Danish "hygge" is huge in American homes embracing a Scandinavian style. The Danish word, pronounced “hoo-gah,” translates to a feeling of coziness, which is evident in Nordic design, says interior designer Bjorn Bjornsson, whose eponymous firm is based in New York City.
"Sunlight and warmth are precious commodities during the winter in Scandinavian countries," says the native Icelandic designer with Danish heritage. "Homes are built to allow in maximum light and accessorized with cozy throws and rugs."
But to focus solely on the light, bright and white elements in a Scandinavian-style home is to miss the essence of a Nordic nest. While this iteration of a minimalistic design has wide appeal, Bjornsson says to capture the Scandinavian spirit, one must go beyond natural wood accents, leggy furnishings and a pared-down color palette.
"Americans are desiring a Scandinavian-style design aesthetic in their homes, but often what they're missing is the functionalism component," Bjornsson says. "Nordic homes are generally small, but every bit of space is put to use, with furnishings that serve many purposes."
To truly nestle into a Scandinavian-style home, one must first clear away the clutter, Bjornsson says. "If you can, walk through your home without any furnishings in it and observe the light. Let the house talk to you, with an eye to bring the outdoors inside," he says. "Resist the temptation to fill up the home with stuff. A true Scandinavian home is filled with people, not possessions."
The overall Scandinavian style can be viewed as both uncluttered and contemporary. There are common elements throughout a Scandinavian-designed home that use simplicity and functionality, complemented with a light color palette, blonde woods, organic patterns and natural fibers, says Abbey Stark, senior interior design leader at IKEA-US.
Swedish-founded IKEA designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture and home accessories while being one of the most accessible contemporary home-goods retailers in the world. "Scandinavian design is an innovative approach to honest and timeless design," Stark says. "Our Swedish roots influence everything we do through product development ... design is about simplicity and not being overly complicated."
In true Scandinavian style, form follows function. Stark says spaces are planned with function as the foundation of every design, so everything in the home should have a purpose.
Keeping it light is a way of life in a Nordic home. Not only are walls painted white, but also, uncluttered areas keep spaces light and airy.
All shades of neutrals are welcome, Bjornsson says, to reflect the waning light during the deepest snows in winter, and also to celebrate the sunlight of summertime.
"Window coverings are either nonexistent or very simple, as you don't want outdoor views to be obstructed," he says. "Tending to indoor plants and having a roaring fire in the winter further enliven a home."
A Scandinavian-style kitchen is about having beauty on the outside and organization on the inside. Cooking should be fun by having everything exactly where you need it, Stark says.
"The kitchen is the heart of the home, and we are always looking to create the perfect setting for a Fika with family and friends," she says. "Fika. It's a little Swedish word that packs a lot of meaning. On the surface, it refers to taking a break with a cup of coffee and a biscuit or treat. But the tradition of Fika spans countless generations, and in that time it has come to embody fundamental values like togetherness, equality and simplicity."
The cabinetry in a Scandinavian-style kitchen is both accessible and functional, with simple panels that can be covered with chalkboard paint for little artists. Potted herbs give life to the kitchen window and also can be used by the cook when preparing meals.
The bedroom is meant to be a retreat and place to get a good night's sleep, Stark says. Traditional Nordic bedrooms tend to be smaller than their American counterparts, and are made for rest and recharging.
"The idea is to create a space to relax with cozy bedding, window treatments for light control and task lighting centered above the bed to nestle in with your favorite book," she says.
Common Living Areas
The living room is designed to create a playful, multifunctional space for the family to gather for movies and games. Creating a neutral color palette with furniture allows textiles and rugs to add personality to the space.
The dining table isn't sequestered into its own room that is used only during fancy dinner parties, Bjornsson says. It is set for mealtimes, a communal place for homework, craft projects and friendly card games. "The dining table is the perfect example of a singular piece of furniture having many functions," he says. "In a Scandinavian home, there's always a place at the table, no matter what's going on."
In Scandinavian design, children are integrated into every part of the home, Stark says. "The design should be approachable for children to play and explore by building forts out of blankets and throw pillows," she says, "and being a part of baking cookies in the kitchen."
The foundation for Scandinavian form is comfort, Bjornsson says. "There is a deliberateness in design, because of its simplicity," he says. "A Scandinavian style can be achieved if you're willing to live simply -- with nature and with one another."
A Nordic Nod
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