Or, rather, it’s finding its way back into our living rooms. We’re familiar with classic 1950s and 1960s Scandinavian chairs: Eero Aarnio’s Ball, Arne Jacobsen’s Egg, Eero Saarinen’s Tulip… the list is long. But design fans are as excited about the scene today as they were when the Egg first rolled off the production line 57 years ago. In February this year, more than 40,000 people visited the Stockholm Furniture Fair.
Alongside Jacobsen was the equally influential Scandinavian furniture designer, Hans Wegner, who made a significant impact on 20th century design. Wegner is, like Jacobsen, best known for his portfolio of clean and simple chair designs. He, along with his contemporaries, experimented widely and bravely with new materials and vibrant colors. Plastics, pastel colors, and futuristic shapes can all be found in the huge range of modernist creations with which Wegner graced the design world.
Images 1. Bernhard Schramm 2. Bo Bedre 3. Schoener-Wohnen 4. Blackthumb Decor. 5. Stylizimo Blog 6. Blackthumb Decor
So what drew them? Furniture from the Nordic nations has a quiet, understated aesthetic. Perhaps as a result of a cultural mind-set that values the collective over the individual, Scandinavia has a particular flair for affordable, functional furniture, made using natural materials and traditional craftsmanship.
4 Note Design Studio Note, a Stockholm-based design collective, works across architecture, interiors, products and graphic design, for the likes of Menu, Ex.t and Mitlab.
Danish-British designer Ilse Crawford’s collection for Danish brand Georg Jensen was partly inspired by Nordic noir. “The combination of silver and yellow metals is very much part of Danish culture,” she says. “It was about bringing that together with something like the TV show The Bridge. It’s a shadowy world, so the idea of having glowing moments in the shadows really appealed to me.”
Menu Afteroom chair, £180, and Menu GM15 pendant copper light, £169, both from nest.co.uk. Menu Weight Here L candleholder, £94, royaldesign.co.uk.
Whilst Scandinavian home design has always been about minimalism, it isn’t exercised to the extreme: designs are never minimalist for minimalism’s sake, always maintaining both usable functionality and beautiful aesthetics. Clean lines and simple, uncluttered curves are used to define Scandinavian furniture pieces in a way that can function happily in the homes of consumers. This aim for practicality for the everyday, rather than for pieces that the consumer merely aspires towards, is the real key to the worldwide success of Scandinavian furniture designers.
It’s not just the heritage brands making waves. Nordic countries now boast some of the best design schools in the world, such as the Bergen Academy of Art and Design in Norway, Finland’s Aalto University and Konstfack University in Sweden. Investment in education (higher education is free in all three countries) is clearly paying off.
It may have taken half a century, but Scandinavian designers are finally taking on the legendary reputations of their predecessors, exploring, building upon and even challenging the conventions of their legacy. The newfound global appetite for their work is making it increasingly likely that, 50 years from now, the world will speak of Legald or Beller Fjetland in the same reverent tones currently reserved for Saarinen and Jacobsen.
So, it is a well-balanced mixture of simplicity, beauty, and utility that signifies the fundamentals of Scandinavian design philosophy, rather than flat-packed convenience. Passionate, independent designers, such as the likes of Simon Legald or Gry Fager, keep Scandinavian furniture current, with quality pieces designed with the purpose and beauty that has taken its rightful place in the world’s modern design landscape.
“Scandinavian design has been on the radar in the UK for a while,” says Christina Schmidt, co-founder of Skandium, “at first, among an initiated crowd of architects, designers and aficionados, but increasingly with the wider public, too.”
You see, Scandinavian design offers so much more than a clip-together formula for quick and easy furniture. Each and every piece, lovingly designed and crafted by talented modern designers, is created with a functional purpose, without pomp or ceremony, yet always with simple style and grace. Nordic design principles are less about money-saving convenience and more to do with quality and timeless style.
2 Pettersen & Hein A collaboration between Danish designer Lea Hein and Norwegian artist Magnus Pettersen, the studio makes sculptural furniture and accessories with a modernist aesthetic.
Scandinavian modern design first made its appearance in the 1950s, spreading its wings first across Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, and later around the rest of the world. Leading designer, Arne Jacobsen, helped to pioneer this key design movement and championed the concept of architectural functionalism. Architectural functionalism is the idea that one should always design with a purpose in mind – no frills without function. Hailing from Denmark, and a successful designer and architect, Jacobsen was a master at creating simple yet vividly memorable chair designs, most notably the Egg Chair. He remains a standing influence over Scandinavian home design to this day.
Nordic influence is everywhere you look, whether you realize it or not. The iPhone, whilst very much a Californian birth-child, could feasibly claim Scandinavia as its ancestor; its sleek and simple, curved body, with minimal buttons – but never so few that your user options are limited – just screams Scandinavian minimalism. You’ll find a similar philosophy employed in modern web design, usually on those websites that you find simultaneously the most stylish and the easiest to use. Gone are multiple pop-ups and 50-plus links per page and instead are clean lines and just the number of links that you need – no more, mind – surely taking influence from the beautifully minimalistic Scandinavian interior design fundamentals.
This growing interest is partly due to big-name brands rejuvenating their product lines, pushing the possibilities of materials and technology, forming creative collaborations and reinterpreting their heritage for a contemporary audience.
With an appetite for innovation and a new generation of talent, Nordic design is taking over our homes – again
1 Färg & Blanche Stockholm-based Fredrik Färg and Emma Marga Blanche’s experimental style, fusing fashion with furniture, has already seen their work produced by Swedish brands such as Gärsnäs, Zero and Design House Stockholm.
Young Danish brand Hay has opened a shop in Bath and a concession in Liberty, and created a sub-brand, Wrong For Hay, with UK designer Sebastian Wrong. Recent launches include a reversible patchwork bedspread by Danish studio All The Way To Paris and the Cloche Lamp, by Norwegian designer Lars Beller Fjetland.
Scandinavia is creeping into every corner of British life. First, it came through television in the shape of Nordic noir. It entered our wardrobes, with Acne, & Other Stories and Cos all opening shops in the UK. Restaurant magazine’s World’s 50 Best voted Copenhagen’s Noma in the top spot four times in five years, sparking a trend for all things fresh and foraged. And now Scandi style is finding its way into our living rooms.
The next generation: our pick of five Scandinavian studios making an impact
3 Morten & Jonas These two Norwegian designers met at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design before establishing their studio in 2011. Their Bake Me A Cake table lamp for Northern Lighting is made by inmates at Bergen prison as part of Norway’s pioneering approach to rehabilitation.
The History of Scandinavian Design Furniture: An Introduction
Finnish glassware manufacturer Iittala, the brand behind Alvar Aalto’s 1936 Savoy vase, has launched Ruutu, a collection of diamond-shaped vases, each of which takes seven craftsmen 24 hours to produce. Meanwhile, Marimekko has collaborated with Finnair to immerse passengers in Finnish design from the moment they board the plane. Specially designed napkins, tableware, textiles and even aircraft livery reference the view of Finland’s unspoilt countryside below.
At the heart of Scandinavian furniture sits its infamously minimalist design philosophy. Having flourished beautifully over the years throughout the Nordic region, Scandinavian design furniture encompasses both beauty and functionality, wedding artistic merit to functional, user-focused needs.
Simon Legald’s Form Chair, for Normann Copenhagen, features classic Nordic curves, but challenges traditional construction. Initially conceived as Legald’s graduate project at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, it has taken three years and 20 prototypes to develop, and as a result of a new fixing system, the legs seem almost to grow out of the underside of the seat (see previous page).
Sat 11 Apr 2015 06.00 BST Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 16.32 GMT
5 Anderssen & Voll Norwegian design duo Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll focus on domestic objects. Their work has a Nordic warmth and tactility, combining understated forms with bold colours.
“Interest in Scandinavian design has grown due to a new wave of creative energy from young Nordic designers,” says Nina Bruun, designer and product developer for Muuto. “Their designs are innovative, yet continue Scandinavian traditions: functional, honest and produced to the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship, combined with an egalitarian aim of affordability.” The Danish brand’s latest release is the Fiber Chair: designed by Copenhagen-based Iskos-Berlin, its typically Scandinavian pared-back form is made from a wood-fibre composite and is completely recyclable.
Essentially, Scandinavian design furniture is about finding a balance between the striking and the soothing, and minimalist design allows for a mixture of both bright and calming colors. It’s worth noting that the pieces are not only iconic from an artistic point of view, but have become in demand by millions of ordinary people seeking both beauty and utility, with the foundations of Scandinavian interior design allowing them to buy and embrace art as a functional purchase, rather than a purely aesthetic luxury.
Since these two titans of design, along with the likes of Aalto and Isola, brought Scandinavian modern design to fame, it has continued to evolve across the globe – perhaps most notably in the form of Swedish retailer IKEA. Whilst the continued success and growth of IKEA is a testament to the strong resonance of the principles expounded by Jacobsen, Wegner, and co, it has led to the primary association of Scandinavian interior design with the rise of the flat-pack furniture phenomenon. Yet, flat-pack furniture, no matter how convenient – and cheap – it may be, is much more a product of the 21st century than it is of Scandinavia, which is responsible only for the aesthetics and not for the DIY element.