Ten Tips for Scandinavian Design… Without Ikea

Ten Tips for Scandinavian Design… Without Ikea

Ten Tips for Scandinavian Design… Without Ikea

We love the streamlined minimalism of Scandinavian design, but that behemoth Ikea scares us. These are our top 10 tips to keep in mind to get the look... while avoiding the big-box store.

Whenever we think of Ikea, we think of that epic episode of 30 Rock when Liz Lemon tests one of her relationships by taking her man to that behemoth of a store. As is the bent of the show, the man fails her test and she’s left frustrated. Blerg. We get it. Something about Ikea leaves people irritable, despite the fact that many of their affordable designs can be both functional and stylish. But Ikea doesn’t have to be the end-all of Scandinavian interior design. Below, we have the top ten tips to keep in mind when creating your streamlined, minimal oasis.



1. An Ode to All-White

Colorways are of utmost importance for Scandi design. Imagine that you’re taking your home and sending it through a de-saturation filter. You want mostly clean whites, off-whites, and gray scale, whether you’re installing Carrara marble countertops or simply taking on a new layer of paint. Black can be used sparingly. Homepolish designer Savannah Metcalf’s San Francisco loft is a great model to follow. It manages to be both dynamic and understated.



2. Create Monotone Gallery Walls

That overall color choice in the interior should extend to your art choices as well. Art looks best in a dramatic black-and-white and photography can be de-saturated as well. In Homepolish designer Tali Roth‘s Columbus Circle apartment, she took her Scandi-inspired apartment as an opportunity to make abstract cut-outs from construction paper. Framed in black, they are absolutely elegant.



3. Go au naturale

No, we aren’t referring to your outfit. We are talking about natural woods. Wooden accents are an essential of any Scandinavian home, from the wide-planked floors to the individual pieces of furniture. Pro tip: keep the type of wood and the variation in wood grain to a minimum. Stick with one type whether it’s pine, bleached beech (a favorite of Ikea), or beautiful stained oak (as seen in the Dallas kitchen above). The wooden accents will naturally warm up your space.


Photo by Amy Bartlam

4. Select a few timeless design classics

Scandinavia is home to SO many classic furniture designers: Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Alvar Aalto, Hans Wegner, and the list goes on. Now, we KNOW that original and reproduction pieces by these names can be pricey, but it is well worth your moolah to make an investment. We mean it that these furnishings are timeless. (And if you have to cheat and get knock-offs, we won’t come after you.)



5. Focus in on statement lighting

Most people think of Scandi design and immediately think “minimal.” Well, there are some exceptions to the rules, and one of them is in the area of lighting. A dining room or living room can center on a stand-out pendant or chandelier… a bedroom can have some stellar sconces to bring in a touch of pop. We asked our designers for bright ideas in lighting, and they were full of thoughts.



6. Opt for Open (but curated) Shelving

Whether in the kitchen or the living room, open up your shelving to show off even more of your style. However (and this almost goes without saying), if your shelving is open for all to see, you MUST (yes, this warrants all caps) keep it beautifully curated. Shelves aren’t just for books; layer in some art and accessories. In the kitchen, a collection of dishware and glasses will make your space look like it’s achieved pro status. For more #shelfie styling tips, read designer Angela Belt’s guide. And remember… stay away from clutter!



7. Add color through accessories and dishware

This talk of all-white and gray-scale may have you missing color. But don’t you worry your little head! The Scandinavian home isn’t completely devoid of color. Use your design accessories and dishware to bring in some levity. After all, who can resist some gorgeous prints from Marimekko? You’ll notice the tablescape above perfectly follows all of our Scandi rules. Elegant dishware and utensils, surrounded by a natural wood table and classic Eames Eiffel chairs. We approve.


8. Choose Stylish (yet Simple) Hardware

When it comes to the brass tacks of hardware, don’t over think it. Scandinavian design is all about finding beauty in functionality. Hardware should be a uniform color and show off elegant shapes. As you can see above, even a wall-hung coat rack can be a fun moment. The same goes for knobs, pulls, and other functional pieces. Form and function don’t have to be separate. In fact, they work best in conjunction.



9. Go for the Green

In any home, it’s important to incorporate greenery. And that is just as essential in the Scandinavian home. Now, we know what you’re thinking. The greenery itself doesn’t have to be “Scandi” (aka evergreens EVERYWHERE!). What we’re saying is that in this style of design, you need to bring the outdoors inside with living things.



10. Turn up the heat!

Lastly, do you know what perfectly combats that northern cold? A working fireplace. Many Scandinavian homes revolve around the hearth, and if you can afford one in your home, it would be a beautiful addition. You can go for a classic wood-burning stove, or something more sleek and space-aged like the one seen in this Brooklyn apartment. Perfect for getting your “hygge” on.


For shoppable ideas for Scandinavian designs, check out this shopping guide.

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