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What is Scandinavian minimalism, and how can you achieve it?

If you think of a Scandinavian home, what kind of images appear in your mind?

Is the picture a tranquil scene, perhaps a small house perched on the edge of a fjord in Denmark? Do you think of cabin surrounded by snow in Norway or imagine a beautiful home somewhere among the natural sights of Sweden?

For most people envisioning “Scandinavia”, the exterior elements are a big deal. The Nordic region is famous for its beautiful trees, natural trails, mountains, and hills. 

However, there’s a typical picture inside the home too. Step inside your mind’s Scandi house, and you’ll probably see a space equipped for comfort, with absolutely zero clutter and plenty of space. 

That’s Scandinavian minimalism. 

Scandinavian minimalist designers are popular across Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and beyond. 

With Nordic minimalism, the locals embrace the power of creating a space that’s both beautiful and practice. You can take Scandinavian minimalism to anywhere in your home, from the bedroom, to the kitchen and living room. 

Today, we’re going to show you what Scandinavian minimalism means and discuss how you can create this concept in your own home. 

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What is Scandinavian minimalism: A definition

Defining Scandinavian minimalism on a massive scale isn’t easy. There’s no textbook description to guide you. Scandinavian minimalism derives from a few basic ideas about what interior design should be — and what it shouldn’t. 

At its core, Scandinavian minimalism is about combining simplicity, comfort (hygge), and practicality. It’s about making your home beautiful but also practical and convenient — a place where you can feel completely relaxed and peaceful.

Scandinavian minimalism arrived in the international landscape in the middle of the 20th century. The concept borrowed ideas from the Bauhaus design movement. 

Scandinavian minimalists built their efforts around functionality and modernism, with a desire to democratize design and allow everyone to have a stunning home. 

As the minimalism concept evolved, Scandinavians began to focus more heavily on the importance of expert craftsmanship, and the value of comfort and inner peace. 

While Nordic minimalism was minimalistic in its demand for clean simplicity, it kept spaces exciting and welcoming at the same time. 

The Scandinavian landscape managed to sidestep the issue of minimalism design, becoming overly clinical or heartless. 

Over the years, minimalism has gained massive popularity among various countries, from the United States to the United Kingdom. Many people, however, are drawn specifically to Scandinavian minimalism because of its unique nuances. 

With a Scandi approach to design, you get all the benefits of simple and practical spaces without compromising on personality. 

Scandinavian minimalism vs. standard minimalism

People get confused with Scandinavian minimalism by connecting it with the basic underlying idea of “minimalism”. Traditional American minimalism shares many of the same components as its Scandi cousin. 

You still have the same calm elements, clean lines, and clarity. There’s just a different spirit behind Scandinavian minimalism. 

The Nords, Danes, Swedes, and Fins of Scandinavia weren’t the first to come up with the concept of minimalism. This is an idea that’s been around for a long time. 

In the post-WW2 art landscape, many people used the word “minimalism” to describe art stripped to its most basic elements. 

Minimalist art emerged as a form of self-expression and subjectivity when pop culture was focusing on a social, psychological, and political evaluation. 

People were drawn to minimalism as a way of processing and framing the difficulties and traumas of a war-wracked landscape. 

When the world embraced minimalism and brought it into interior design, it was a way to simplify a complicated world and focus more heavily on the things that mattered. 

For the Scandi region, minimalism was an opportunity to get rid of unnecessary clutter and concentrate on comfort or creating an essence of hygge

There are a few significant ways that Scandinavian minimalist designers differ from those in the rest of the world. Look at the color schemes of Scandi minimalism for instance. 

Nordic homes commonly use a lot of subtle, pastel tones and natural shades. Creams, blues, and grays are very common, softening the space and making it more welcoming to visitors. 

Another major element that makes Nordic minimalism unique, is it’s practicality. 

While many minimalist designers attempt to make spaces functional, and beautiful, Scandinavia is creative with its ability to minimize clutter. Scandi designers are all about excellent efficiency, and that makes the design features so much more compelling. 

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What makes Nordic minimalism special?

As you explore Scandinavia, there’s a chance that you’ll notice different flavors to the minimalism in each region and home. Norwegian minimalism and Danish minimalism are likely to have different elements to them. 

While all types of Scandi minimalist design focuses on eliminating clutter and focusing on what matters, each Scandi community has its own values to consider. 

The critical thing to remember is that Scandi minimalism isn’t just essential minimalism. 

Minimalism in general, is an idea that aims to create space and simplicity. There’s a distinctly philosophical and spiritual undertone in the design elements most of the time. 

That’s because minimalism in the home emerged from a highly spiritual art movement

Scandinavian design may have spiritual elements in some cases — but there’s more to it than this. 

With a fully Scandi home, you’ll create a design founded on a history of functional, practical and highly relaxing environments. 

Scandi spaces are highly pragmatic, but they allow for plenty of space to build your rooms about the possessions you love. 

If you decide to create a Scandinavian minimalist bedroom, you won’t concentrate on empty walls and white space to convey meaning. You don’t have to worry about asking yourself if you need every item that you have. 

The Scandi landscape highlights how space can serve a practical function. The designers of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway look at ways to take advantage of space in a way that’s practical and functional. 

If you’ve ever visited an IKEA showroom, for instance, you’ll notice a lot of hidden storage spaces, and unique nooks and crannies for storing the things you like. The tiny house movement takes a lot of inspiration from Scandi design, because everything serves multiple purposes.

How to create Scandinavian minimalism in the home 

So, how do you build your own sense of Scandinavian minimalism? 

It’s much simpler than you might think.  

You can get inspiration for what Scandinavian design might look like from Bang and Olufsen — an audio brand that knows exactly how to combine form and function. 

Alternatively, consider visiting some showrooms when you’re exploring Denmark and Sweden on your next Nordic visit. 

To help give you the initial inspiration you need, here are some of the most essential elements of Scandi design to consider. 

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1. Keep colors simple

You don’t need to go for all-white everything when you’re designing for Scandinavian minimalism. However, bold and harsh colors aren’t a good idea. 

Softer pastel shades and neutral colors are more common in Scandinavia because many regions are dark for large portions of the year. A dark room wouldn’t be very practical in those conditions. 

Neutral colors often dominate the Scandi color pastels because they reflect natural light more effectively. Calmer, more muted tones also convey a better sense of relaxation and comfort. 

It’s a good idea to choose colors that blend well with wood because Scandinavian minimalist designers use many natural materials in their choices. 

Also, try to avoid using more than four colors in one space.

2. Put form after function

Standard minimalist design choices are all about making a statement with aesthetics. With Scandinavian minimalism, however, the focus is on building a practical space, that also happens to look good. 

Minimalism in the Nordic region comes from necessity, because for years, many of the locals have only had limited space to work with. This means that every item in your home needs to earn a position there. 

Although Scandi architecture is evolving, homes in most regions have been notoriously small, which is why many companies created furnishings that were multifunctional and practical. 

It’s common to have coffee tables that are also storage chests, or benches with built-in organization options. Double-duty furniture is a big deal in Scandinavia. 

3. Use nature for inspiration

The Swedes are pretty well known for a love of nature, but it’s not just Swedish minimalism that brings nature into the mix. The Scandinavian region is a beautiful place, and the locals are very aware of how lucky they are. 

Because of this, you’ll see a lot of elements from the great outdoors embedded into everything that Scandinavian people do. 

With that in mind, if you’re creating a Scandinavian minimalist living room or bedroom, avoid having too much painted wood. Natural stone and untreated wood are more common in the Scandi space. 

Having plenty of plain wood throughout your home doesn’t just look good. The Scandi locals believe that showcasing wood elements is an act of respect and appreciation for the beauty of nature. 

Make sure it’s always easy to see the natural grain of your wood. 

4. Stick with simple profiles and clean lines

Less is more in all aspects of Scandinavian design. Although you should have the freedom to take pleasure in the items you have around the home, the Scandi locals believe that decoration shouldn’t just be there for the sake of it. 

Furniture from this landscape is often attractive — but not ornate. Wooden chairs and tables often have a hand-crafted feel to them, although you went and cut down the tree yourself. 

Look at things like chairs from Hans Wegner, and you’ll get an insight into what the most popular Scandi pieces look like. Most shapes in the home are simple and flowing, with tapered arms and legs that don’t take up too much space for no reason. 

Try to avoid getting too carried away with anything overly ornate or intricate. 

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5. Make coziness a way of life

We’ve already mentioned things like hygge in this article, but it’s an important part of Scandinavian minimalism. Hygge basically refers to a sense of comfort and peace that you can enjoy at home. 

It’s not something that you can buy, but something you create by building a space for yourself that’s inherently relaxing. 

Scandinavians in all parts of the Nordic region take the ideas of comfort and coziness very seriously. This is frequently reflected in the way that the locals decorate their homes, and the kinds of materials they use. 

When creating Nordic minimalism in your home, try to focus on natural materials and comfort. Chunky cable-knit blankets, and open fireplaces are common in Scandi homes. 

Remember to invest in plenty of lovely-smelling candles too! 

6. Be eco-friendly and efficient 

We mentioned above that Scandi people are all about natural things. They love the great outdoors and spend a lot of time enjoying their Nordic scenery. That’s why you see a lot of authentic wood and stone finishes in Scandinavian homes. 

However, there’s another element to the Scandi’s love of nature that you need to keep in mind as you’re designing. 

Most Scandinavian minimalist designers place extra focus on buying eco-friendly items. A good Scandinavian home will always be built with care and attention to protecting the environment. 

Sustainable and natural materials are a must-have, whether it’s Icelandic wool, or organically-traded bedding. Make sure that you think about the impact you’re having on the environment with every design choice. 

7. Combine plant life with light

Another way you can celebrate the beauty of the natural world with your Scandinavian minimalism is to welcome as much natural light into the home as possible. Large open windows that show off the great outdoors are pretty common for Scandi design. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment with other kinds of natural light too. 

The glow of a candle makes a difference to the sense of hygge inside of a home. The Danish burn more candles than anyone else in Europe. 

You can experiment with some artificial light, too, but try to stick with bulbs that give off a warmer light to avoid the space becoming too clinical. 

While you’re at it, remember to welcome plenty of natural plant life and flowers into the house. Scandi locals love connecting the indoor and outdoor environments by bringing plants into every room. 

Having a plant in your bedroom, and others dotted around the home could improve your breathing by enhancing air quality. 

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8. Play with patterns and avoid clutter

Patterns are a must-have in Scandinavian culture. You’ve probably noticed beautiful Scandi patterns on hand-made throws and cushions from the region. They often included pictures of reindeer and geometric elements. 

Ideally, when you’re playing with patterns, it’s important to keep the overall look of your room or home in mind. 

You don’t want to let anything clash by choosing something too bold. The good news is that if you stick with a lot of natural woods and calm shades in your home, it’s unlikely you’ll have too many pattern problems. 

Have some fun finding out which patterns and colors work best together but avoid letting your desire for eye-catching elements overwhelm your home. 

Remember that to maintain minimalism, you need to ensure that nothing is crowding or taking up too much space in your Nordic home. 

Let your objects grab the right amount of attention by leaving lots of space around them. 

Find the Scandinavian minimalism that works for you

There’s no one-size-fits-all guide to Scandinavian minimalism. 

This wonderful aesthetic idea is becoming more popular around the world, however, particularly as people look for ways to keep their homes practical without giving up on feelings of comfort and a sense of personality. 

You can bring Scandinavian minimalism into any room of your home. If you’re just getting started, it might be a good idea to begin with a Scandinavian minimalism bedroom. 

Here, you can really let ideas of hygge take over and have some fun with blankets and cushions that allow you to really relax when the time comes to go to bed. 

As you uncover the spirit of Scandinavian minimalism, embodying simplicity, purity, and calm, you’ll notice that it has more of an impact on your other decorating and purchasing strategies. 

Scandinavian minimalist designers are all about buying less and getting more out of the items you do buy. 

Let the items you purchase make your life better, or easier in some way — rather than just taking up space. 

Compared to “traditional minimalism” Scandi design is a lot more accessible and appealing to the masses. The foundation of everything you buy and use in Scandinavian minimalism comes from practicality. 

You have the freedom, however, to decide what practical is to you. Even better, since there are different elements to Scandi design, you don’t have to incorporate the parts you don’t like.

You’re free to pull inspiration from different aspects of Scandinavian minimalism in the living room and combine those factors with other ideas that you love from interior design. 

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Ready to go minimalist? 

Scandinavian minimalism is an excellent concept, and something that’s very easy to fall in love with when you’re building the perfect home. 

In an ideal world, you’d visit Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, to get a first-hand-sense of what it means to build something beautiful and practical. However, if you can’t make the trip, there’s plenty of inspiration online too. 

Remember, keep your home comfortable, but try to avoid overwhelming it with things you don’t really want and need. When you buy an essential piece of furniture, think about how you can make sure that you’re getting the most out of that item.

 Can you make your bed or sofa more multi-functional by implementing storage, for instance?

Above all else, allow yourself to rediscover the joy of natural things. Open your heart to elements of the great outdoors and take a leaf out of the Danes’ book by bringing more of the outside in. 

You’ll find that it’s much easier to relax when you’re surrounded by beautiful, natural things! 

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