You might recognise Swedish style when you see it, but when you actually set out to create your own Swedish style interior, it can be more difficult than you expected. Sure, you can play by the rules, but if you do that, you may end up with a sterile space that doesn’t have much individuality. Rather than following instructions, orient yourself by thinking about nine words that encapsulate everything you need to know about Swedish style.
When you step into a Swedish house the first thing you notice is space. Swedish design lets a home breathe – it’s airy and uncluttered so that every bit of furniture gets enough elbow room.
It can be tough making this work if you have a lot of stuff, which is why Swedish designers are so good at building great storage!
You’ll also notice how light Swedish interiors are. In winter, Sweden can be pretty grim, so designers treat light as a valuable resource. A pale palette using white, cream or light yellow backgrounds lets light diffuse throughout the room.
Forget drapes – windows are simply dressed with linen blinds or delicate translucent fabrics, if at all, to let as much light as possible into the room. At night time (and yes, that can be most of the twenty-four hours in winter!) rooms are well lit, with multiple light sources including pendant lights over work surfaces and dining tables, often making a big statement.
While most lighting is modern and even industrial in design, Swedes also love candles. A candelabra on the dining table brings any home a touch of warmth as well as light.
Swedish design is simple. It doesn’t do drama, chintz, or opulence – whether it’s classical or modern in inspiration, it achieves its effects with an elegant simplicity of means. Furniture has clean lines – it’s not fussy or over-decorated.
Don’t confuse simplicity with austerity, though. Swedish simplicity is easy to live with – it gives you the space and freedom for spontaneity.
So far you might think that simple, light, and spacious is nice, but it could be boring. Forget that! Swedish design can be bold and brave. A big bright red rug in the middle of the living room, or a splash of vivid colour on the wall. Take a look at Decorami’s curated collection of Scandinavian furniture if you want to see how it works – there’s a lot of white, a lot of natural wood, and one really striking, bright orange chair.
That’s about the right percentage – all the neutral colours just set the scene for the big statement.
Sweden is a nation of nature-lovers, and nature is a profound inspiration for Swedish design. Wooden floors are often left light in colour and bare – Swedes don’t do fitted carpets – while walls may be wood-slatted. Wool and linen are favoured textiles, and if there’s leather around, it will often be natural tan rather than black.
Colours often come from nature – mossy green, sky or sea blue, lichen greys. And don’t forget that essential Swedish touch – fresh flowers.
Although a Swedish interior looks simple, it always feels interesting. Texture is a big thing, with lots of coarse natural fibres. Wood, wool, wicker, rag rugs, can all contribute to a genuine Swedish vibe. Shiny? Not so much – except as an accent.
Not for nothing is Sweden known as the country of flat-pack furniture. Swedish interior design is efficient design – no frills, it’s functional. From pull-out wire drawers in kitchen cupboards to freely configurable wall shelves, storage is made to cope with your lifestyle rather than constrain it. A Swedish interior is easy to keep clean and tidy. It is, quite simply, meant to be livable – and to work for you.
Just as Swedish interiors have room for a bold statement, they have room for humour and a bit of quirkiness too. There’s something quite wide-eyed and child-like about some Swedish design – children will love the idea of going to bed in a little tent or having a lurid green alligator as a bathmat. Shelves can accommodate the quirkiest collections – miniature teapots, tin toys, antique piggy banks – and the simplicity of Swedish design makes it possible to pull off a real surprise from time to time.
If you’ve never seen Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander, you really should – it’s the most amazing film, which I’ll always remember for the magical scene in which the children become engrossed with their model theatre. Fantasy and imagination weave their way throughout the film – and every Swedish style house needs a little touch of magic, too. A beautiful eighteenth-century gilded mirror, or a glittering chandelier, can bring fantasy into your interior design – but so can a brightly coloured Mexican painting or a shimmer of Indian silk. Or even a toy theatre!
About the Author
Andrea Kirkby writes for Decorami.com, a unique site that lets you vote for your favourite furniture and decor items, save them for later, follow specific collections and have fun while looking for the best things for your home.