For anyone who thinks that Scandinavian interior design begins and ends with Ikea, think again. There’s so much more to Scandi chic than flatpack furniture. And introducing a touch of Northern light to your British home needn’t be tricky.
This autumn, a collaboration between the Swedish fashion brand COS and the Danish interior design house HAY has brought Scandinavian style to the British high street. The product of HAY and COS is two side tables, and COS fashion designers have teamed up to curate HAY’s essential interiors collection. This includes a selection of cushions and quilts, metal hangers and a beech chopping board.
The side tables have all the fundamentals of Scandinavian design, says Martin Andersson, head of menswear design for COS. “Simple clean lines, lightness in material through the use of light ashwood, functionality and the single teal-coloured leg adding a flash of colour.”
HAY is all about keeping it simple. The furniture is minimal, with clean lines and rounded corners; the crockery – white, naturally – is timeless and suitable for all occasions.
“Ikea has done wonders for Swedish interiors,” says Louise Little, a former interior design buyer who now owns the Scandinavian design shop Hus & Hem. “Their designs are all based upon the original Scandi styles, and they’re just making classic pieces for the mass market.”
This transferability is the basis of Scandinavian design and comes down to simplicity, explains Geraldine James, Selfridges’s homeware buyer. They opt for a “fresh, unfussy look”. The timelessness that affects Scandinavian design: “Allows for pieces to last beyond trends and seasons. Any piece can be mixed with different styles and works with different tastes.”
For the homemaker wanting a dash of Scandi style, there’s one philosophy, she says. “You should strip away rather than adding. If you add to your room, do it with caution. Make sure the additions are considered.”
Lighting is key and usually a focal point, tending to hang low over a table to make a centrepiece in the room, says Little. “Scandinavians will do without lighting until they can buy their perfect light. They’ll have a bare light bulb, whereas we’ll go out and get something because it’ll do. Lighting is the first thought, rather than the afterthought.”
Candles, too, are very Scandi. “They’re everywhere in Scandinavian design – usually in glass lanterns or in groups on trays,” Little says.
And while white dominates, colour is not forgotten; but it moves with the seasons. “Pattern and colour are present in the things you can change to make a room transform, the soft furnishings – cushions and blankets.”
At the Danish brand Ferm Living, the wallpaper is patterned, but not garish. Its simple kitchenware comes in muted brass, and with comfy 100 per cent cotton bedding at less than you’d pay in John Lewis, Ferm offers a taste of northern European design without the hefty price tag.
On the high street, Scandinavian interiors are leaking into mass market brands. H&M, which owns COS and the online store & Other Stories, which has a single store on Regent Street, has helped to make Swedish style a global reality. H&M now has a home section, popular with students. There, among the rugs and bright cushions, resides the spirit of Swedish understatement in soft furnishings in gentle colours at high street prices.
It’s not just the colours that are quiet, Little says – the other idea that permeates Scandinavian design is its lack of pretension. “They just buy the best they can buy,” Little says.
“Everything is very understated. They don’t mind if their neighbours have the same chair or light as them. We’re not like that over here.”