Scandinavian Design vs. Mid-Century Modern vs. Contemporary: What’s the Difference?

difference between scandinavian design mid century modern and contemporary design

With so many great design styles to choose from, how do you know what’s right for you? And are they really that different?

If you’re confused about where to begin, we’ve done the research for you and are explaining three popular design styles: Scandinavian design, mid-century modern, and contemporary.

Scandinavian Design Style

What is it?

Scandinavian design can be explained in three words: simplicity, utility, and beauty. It emerged as early as the 1930s from the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden before peaking in the 1950s. A range of designers who started the movement inspired the tangible values of durability, reliability, and functionality, including those less tangible values such as simplicity, joy, and courage through simple forms.

Scandinavian design believes beauty, functionality, and comfort should be available to all. A strong relationship between nature and abstract, natural shapes exist. Natural materials such as wood, leather, hemp, and more are used to create nature-inspired pieces. Scandinavian design styles seek to improve daily life through the unique design of furniture, textiles, lighting, dishes, etc.

Design Tips

  • Go Natural – Don’t be afraid of wood walls, floors, and accents on furniture. To take the yellow hue out of pine or oil, many use gray oil for a cooler tone.
  • Function – Scandinavian interior designs are very livable. Beautiful furniture becomes storage to hide belongings from sight.
  • Eco-Friendly – Swedish families are quick to add eco-friendly aspects to their homes. Proper insulation, solar, and large windows with natural light.
  • Keep it Simple – Scale back on accessories and declutter your interior.

Read More about History of Ekornes Stressless Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Design Style

What is it?

Mid-century modern describes design styles from the mid-20th century, roughly 1933 to 1965. The term often refers to mid-1950s architecture and design. These designs were born during the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 19th century and included the post-World War I period.

Mid-century modern made its debut in 1984 when author Cara Greenberg titled her book, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s. According to Greenberg, she just “made that up as the book’s title.” Lucky for her, the title stuck.

Design Tips

  • Furniture – This era featured clean lines accented with smooth, curved angles. Rarely you’ll find fancy ornamentation or upholstery. You may find wood construction, fiberglass, or metal creations.
  • Lighting – Floor or table lamps are straight-lined or have a round, curved contour. The contrast in shapes creates a bold statement for lighting in a room. Most pieces are made with finished metal.

Contemporary Design Style

What is it?

Contemporary design is defined as current or present designs. Many people use the words “modern” and “contemporary” interchangeably, but modern design actually refers to the mid-1990s.

Contemporary designs change with each passing year. Designs once considered contemporary in the year 2000 could now be considered vintage. Those created a decade from now will also be referred to as contemporary designs. Therefore, contemporary designs are ever changing due to new ideas, materials, and availability of resources.

Design Tips (2017)

  • Texture – We spend plenty of time looking at screens, so it’s time to engage on the textural level. Furniture, pillows, blankets, and décor – don’t be afraid to increase the comfort of texture in your home.
  • White with Off-White – There’s something refreshing about a room bathed in white. But a stark white tone can feel clinical. Balancing a white palette with creamy off-whites and linen creates a calming richness.
  • Artisan Over DIY – Experienced craftsmanship is in. Glass blowing, porcelain, and even woodworking are now on display.
  • Technology – Voice-activated assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are the popular smart home devices. These devices can be placed throughout the home and activated at your command to dim your lights or power up the hot tub.

So, What’s the Difference?

All styles have a few similarities with unique differences inspired by their era and cultural background. At the core of each style is your comfort, with alternating focuses on simplicity, splashes of color and pattern, and the ever-evolving contemporary styles which can change with each passing year.

At European Leather Gallery, we specialize in Scandinavian-inspired furniture and modern furniture at our showroom in Jacksonville, FL. We believe in offering furniture that is designed with your comfort in mind. Preview our gallery online to find your new home interiors.

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