Danish Interior Design

Discover the subtle art of Danish interior design

Danish interior design is a style admired internationally for its elegant minimalism, functional quality, and sheer timelessness. The clean lines of understated furniture resting in rooms filled with natural light and cozy accents evoke feelings of stylish serenity.

It is not an accident that Danish design blogs have become wildly popular in recent years. The images reveal interiors seemingly far removed from our frenetic lives.

More so in the midst of a global pandemic that had most humans isolated inside their homes as much as possible. Suddenly the level of hygge within home interiors was making a real difference on emotional wellbeing.

This was no surprise to Danes who have long ago mastered the concept of home as a shelter for the heart and mind as well as the body.

Danish interior design style: Personal

International chain stores have made it possible to emulate the look of Danish interior design, but as with most things Danish, interior design is as much about function and feels as it is about looks. It’s about quality and longevity, and it’s not necessarily about spending money to achieve it.

It’s not about buying what everyone else is buys. It’s about buying what works for your life and creating a home reflective of who lives there.

Danish interior design is hardworking minimalism. It requires an innovative approach to accommodate modern lives in Denmark’s homes with their sometimes quirky floor plans cobbled together over two or more centuries.

Danish Interior Design

Danish interior design style: Pragmatic

The Danish minimalist aesthetic is pragmatic. Less is definitely more financially when living in one of the most expensive countries in Europe (albeit one of the happiest).

Heavy tax burdens and high cost of living leave little disposable income to buy unnecessary items. Planning is essential even with necessary purchases because buy now pay later credit schemes are not as prevalent in Denmark as in some other countries.

Small houses mean clutter grows quickly; less stuff means less clutter. Rainy weather year round and melting snow in winter mean floors need cleaning often; polished or painted wood floors are easy to clean.

Dark winter days require electric lights throughout the day, so quality lamp design becomes important. Old houses are more comfortable with cozy throws and warm candlelight.

Clean furniture lines serve an everyday purpose and can be dressed up or dressed down to suit individual styles and tastes. Quality craftsmanship means money spent will serve for many years or decades without need of replacement.

Danish interior design style: Quality and bargains

Money needs to stretch in Denmark, so DBA (Den Blå Avis —‘the blue newspaper’ for buying, selling, or trading items) is the go-to app for everything from furniture to baby clothes to cars, and it is where many quality design pieces can be bought and sold.

Stores like IKEA and JYSK also contribute to the affordability of a hyggeligt home, with their basic furniture and pretty, inexpensive home accents. The balance between spending more for central quality pieces combined with spending less for not so quality accent pieces creates a realistic balance in Danish interior design that is more affordable.

This practical approach toward affordability in designing a home interior was foundational to the great Danish designers, who created some of most long-lived furniture designs and lighting across the last century. Danish design is imbued with the idea that things should last, and in lasting they should also retain their attractiveness and relevance.

Danish Interior Design

Danish interior design categories: Creating Danish hygge

Danish interior design can be broken into roughly 5 categories when creating a hyggeligt home, each with varying degrees of affordability and impact on the look and feel of a home interior.

Furniture

Danish furniture designers are recognized internationally. For nearly a century, they have been at the forefront of innovative and functional design. Most recognized in chair design, they have impacted the design and study of furniture across the world.

But imitators beware: true Danish design uses high quality materials and detailed craftsmanship to create timeless pieces. Often described as architecture for the human body, furniture is designed with specific proportion and balance.

This is not about designing comfort as much as it is about discovering what is naturally comfortable for the human body and integrating it into a designed piece. This is why a simple wood chair, if it is crafted well, can be as comfortable as any overstuffed recliner.

Space

The use of space in Danish interior design is meaningful. Even the smallest homes strive to have spaces filled with light and air. Tiny apartments may have only a cleared stretch of wood floor before a window, to stand and gaze at the garden or into the street below.

Cozy corners are created for enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a good book or an online magazine.

Danish homes typically have a gathering place for friends and family, and by necessity it is often a flexible space where chairs are easily rearranged for better conversation or tables carried onto a patio for additional places to eat.

Mostly, the Danish use of space is not about how much there is, but how well it is utilized.

Lighting

The importance of quality lighting is not overlooked in Danish households because indoor light is imperative to surviving the long dark winters of Denmark.

The lighting of Danish interior design is a formidable mix of classic and contemporary pieces, many of which have led the international lighting design industry for more than 70 years.

Ambiance

Danes succeed in making stark white rooms feel hygge. White washed walls hung with meaningful art often created by the resident or a personal friend. Woven wool rugs laid over polished or painted wood floors lead to comfortable chairs with luxurious throws.

Candles offer a warm glow. On a center table, fresh flowers in a crystal vase sit next to a small stack of books and a steaming cup of tea. The window is open slightly to allow cold winter air to freshen the room. All of it makes for a serene and inviting retreat.

Color

Danish pastels are particularly favored for paint because pastels are calming and contribute positive energy to a space. Combining the freshness of white and the vibrancy of color, the pale greens, pinks, and blues complement the natural light within homes without detracting from or overwhelming the overall ambiance.

Colorful framed artwork is also found throughout Danish homes; typically individual pieces created by friends, local artists, or the resident’s children.

A (very) short sampling of renowned Danish designers

Danish Interior Design
Credit: Lars Plougmann

Poul Volther (b.1923-d.2001)

Best known for designing the Corona chair, that was born out of limited production materials following WWII. Rather than a solid square or rectangular chair back, Volther designed a series of curved cushions tapering to fit the human form.

It took decades to perfect, and is yet held in high esteem with approximately 3000 sold annually.

Danish Interior Design
Credit: coffee shop soulja

Hans Wegner (b.1914-d.2007)

Both an architect and furniture designer, his designs are described as ‘organic functionality.’ Of the 500 chairs he designed, 100 went into mass production. Of those, many still remain in production.

His ‘wishbone chair’ is considered the essence of Danish design, and one creation is so synonymous with Danish interior design it is referred to simply as ‘The Chair’.

Danish Interior Design
Credit: lglazier618

Arne Jacobsen (b.1902-d.1971)

Also an architect as well as a furniture designer, his designs are noted for their elegant proportions. Keenly aware of the relationship between balance and beauty, Jacobsen created the notable Swan chair, butterfly chair, and the egg chair.

His prolific designs spanned everything from cutlery to public buildings.

Danish Interior Design
Credit: Sinikka Halme

Finn Juhl (b.1912-d.1989)

His designs are notable for their soft wood edges, rounded for a slightly less harsh appearance. Juhl also used more upholstery in his designs, as in the elegant Pelican Chair.

The Finn Juhl House sits adjacent to the Ordrupgaard art museum north of Copenhagen and can be accessed as part of the museum admission.

Danish Interior Design
Credit: RhinoMind

Børge Mogensen (b.1914-d.1972)

His furniture designs are Danish classics, and still produced and imitated today. He created simple, highly functional furniture. Together with Finn Juhl and Hans Wegner, he created international esteem for Danish interior design, and elevated the simple chair to an artistic expression of cultural pride.

Danish Interior Design
Credit: lglazier618

Poul Henningsen (b.1894-d.1967)

A beloved and controversial historical figure, he is known also for creating the 3-shade lamp system that is still an extremely popular item for Danish homes. The design was intended to create a cozy alternative to harsh overhead lighting.

In doing so, he created ceiling lamps and floor lamps that add warmth to the dark winter days of Denmark.

Tage Le Klint (b.1884-d.1953)

Founder of the lamp production and design company Le Klint named after his daughter. The company has created lighting designs primarily in paper and plastic which have been emblematic of Danish interior design since the early 19th century.

Notable of these is the folded plastic globe of sinus waves (sine waves being a continuous wave created by periodic oscillation) first produces in the 1970s and remaining popular today.

Danish Interior Design
Credit: Daderot

Design Museum of Denmark

Visitors to Denmark who wish to further explore the history of Danish interior design and see the contributions from these and other Danish design legends throughout the past 125 years may do so at the Design Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

The museum is filled with thousands of pieces of furniture and items rendered from the design talents of famous Danish designers. Although currently closed for renovation, the museum is scheduled to reopen June 2022.

Modern interior design in Denmark

The classic Danish design philosophy strives to create pieces which are timeless. The modern interior designers embrace this aesthetic while creating pieces which reflect the needs and expectations of contemporary lives.

Louise Campbell (b.1970)

One of the better-known contemporary designers, her creations are exhibited and sold worldwide. She has created furniture and lighting designs for renowned Danish producer Louis Poulsen and won the Finn Juhl award for design in 2005.

New Works (est. 2015)

This lighting design studio creates minimalist designs that integrate the timeless qualities of Danish interior design with an eco-friendly approach to production. Notable are the smooth surfaces of these modern lamps which are both elegant and practical for cleaning.

Troels Grum-Schwensen

Founder of Grum Design in 1989, his design focus is furniture made with respect to both humans and the spaces in which they live. Designs are created from a philosophy of environmental sustainability.

Pieces like the GRIP table which can be assembled and disassembled quickly, lengthened, and stacked acknowledges the need for flexibility in contemporary Danish living spaces.

&Tradition (est. 2010)

A design studio incorporates designs from classic Danish designers, like Arne Jacobsen, “who were avant-garde in their time,” and also procures and produces the works of several contemporary established designers as well as promising new talent.

Danish Interior Design

How to bring Danish hygge into your home interior design

Danish homes are extremely individualistic, but generally share certain elements of coziness. This is because Danes have a deep understanding that all humans have need for peaceful retreat into a safe and calming environment for rejuvenation.

Danish hygge is not about buying things or showing off your home interior on Instagram or Pinterest (although looking at them can feel very hygge). It’s more about everyday enjoyment of a living space, whether alone or with others.

Hygge is not purchased, it is created

It can be created through freshly aired rooms with clean floors, sitting in a corner chair with a favorite book or online magazine. Hygge can be an impromptu gathering of friends over for wine and snacks to talk about the latest world news and gossip.

Hygge can also be taking a bike ride with your kids on a warm spring day and sitting on the patio having cold drinks and speaking about the flowers.

Danish interior design ideas: (free) takeaways

Remove the clutter — The first step toward hygge is to do a thorough expulsion of unnecessary stuff. Embrace hardworking minimalism. The majority of Danish homes are very old and entirely without closets. Even newer houses and apartments are built this way.

Dane must be clever regarding storage. They rely heavily on wall racks for coats, free standing wardrobes for closets, bookshelves or closed cabinets for storage, and baskets for miscellaneous everything else. Less stuff means a more room to live.

Clean regularly (and often) — This is the cheapest and most essential element of creating a hyggeligt home, the single best thing for any home environment.

Open the windows even in winter There is a reason why those Danish homes look fresh in photos. It’s because they are fresh in real life. Interior air gets stale, even if it’s circulated.  Even 5 minutes per day will keep home interiors feeling fresher.

Use what you already have Before running to a superstore, try ‘shopping’ in existing household items. Repurpose a plate rack for an office file holder, paint a boring dresser in a favorite color (pastels?), or build a raised bed frame from wood pallets.

Buy used quality pieces over new junk Danish designers created furniture pieces that are as elegant today as they were 70 years ago, and many of them continue to be manufactured. There will always be people who buy the newest item which means there is always a secondary market for quality pieces.  

When possible, buy quality lighting (used is okay) Never underestimate the impact lighting has on mood, concentration, and general goodwill. Misdirected, poorly placed, too harsh or too dim lighting increases discontent.

Soften life’s rough edges Life is tough. Cozy throws and soft pillows, good coffee, and a comfortable chair serve a very practical purpose in Danish interior design. These things remind us to rest.

Create interior spaces that fit your life and reflect the joy in it Love reading? Create a book nook. Love painting? Create a kitchen painting wall. Have kids? Frame their artwork. Gardening? Place herbs in colorful pots on the sunny window sills.

Much of the hygge Danes feel comes from living within their own life, rather than mimicking the lives of others.

Danish interior design blogs: Entirely Danish

Danes are innovative regarding their living spaces. There are no rules except clean and tidy with plenty of light and air. Furniture can be placed at odd angles and location if it is useful to the people living there.

Beds will sit sideways against a wall if it affords a window view. A bookshelf will hold shoes if it is a better use of space than a traditional shoe rack.

Danes succeed in creating an aesthetic that is both pragmatic and lovely. Danish interior design blogs showcase examples of how well these elements work together, and how practical this design style is for busy modern families.

Function leads most everything in Danish interior design, and there is nothing more functional than a living space that is healthy for both body and soul.

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