out online stores like Birch Lane, Wayfair, Target, and of course, IKEA. These websites are great resources for home decor, and all of them feature a great selection of affordable products. No matter where you buy your furniture, pay attention to measurements, delivery services, and colors. There's nothing worse than ordering a new couch, only to realize it doesn't fit in your living space.

Give your home a warm glow with candles

Considering that Scandinavian countries can get as little as three hours of daylight in the winter, it's not surprising how much Nordic people love candles. According to My Scandinavian Home, candles help light up a home and give it a relaxing glow once the sun sets. Candles can be used to decorate any room, whether arranged on a coffee table, side table, window sill, fireplace mantel, or shelf. 

Besides creating a calm atmosphere, candle scents can also transport you to another world. The brand Skandinavisk is known for its Scandinavian-inspired fragrances like Fjord, Regn, and  Skog, which feature notes of pine needles and fir cones to make you feel like you're in a misty forest. Other scents to incorporate into your home for a breath of fresh Scandinavian air include lavender, citrus, and vanilla blends. If you prefer floral aromas, opt for jasmine or gardenia fragrances. On the other hand, those who like warm and musky scents should choose tobacco or patchouli candles (via Oprah Daily).