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Modern Meets Simple Sophistication


SCANDINAVIAN design embodies modern-contemporary black and white furniture, similarly coloured walls and flooring, with an added pop of colour from decorative items.

Characterised by its minimalism and function, it is the go-to design for those who love calm, open spaces.

The term “Scandinavian design” emerged in the 1950s. It described a minimalistic design style that originated from in the Nordic countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The year was 1947, and the “La Triennale di Milano” exhibition was going on in Milan, Italy. On display were furniture, glassware and home accessories from Nordic countries. These were the highlight of the show. From here, the fad grew, creating a hype that led to the “Design in Scandinavia” show going on tour around the United States and Canada from 1954 until 1957.

In the era where the current trend for home decoration revolved around luxurious and ornate designs, which only the rich could afford, the Scandinavian design put “function over frills”, soon gaining favour as “affordable” for all, rich or poor.

According to research, the design style was the outcome of living conditions in that region, where winters were long and harsh. Warmth and comfort was priority, as the winter kept everyone inside their small houses. Homes needed to feel cosy yet airy, and exude as much ambient light as possible.

There are a few basic principles that identify with the Scandinavian design, which makes it easy for anyone to pick up, from first home owners to experienced interior design buffs.

All about the base
Just as every artistic masterpiece started with a blank canvas, so did every beautiful room begin with plain walls and floors.

According to the Scandinavian theme, walls should be painted in light or neutral colours such as white, off-whites, light blues or greys. No patterned wallpaper is needed, as the whole purpose of light-coloured walls is to exude calm, giving the room a bright and spacious feel. Wall paintings and decorations can be added later on, depending on the amount of space as a room will feel smaller, cluttered even, if items are placed upon a patterned background.

Hardwood flooring is the choice of many modern Scandinavian homes. It brings a very strong sense of nature into the home, and will suit many tastes with the various colour and wood-type options in the market today. Go light on the stains and varnishes to maintain a feeling of airiness and choose light-coloured hardwood. Floors can also be painted the same colour as the walls, then decorated with rugs or even nature-related motifs stencilled on.

Malaysians are known to be a reserved lot, which is why we put up thick curtains against our windows and heavily secure all doors and windows. Scandinavian layouts call for well-proportioned windows – no curtains needed – to allow generous amounts of light to stream in. While ceiling-to-floor windows are ideal as it allows much light in, it may bring up security and privacy concerns. Instead, use sheer or translucent fabric as curtains. These allow light in, yet filter the brightness and provide some measure of privacy. Avoid thick and dark treatments, as it contradicts the purpose of larger windows for more natural light.

As for artificial lighting, go for fixtures with simple, modern forms to avoid visual clutter. Naked bulbs are a prominent fixture in Scandinavian home designs. Include a few spaced out bulbs instead of one prominent light source. Another option is to use standing or table lamps.

Furniture fair
Scandinavian furniture pieces are functional works of art that last a lifetime. They are crafted to absolute perfection, usually exhibiting clean-cut lines and smooth curved edges.

Once again, wood plays a key role in Scandinavian furniture. It induces a sense of warmth and oneness with nature, and is needed in Nordic countries throughout the bitter winter months. Choose wood-carved pieces as “anchor” furniture, such as the living room sofa legs, bed frames in bedrooms and countertops in kitchens.

In the living room, the sofa is the “heaviest” item due to its size. A sofa in dark colours can “absorb” the ambient light, which is why it is better to use natural materials such as cotton and linen in the upholstery. The surrounding furniture should follow the colour code of white/off-white/light blue/light grey and such. These help balance out and make up for the light that has been “absorbed” by the couch.

Place a wooden coffee table or light-coloured metal table, and a simple standing lamp to maintain the spaciousness of the living room. The same principle applies to bedrooms. Remember to keep in mind that Scandinavian interiors promote a clutter-free environment, so, keep the simplicity and function in its furniture.

Pop it up
Now that the canvas and “skeleton” are in place, it is time to add some pomp to the room! Dress up those plain walls with some prints, throw a blanket on the sofa for extra comfort, place a rug for added colour, or even decorate the room with edgy statement pieces to inject life into the room.

Picture frames on walls are a lovely way to fill-out empty spaces on walls. Photos can be anything from landscape snapshots of forests and streams, to close-up impressions of the animal kingdom. However, one could choose to stay simple with minimalistic graphic prints and typography posters. Organic and floral patterns also
go well with wood accents in the furniture.

Geometric patterns and shapes in bright colours can also bring vibrancy to muted interiors. Use patterns on throw pillows for the couch or the floor rug in the living room or under the bed. A trend at the moment is the use of geometrical vases, placed on side tables or centre coffee tables, for a more contemporary look.

Add some “zen” by including small potted plants within interiors. These should be placed on shelves or tables. Another alternative is to incorporate tall bamboo in the hallway or by the entryway.

Lastly, keep in mind that you do not get carried away when adding in decorative items in a Scandinavian-designed room. This can overwhelm the whites and neutral tones and wreck the whole plan and purpose of Scandinavian design.