Scandinavian design, first introduced in the 1950s, enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in later decades, and is known generally as Danish modern or mid-century modern design. The term "modern" here refers to a specific design style, and not to the current time period. Scandinavian design refers primarily to Swedish, Danish and Finnish design, but designers and manufacturers from elsewhere began copying the style due to its popularity. The functional design of mid-century furniture lends itself to multiple uses. A simple set of shelves can hold books, dishes or clothing, or a low table might become a television stand. Hallmarks of Scandinavian mid-century design include oil-and-wax finishes on light wood furniture and clean, sleek lines.
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Look for furniture from mid-century Scandinavian designers in thrift stores, flea markets and other used furniture outlets as well as online. Pieces in high demand sometimes come to auction as well. Well-known Scandinavian designers include Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner. Mix one or two vintage pieces with your contemporary furniture if you cannot afford to refurnish the entire space with original furniture; Scandinavian design complements clean-lined contemporary furniture.
Accent rooms with materials common to Scandinavian design such as stainless steel, teak, birch and beech. Some examples of these decorative items include vases by Alvar Aalto or a PH lamp designed by Poul Henningsen for the Louis Poulsen company. Add a moulded chair such as Wegner's "Ox" chair, or the iconic "Egg" chair by Jacobsen if your budget is lavish. Dress the walls with a George Nelson sunburst clock or an Arne Wahlberg print. Incorporate objects with organic and asymmetrical lines.
Use light, fresh colours on the walls and keep flat surfaces uncluttered. Clean white or pastel walls are common in Scandinavian design, accented with bold solids or graphic prints. Use fabric by mid-century designers such as Marimekko, Eames or Panton to cover pillows or form window treatments.
Tips and warnings
- Scandinavian furniture runs from fairly inexpensive unassembled pieces to high-priced designer originals, so there are price points to fit nearly every budget. Current interpretations often come in flat-pack cartons, ready to be assembled, and place an emphasis on functionality in design.
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- The Telegraph: The Scandinavia Show 2010: The History of Scandinavian Design; Magnus Englund; July 2010
- Jet Set Modern: The Modern Mama Had: Scandinavian Modernism in America; Sandy McLendon; 2003
- Scandinavian Design: Utopia and Reality: Modernity in Sweden, 1900-1960; 2002
- Ruby Rooms: How to Identify and Decorate with Danish Modern Furniture
- Chrisbom: Incorporating Scandinavian Design in Your Home
- Visit Denmark: The PH Lamp