What is Nordic Design? The Compete Guide

ekornes stressless nordic design guide

If you’re at all interested in architecture or design, you’ve likely heard the expression “form follows function.” First coined by American architect Louis Sullivan, this axiom is one of the key principles in minimalist design, including Nordic design.

Let’s take a closer look at this Scandinavian aesthetic and how you can incorporate its principles into your own home to maximum effect.

Four Foundations of Nordic Design

Simple Silhouettes

nordic design guide minimalist Nordic design relies heavily on simple, clean lines for its minimalist appeal.

Similar to mid-century modern design, Nordic furniture and furnishings are often geometric, and may boast gentle curves (think an oval coffee table or the gentle swoop of the iconic Arne Jacobsen chair).

If you’ve ever stepped into an Ikea, you understand that simplicity is key in Nordic interior design. Pieces don’t have to be boxy, but they should never have intricate carvings, curlicues, or unnecessary frills.

Neutral Colors

scandinavian styled dining room and open plan kitchen with patio outlook

Where Nordic parts ways from mid-century modern is in its use of color. Scandinavian design uses a lot of light-colored wood, metal, and white or off-white.

Neutral hues are the way to go when using Nordic design in a space, but that doesn’t mean your room has to be all white. Instead, look to earth tones like creamy beige, charcoal gray, light tans, pale greens and blue.

These neutrals can be accented by brighter pops of color, of course. Bright grass green, the blue of the Swedish flag, a brilliant yellow or orange that brings to mind the flowers of midsummer — you get the idea. Just make sure not to overload the eye with multiple colors or clashing ones.

Negative Space

scandinavian living room trend. construction of a living room with limited space in the center of the home comfort

Since Nordic design is all about simplicity, it should come as no surprise that bright and airy spaces should be devoid of clutter. Knick knacks and tchotchkes take the attention off the furniture and the color palette, so relegate them to the attic.

It’s not necessary to clear the room of every item, but be sure that the ones you choose are in keeping with the rest of the furnishings. Consider elements like houseplants, floating shelves, a beautiful wooden bowl, a geometric print.

Clean but Cozy

cozy modern furniture design

Are you familiar with the Danish term hygge? It’s pronounced “hoo-gah,” and while it’s difficult to translate exactly, it refers to a sense of comfort and coziness.

Hygge is the feeling of being snug and safe inside a warm home, surrounded by friends and family, perhaps enjoying a hot beverage or a big pot of chili or stew — while a winter storm rages outside.

You might think that this concept would be hard to achieve in a minimalist environment, but Nordic design isn’t strictly minimalist.

Yes, the clean lines, use of neutrals, and incorporation of negative space follow minimalist principles, but the Scandinavians invite comfort and warmth into the home, too.

How? Largely with textiles like velvety blankets, soft and inviting pillows, and plush throw rugs. Plants and flowers help bring the warmth of nature into an otherwise stark space. And don’t forget the coasters for those mugs of hot chocolate!

For More Inspiration

Check out the Ekornes Stressless Furniture, which combines the beautiful lines of Nordic design with the comfort you expect — and deserve — from contemporary chairs, Stressless recliners, and Stressless sofas.

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