Simple lines and honest materials, natural light, a pure appreciation for an enjoyable time. We explore the characteristics of the Scandi-craze in the field of interior design with the expertise of Christina Forsberg, London-based Norwegian architect and consultant. On her elegant blog Scandinavialist, she exposes all the 'must-knows' and 'oh-wows' of Scandinavian design.
Words: Meri Frig
How would you describe Scandinavian interior design? What are the most prominent elements – what kind of design ticks all the boxes?
I think the most common perception of Scandinavian interior design is a palette made up of neutral colours, with simple lines and honest materials, such as natural wood. But there seems to be a shift happening up North at the moment. There’s suddenly colour! Don’t get me wrong, we are still very much into our honest materials, simple shapes and aesthetics, but there has been a bit of a colour boom happening over the past few years. Which I, as a very fond ‘monochromer’, absolutely love. We can see this across the board, from design to architecture, branding and fashion: there is colour added to the mix again. What is noticeable is that the array of tones in use seems to be mainly inspired by modernism. It's so earthy and natural. Combined with a palette of raw concrete, stone, wood and various metals, the introduction of colours leaves an impression of understated elegance, still subtle, but with loads of texture and personality. When it comes to ticking all the boxes, I’d say natural light is a must. With so much darkness over the year, as we have in the Northern hemisphere, good daylight conditions are the key in any space.
What key furniture pieces go hand in hand with the way Scandinavians think design?
A wooden dining chair and a streamlined lounge chair. I cannot help but reflect back to the heydays of Scandinavian Design during the 50s and 60s, when responding to this question. Especially Danish design that set the standard for modern furniture design. We are seeing a resurrection of Scandinavian mid-century design, a lot of inspiration is taken from this era. So, when it comes to construction and materials, the streamlined shapes and simplicity is something you see a lot of in the Scandinavian design scene at the moment.
"Combined with a palette of raw concrete, stone, wood and various metals, the introduction of colours leaves an expression of understated elegance, still subtle, but with loads of texture and personality."
In what ways are slow design and sustainability present in Scandinavian interior design?
The sustainability aspect is very much reflected in the use of natural materials, as well as the manufacturing process of the design. The ongoing trend of going back to basics and handicraft suddenly being the it-movement has led to an increased awareness of the value of well-crafted design. Over the past decade, there has also been an increasing demand for vintage items, which is amazing. Not only is it sustainable, but it also provides your home with a special character. As well as enhancing the fact that good design made from solid materials equals longevity.
What is your take on the ‘hygge’ phenomenon? How would you describe it?
First of all, I find the whole ‘hygge’ phenomena very amusing. Despite all things Scandi being very trendy at the moment, this hygge-craze still took me a bit by surprise, when the word was suddenly on everyones lips. I have had quite a few people asking me what ‘hygge’ actually means, and it is sometimes a bit hard to explain exactly. You do, of course, have the stereotypical scene of cuddling up with your woollen banket, sheep skin slippers on, candles lit and a cup of something warm to sip on, which is of course very ‘hyggelig’. But I think it goes much deeper than that. It’s embedded in the culture and the lifestyle, which is also why we’ve never really considered it a phenomena per se. Also, in general, Scandinavians are really good at enjoying life. That again is reflected back on the high standard of living in the Scandinavian countries, but this wasn’t always the case. And ‘hygge’ is by no means a new phenomena, so I think it relates back to a pure appreciation for an enjoyable time. Whatever that might be for the individual. A timeout from daily work and chores, you take a step back, a deeper breath and you slow down to enjoy the moment. Whether that means spending time with family and friends, or just being by yourself doing something you love.
"Despite all things Scandi being very trendy at the moment, this hygge-craze still took me a bit by surprise, when the word was suddenly on everyones lips."
SPACE Copenhagen #Savant
Photo: Joachim Wichmann
Is there a difference in how Scandinavian design manifests itself in London and in Norway?
I had an interesting introduction into the whole Scandi-craze in the UK when I moved to London 5 years ago. Having studied architecture, I was already familiar with the increasing popularity of Scandinavian design and lifestyle abroad, but I was still a bit flabbergasted (love that word!) by how much attention it got. That said, 5 years later, and it hasn’t slowed down one bit. On the contrary, it is now escalating more than ever. I think my perception of it is that, here in the UK, it gets overly marketed as ‘Scandinavian Design’, which has now become a stamp of quality and exclusivity. I have also seen it used as a pure marketing tool for brands that are not Scandinavian at all, but they market themselves as being inspired by Scandinavia. This, by all means, is allowed, but again could be considered an interesting phenomena. Whilst in Scandinavia, Scandinavian design is just Scandinavian design. I do, however, think that due to the attention received form the outside world, Scandinavians now carry a certain pride for their design heritage like never before.
Who are some of your favourite designers?
It is so hard to choose from a list of such talent. Other than the great Masters of mid-century Scandinavian design, I must say the team behind Danish Norm Architects sits on the top of my admiration list. They have a way with Architecture and Design that reflects the Scandinavian design heritage. At the same time they modernise it down to something much more minimal, yet so rich, when it comes to textures, combinations and proportions. Two other designers I admire are Swedish Jonas Wagell and Norwegian Andreas Engesvik. I think they both must have gotten a hold of the magic Harry Potter wand of the design world. Especially when judging by how they both approach design and the way they work with proportions and materials. Such a joy to the eye. Other design studios I have my eyes on constantly include Form Us With Love, FRAMA CPH, Space Copenhagen and KBH Snedkeri.
What are some of your own favourite pictures from your Scandinavialist blog and Instagram profile?
Well, I’ve had this thing about simple retreats in serene scenery for a while now. I guess it’s a result of living in such a high-paced city like London! For the moment, some of my favourites are: The sea cabin at @manshausen_island, the ‘Loft House’ at @Bergaliv and the dreamy modular shelter by @vipp.