Design

What is Scandinavian Design?

Scandinavian design is about so much more than furniture; from electronics to fashion, architecture to interior design, Nordic design, and especially elements of Scandinavian minimalism, have found their way into every aspect of our lives. But what does Scandinavian design actually mean?

We’re taking a deep dive into the question: what is Scandinavian design? We’ll explore Nordic minimalism, where it all began, and how to bring this design approach into your home:

What is Scandi design?

Scandinavian design is characterized by a minimal, clean approach that seeks to combine functionality with beauty. Its focus is on simple lines and light spaces, devoid of clutter. These principles extend to all areas of design, from architecture to electronics, but it’s most commonly used to describe interior design, including furniture, textiles, ceramics, and lighting.

Typically, there is nothing superfluous about Scandinavian design; it strips back the unnecessary, showcasing the essential elements of any product.

The most-used Scandinavian colors are neutral and monochromatic – bright, warm whites with black and tan – with pops of color added used as accents. Plush pinks, gray-blues, and colors rooted in nature – like sage – are the most popular in Scandinavian design.

Above: Scandinavian natural color palettes by Jotun Lady

Organic and natural materials often take pride of place in Scandinavian design, reflecting the Scandinavian and Nordic countries relationship to nature. Wood, lightened to fit with a neutral color palette, cotton, and wool feature heavily in Scandinavian design, as do house plants.

This clean but warm theme, alongside the calming nature of a large, light-filled space without any clutter, is partly why Scandinavian design is so popular. This sort of Nordic minimalism allows people to invite peace into their home without creating a space that is uninviting or cold. It is full of vitality without being chaotic.

 
 

 

Scandinavian Design History

The Scandinavian design movement in its current form emerged in the early 20th century and flourished throughout the five Nordic countries from the 1930s onwards.

Originating from the Danish Selskabet for Dekorativ Kunst, who launched its Skønvirke (literally “Graceful Work”) magazine in 1914, the title went on to become the name of a new Danish style of arts and crafts to rival contemporary trends like Art Nouveau – often reserved for the social elite – whereas Skønvirke promoted local crafts and accessible, democratic design.

 

Left: Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair; Right: Alvar Aalto Savoy Vase

From the 1930s, designers such as Alvar Aalto (Finland), Arne Jacobsen (Denmark), Josef Frank (Sweden), and Maija Isola (Finland) began producing their work, creating a “golden age of Scandinavian design.” Their work was inspired by the concepts of Constructivism, Functionalism, and in some cases Surrealism.

It didn’t reach international recognition and its stellar levels of popularity until the 1950s, when the Lunning Prize was awarded to outstanding Scandinavian designers between 1951 and 1970. Scandinavian design history and its concept has been the subject of scholarly debate, exhibitions, and marketing agendas since that time. Many emphasize the democratic design ideals that were a central theme of the movement and are reflected in the rhetoric surrounding contemporary Scandinavian and international design.

 
 

Why is Scandinavian design important?

A guiding principle of Scandinavian design is to establish harmony with one’s environment and to create things made to last. It seeks to compliment the art of living well by promoting a simple home environment that is filled with quality items and enhances an unencumbered lifestyle devoid of excess consumerism. In this way it’s both important for an individual, as a home environment that encourages a life well lived is an increasingly important counter to the pressures of modern life, and for the planet, as it challenges rampant consumerism and deepens our connection to nature.

Above: Dinesen Collection; Photo by Jonas Bjerre Poulsen

 
 

Architecture, urban planning, and socially innovative design

Alongside the touchstones of simplicity, functionality, and comfort, Scandinavian architecture utilizes light, creates use for natural materials, and integrates with nature. It is this final quality that has seen Scandinavian architecture and urban planning become an innovator for environmentally conscious and socially innovative design. Through intelligent design and an understanding of nature, Scandinavia has managed to bring nature into its cities. Find out more about the history of Scandinavian architecture.

 

 

Graphic design

Bold and graphic, Scandinavian graphic design remains clean while using simple, stripped back imagery to make its point in posters, typography, and marketing, as well as art. Clean lines, restrained color palettes, and uncluttered visuals are all prominent in Scandinavian graphic design. Often, a few lines are used to create a suggestion of an idea, and the visual language relies on the use of dead space. It is clever design that allows the viewer to fill in the blanks, instantly recognizable while bare. Functionality is key here, as Scandinavian graphic design aims to give as much information through as few markings as possible.

 

Left: ‘This is This’ by Lars Fuhre; Right: ‘Monday’ by Anna Johansson from The Poster Club


 

 
 

Fashion, beauty, and lifestyle

High quality, natural fibers, and well-made pieces designed to last are the lifeblood of Scandnavian fashion design, perhaps explaining why Scandinavia has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement in fashion – Scandinavian fashion has always been slow.

Although minimalism and monochrome are still rife within the world of fashion design, this is an area that also has space for a more playful, irreverent approach. From maximalist, floral designs to bright jewel-toned colors, pattern clashing to traditional knitwear, many Scandinavian fashion brands will focus on beautiful, well-made basics while adding a splash of fun – just as Scandinavian interiors add a pop of color to an otherwise simple room.

Scandinavian beauty has seen phenomenal growth in the past decade, as traditional methods that utilize local flora has come into favor. Scandinavian design packaging has been emulated worldwide, while the principles of Scandinavian beauty – choosing natural, organic, and local ingredients – is being interpreted in each new territory.

 

 

Furniture, lighting, and Scandinavian home decoration

Scandinavian design is minimal, so the few pieces in the room have got to make it count, which is why so much emphasis is put on items like the humble chair. Craftsmanship and timeless design are likely to be found in any item in a Scandinavian room.

Lighting is a huge part of Scandinavian design, as the Nordic countries get so little of it naturally during the winter. As well as maximizing natural light at every opportunity – with white walls or large windows – lamps and lighting solutions are critical.

In every room there should be multiple light sources, ranging from the warm, low light of a candle to the bright overhead glow of a ceiling light. Scandinavian design seeks to spread light as effectively as possible without creating a harsh atmosphere. Poul Henningsen’s distinctive lamp designs are an excellent example. The designer looked for a solution to spread the bulb’s light as widely as possible without the glare being visible. This resulted in the elegant floral shape of his lamp, with each petal shape softening and spreading the brightness of the bulb.

Home goods create a perfect balance between minimalism and feeling relaxed. They put forth a calm-and-cozy vibe, allowing your space to look like a Kinfolk spread but remain completely liveable.

 
 

Hygge

How do you design for hygge? You can’t, really, it’s an emotional response to a feeling of comfort or happiness. You can, however, create an environment that promotes a life well-lived. Fill your home with things that give you joy and welcome your loved ones in: low-level lighting and candles, a beautiful dining set, thick woolen blankets, even a board game should do it!

 

 

Sustainability

Given Scandinavian design’s propensity for utilitarianism, it should come as no surprise that sustainability is now integral to most modern Scandinavian design. Nordic design principles of craftsmanship, quality, and enabling a better day-to-day are a natural bedfellow for sustainability, which naturally seeks to return to slow, local manufacturing of high-quality products designed to last.

 
 

Price vs Quality

The price point of Scandinavian design can be high, but the reasons for that are varied. Longevity, quality of material, timeless design (as in, not trendy and therefore will look great in your home for a long time), and expert craftsmanship are a few of the points that add to the price tag. Don’t be fooled into spending more just because something has hygge written on it, but buying high-quality pieces will cost more upfront and less over time, as you won’t need to replace these pieces. If you are in a position to spend a bit of money, or even to save up over a long period, the best advice is to decide which big-ticket items are worth splashing out on, such as ones you’ll be using daily like a bed, couch, and lighting, and make decisions based on that.

 

 
 

Danish design

Simplicity, functionality, and elegance – these are the calling cards of Danish design. Known for its sleek lines and sophistication, Denmark is also the country you’re most likely to find a touch of luxury. Chairs are most commonly associated with Danish design, but the industry has found roots in fashion, beauty, electronics, ceramics, and homeware, alongside furniture and products design. Denmark is also now the only country to host a fashion week in the Scandinavian countries.

 

Famous Danish designers

Børge Mogensen
(1914–72)

Furniture

One of the most important among a generation of furniture designers who made the concept of “Danish Modern” known throughout the world. Together with colleagues such as Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner, Mogensen created international respect for Danish furniture design, and his simple and functional designs have for more than half a century enjoyed worldwide demand.

Finn Juhl
(1912–89)

Architecture, Interior & Industrial Design

One of the leading figures in the creation of “Danish design” in the 1940s and the designer responsible for introducing Danish Modern to America. He’s mostly remembered for his furniture design, but also designed the Georg Jensen shop in Toronto, Canada.

Hans Wegner
(1914–2007)

Furniture

A world-renowned iconic Danish furniture designer who contributed to the international popularity of mid-century Danish design. In his lifetime he designed over 500 different chairs, over 100 of which were put into mass production and many of which have become recognizable design icons.

Arne Jacobsen
(1902–71)

Architecture & Design

Notable for his contribution to architectural Functionalism and enjoyed worldwide success for his simple but effective chair designs. Famously designed the Egg and Swan chairs, as well as the SAS Royal Hotel.

Poul Kjærholm
(1929–80)

Furniture

Notable designs include the Tulip chair, with many of his works in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and other museum collections in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. Also had an outstanding career as an educator.

Poul Henningsen
(1894–1967)

Architecture, Design & Author

Often referred to as simply PH in Denmark, Henningsen is most commonly associated with his design of the PH-lamp series of incandescent lamps.

Verner Panton
(1926–98)

Furniture & Interior Design

Considered one of Denmark’s most influential 20th-century designers. Panton created innovative and futuristic designs in a variety of materials, especially plastics, and in bright colors. The style was typical of the 1960s but found new popularity at the end of the 20th century.

Don’t be fooled into thinking Danish design history was a boys club:

Gertrud Vasegaard
(1913-2007)

Ceramics

Mostly remembered for her tea set which was included in the Danish Culture Canon. A prominent ceramists and designer for Royal Copenhagen.

Grete Jalk
(1920-2006)

Furniture

Notable works include the plywood GJ Chair and GJ Table. Jalk enhanced Denmark’s reputation for modern furniture design with her clear, comfortable lines and origami-style folded designs.

Marie Gudme Leth
(1895-1997)

Textiles

A pioneer of industrial screen printing. Her work first concentrated on prints of flowers and animals before turning to more geometrical designs.

Nanna Ditzel
(1923-2005)

Furniture

A furniture designer who worked across cabinet-making, jewelry, tableware, and textiles. Notably created jewelry designs for Georg Jensen and furniture for Frederica.

Grethe Meyer
(1918-2008)

Architecture & Design

Produced many products for the home, alongside her dinnerware designs for Royal Copenhagen. Meyer inspired many female architects and designers, pushing open the door to gender equality in the design industry. Most productive in the late 1940s-70s, she focused not only on her pieces but on the consumers, noting that she wanted to produce high-quality items that people could afford.

Karen Clemmensen
(1917-2001)

Architecture

Co-founder of an architecture firm, set up with her husband Ebbe, that designed both traditional and modern Functionalist buildings. Often inspired by Japanese and American trends, their work includes Kildeskovshallen in Gentofte and LO-skolen in Helsingør.

 

Classic Danish Design Brands

Fredericia Furniture

With designs by the likes of Børge Mogensen, Nanna Ditzel, and Arne Jacobsen, Fredericia Furniture has set itself apart as a producer of some of the most iconic Scandinavian furniture ever made. Their commitment to quality, functionality, and searching out the best new design as well as classic pieces is unrivalled.

Carl Hansen & Son

Danish design is synonymous with Carl Hansen & Son, the cabinetmaker who has been around since 1908. Their approach is all about high quality craftsmanship, top-notch materials, and designs that last. Ever heard of the Wegner Wishbone Chair? Yeah, that make that one. Not to mention a huge array of other chairs, tables, and other furniture that has come to define Mid-Century Modern design.

Erik Jørgensen

Another cabinetmaker who produces iconic Danish furniture, Erik Jørgensen is perhaps best known for items like the Delphi Sofa, Corona Chair, and Ox Chair. Founded in 1954 in Svendborg, Denmark, the brand still produces in their own domestic factory, using time-honored traditions and methods of cabinetry.

Georg Jensen

Since 1904, Georg Jensen has been known as a purveyor of fine hollowware and silver jewelry. The brand has evolved over the years, coming to include many interior products like candlesticks, lamps, kitchen items, and their beloved Christmas ornaments. The hollowwaare is still produced in their smithy in Copenhagen.

Fritz Hansen

A cabinetmaker that has taken on a modern new identity, Fritz Hansen still has its history deeply rooted in classic design. Fritz Hansen himself began working in Copenhagen in 1872, launching his company in 1885.The company is not only known for their craftsmanship and iconic designs, but also for their innovatiion. Fritz Hansen was one of the first to experiment with steam-bending beech wood in the 1930s, a technique that became invaluable to the production process and eventually led to the use of laminate wood.

Louis Poulsen

Lighting giants Louis Poulsen are well known for their interior lights, including icons like the Poul Henningsen Artichoke. They’re perhaps lesser known for the fact that they produce a large amount of outdoor lighting (i.e. street lamps, lighting in public spaces, etc) all around the world; in fact, it’s the majority of their business. With an eye to promoting the Scandinavian ideal of lighting – low, warm lights that bring a sense of coziness – as well as an ability to bring modern trends to their sleek styles.

Le Klint

Those folded lampshades you’re always seeing in Scandinavian homes? Those are Le Klint lamps. With a soft, diffused warm light and a charming but clean silhouette, these table, floor, and pendant lamps have become one of the watershed designs of Danish interior style. First designed by well-known architect and designer Kaare Klint, the lightshades have been enormously popular since they launched in 1943. Le Klint continues to produce new lighting in their factory in Odense, Denmark, usually with a callback to the folded, geometric look of the original.

Royal Copenhagen

Founded in 1775, Royal Copenhagen has made hand-painted porcelain items that have become an essential for most Scandinavian, and particularly Danish, homes. The royal blue color of the designs is impossible to escape – not that you’d want to! It’s worth noting that there’s nothing minimalist about Royal Copenhagen; their designs are ornate and old-fashioned, which makes them all the more charming in their typically minimalist, modern surroundings.

 

 

Modern Danish Designers

Cecilie Manz

Industrial & Furniture Design

Cecilie Manz designs furniture, glass, lamps, and related products, mainly for the home.
In addition to her work with industrial products, her experimental prototypes and more sculptural one-offs make up an important part of her work and approach.

Øivind Alexander Slaatto

Lighting, Electronic & Furniture Design

Creates simple, obvious yet poetic solutions that are often also inspired by nature. Has worked on Louis Poulsen and Bang & Olufsen products.

Benandsebastian

Art & Design

Ben Clement, UK, and Sebastian de la Cour, Denmark, make up the artist duo benandsebastian. Their elaborately crafted sculptural and installation artworks have been shown throughout Europe, in the US, and in Japan. A notable body of work was their “Phantom Limb” exhibition at the Designmuseum Danmark.

Anne Dorthe Vester and Maria Bruun

Art & Design

Danish architect Anne Dorthe Vester and designer Maria Bruun work in collaboration, creating objects at the intersection of architecture, design, and art. Their work focuses on abstractions, like idioms, functional hybrids, and on the aesthetics of materials and form in relation to surrounding spaces.

Christina Schou Christensen

Ceramics

An experimental ceramicist whose works include “Shaping Fluid,” in which Christensen builds forms from glazes instead of clay. She manipulates famously rigid material to create pieces that look viscous, fluid, in movement, and soft.

Rosa Tolnov Clausen

Textiles

Through handweaving, Clausen creates physical spaces in which to further explore and challenge notions about the method. Her projects include “Weaving Kiosk” (2017) in the Nordic countries, “Export/import” (2018) in Japan, and “Groundwork” (2016) in South Korea.

Yuki Ferdinandsen

Silversmith

Yuki Ferdinansen is a Japanese silversmith and metal chaser based in Denmark. Using the traditional Japanese artisan technique Arare in creating Danish modern design, Ferdinansen produces hammered and textured pieces that blend Japanese and Danish design sensibilities.

Stine Goya

Fashion Design

Designer Stine Goya established her namesake brand in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2006. The brand creates four seasonal collections, artist collaborations and fashion shows in-line with their signature marriage of color & print. Everything is developed in-house and the brand remains completely independent.

Chris L. Halstrøm

Furniture & Product Design

Alongside creating simple designs rooted familiarity for her own studio, Halstrøm is also part of the duo INCLUDED MIDDLE together with textile designer Margrethe Odgaard.

Ole Jensen

Product Design

Originally focused on ceramics, but has later on broadened his work considerably. He has taught at several design schools, exhibited his works worldwide, and co-founded and served as a member of several design associations and councils. He also designs for Normann.

Akiko Kuwahata and and Ken Winther

Furniture & Product Design

Akiko worked as a cabinet maker in Japan before partnering with Winther, a carpenter. They live and work together in a villa north of Copenhagen, producing beautiful wooden homeware pieces.

Vibeke Fonnesberg Schmidt

Lighting & Electronic Design

Vibeke Fonnesberg Schmidt handbuilds exclusive one-off lamps in plexiglass and brass with reminiscences of 1960s Italian design, French Art Nouveau, and German Bauhaus modernism. Schmidt has worked with world-renowned partners, including Nilufar Gallery and Dimore Studio in Milan and leading international interior designers.

Henrik Vibskov

Fashion Design

Vibskov has been cited as a New Nordic designer, praised for his playful fashion sense that steers clear of Scandinavian minimalism, emphasizing instead the eclectic sensibility of multicultural Copenhagen. Vibskov is also an artist, interior designer, film director, and musician. He won the Beck’s Futures prize in 2000 for his film The Monk and has also contributed interior designs to numerous places in Denmark, and has designed for the Royal Danish Horticultural Society’s Garden.

 

Modern Danish Design Brands

HAY

With an ever-growing array of colorful and playful interior design goods and furniture, HAY has quickly become the new face of Danish design. Their 2017 collaboration with IKEA was a massive success, cementing the brand as a global trend-setter.

Norm Architects

Founded in 2008 in Copenhagen, Norm Architects is a full service architecture and design firm that has very nearly single-handedly defined the contemporary Danish aesthetic, both in terms of interior space and products. They do everything from graphic design to ceramics to interior architecture (for example, the stunning Fjord Boat House), and so much more.

Muuto

A leader in shaping the new soft, playful aesthetic of modern Scandinavian design, Muuto has brought together fantastic designers with a contemporary, international approach to business. Their take on color, in particular, has been extremely influential.

ferm LIVING

What started as a small decor company has exploded into one of the biggest and most respected contemporary design brands in Denmark. Their furniture has an artistic and sculptural edge that makes it stand out from the crowd. Their kids line is great; not too cutesy, but still functional and appealing for little ones.

Menu

Though Menu was originally launched in the 70s, the brand has been reimagined as a serious design company. Their take on Danish minimalism draws on classic design while incorporating new pieces created by some of the top contemporary designers. From vases to chairs, Menu is producing design icons of the future.

Nuura

It was about time for a contemporary Danish lighting brand! Nuura has taken up the mantle spectacularly, with considered lighting that fits the modern Scandinavian home. It is functional, beautiful, and sculptural without being overwhelming. Their ability to innovate while working within their own aesthetic parameters makes for a thoroughly cohesive brand.

New Works

Founded in 2015, New Works is a study in contrasts. New and old silhouettes; minimalist and decorative. They produce a range of lamps, furniture, and small accessories like vases and candleholders. Their lighting is really something special; the array of materials, shapes, and textures present offers the chance to play with light in your space in a way that is truly unique.

Sofacompany

Danish design goes direct-to-consumer with furniture brand Sofacompany. Drawing on the Scandinavian value of democratic design, updated for the modern era, Sofacompany offers sofas and other furniture made in their own factory, sold online, and shipped straight to customers. The prices are excellent, as are the designs and the quality. Don’t see anything that’s just right? Find the silhouette you like, then design the rest of it yourself!

GUBI

GUBI has managed to bridge the space between glamorous luxury and minimalism perfectly. Their hotel and restaurant projects showcase just how good they are at creating homey spaces that radiate inviting elegance. Pieces like the Beetle Chair and Multie-Lite have become instant design classics, bringing an edge of opulent Art Deco to their otherwise clean lines.

 
 

 

Finnish Design

Finnish design is about more than looks. In Finland, design is as much about the nature that surrounds it as it is about the everyday lives it needs to support. Finns take inspiration from nature and turn it into objects, architecture, and a blueprint for a way to live. There’s an emphasis on timeless, organic design, recognizing that everything is borrowed from nature and will one day return.

As the famous Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto once said:

“Nothing is ever reborn but neither does it totally disappear. And that which has once been born, will always reappear in a new form.”

 

Famous Finnish Designers

Alvar Aalto
(1898-1976)

Architechture & Design

Alvar Aalto was a Finnish architect and designer. His career spanned architecture, furniture, textiles, and glassware, as well as sculpture and painting. Notable works include the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, the Model 60 stacking stool (see header image), and the Aalto Vase.

Armi Ratia
(1912-1979)

Textiles

Armi Ratia was the co-founder of the Finnish textile and clothing company Marimekko, a fashion and textiles company known for its bright prints and female-forward design. She is among Finland’s most famous female entrepreneurs.

Tapio Wirkkala
(1915-1985)

Design

Tapio Wirkkala was a Finnish designer and sculptor, a major figure of post-war design. His work ranges from designs of plastic ketchup bottles and metalware to glass, ceramics and plywood in a range of styles. His success as a glass designer began in 1946 when he designed the Kantarelli vase for Iittala, and the mass-produced Tapio collection was launched in 1954.

Kaj Franck
(1911-1989)

Design & Applied Arts

Franck was artistic director of the Arabia ceramics company (now part of Iittala Group) and artistic director and teacher at the College of Applied Arts – the predecessor of the University of Art and Design Helsinki (now Aalto University) – since 1945, but created designs for other companies as well.

Oiva Toikka
(1931-2019)

Glass Design

Oiva Toikka was renowned for his designs for glassware for the Finnish design company Iittala. Originally trained in ceramics at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, he took up glass design later in life. Some of his best known works are the Kastehelmi and Flora tableware from the 1960s and the Pioni and Krouvi collections from the 1970s.

Maija Isola
(1927-2001)

Textiles

Maija Sofia Isola was a Finnish designer of printed textiles, creating over 500 patterns including Unikko. Her bold colorful designs made the home furnishings and fashion company Marimekko famous in the 1960s. She also had a career as a visual artist.

Antti Nurmesniemi
(1927-2003)

Design

Antti Nurmesniemi is best known for his coffee pots and interior design work. Antti Nurmesniemi’s work includes enamel coffee pots and furniture such as the Jakkara sauna stool, as well as interior design work. He has been referred to as the “Grand Old Man of Finnish Design”, and he won the Lunning Prize in 1959. Nurmesniemi was involved in the modernist design of the Palace Hotel from 1951–1953 with Olli Borg and Olavi Hänninen.

Annika Rimala
(1936–2014)

Textiles

Annika Rimala is best known for her work for Marimekko, who she worked for between 1960 and 1982, most notably the company’s first knitwear collection, Tasaraita, which was launched in 1968. Personality and humor are combined with durability and practicality in her design work.

 

Classic Finnish Design Brands

Iittala

What began in 1881 as a small glass factory in southern Finland has become one of the best known Finnish design brands in the world. Their best known pieces are the Alvar Aalto vase collection, which launched in 1936, but the brand has expanded beyond glass and now makes everything from tableware to scissors (they own another great Finnish brand, Fiskars).

Marimekko

While Marimekko could just as easily be in the “modern Finnish brands” category, their appeal lies in their ability to have a foot in both the classic and modern world, while creating their own aesthetic universe. Marimekko is really a textile company; founded in 1951 by Armi Raita, the brand was created to be anti-fashion and pro-design. That’s why the same textile designs keep getting reused and reinvented in new colorways. Colorful, textural, graphic, and playful, Marimekko presents a whole world of clothes and homewares. They still produce their fabrics in their factory in Helsinki.

Artek

When Artek was founded in 1935, the idea was not just to sell furniture, but also to create an education platform that would present the apex of design, art, and technology to help people live modern and comfortable lives. They’ve been doing just that ever since. Producing classes like the Aalto Stool 60 and Chair 66 (Alvar Aalto was one of the founders, alongside his wife, architect Aino Aalto), Artek has one of the most impressive and beloved Scandinavian portfolios of all time.

Arabia Finland

Those adorable Moomin mugs you see in every Scandinavian design shop? Those are by Arabia Finland. But they make a host of other porcelain as well, including tableware and serving sets. The brand was founded in 1873 and immediately saw success with upperclass customers, producing table settings so that people could host large and elaborate gatherings. Now the brand is a bit more democratic, but the quality remains the same.

 

 

Modern Finnish Designers & Design Brands

Milla Vaahtera

Art & Design

Artist and designer Milla Vaahtera’s products play with ideas of space, shape, and tension. She creates mobiles with brass blown glass items, particularly working with specialized glass blowers and silversmiths to make ethereal pieces.

Antrei Hartikainen

Furniture

Carpentry is alive and kicking with craftsman Antrei Hartikainen. Bringing together sculptural shapes and expert knowledge, Hartikainen’s furniture pieces blur the lines between functionality and artistry – why have one and not the other?

Supergroup Studios

Creative Agency

With creative projects under their belt like the identity for beloved London hotspot Nordic Bakery, Supergroup Studios is well known in Finland as one of the top graphic and design studios. Supergroup has done a number of visual identities and websites for global brands, and their approach combines design expertise, artistry, and a deep understanding of each brand’s unique identity.

Harri Koskinen

Product Design

Harri Koskinen has an uncompromising, bold design aesthetic that has gained him international renown since the early days of his career. Practicality, a spare style and a conceptual approach to product and spatial design are Koskinen’s trademarks.

Joanna Laajisto

Interior Design

Launched by Joanna Laajisto in 2010. Be it interiors, products, or services, Studio Joanna Laajisto’s philosophy is to create beautiful, long-lasting, and meaningful design that drives from sustainable values and understanding of human behavior. They work in the fields of commercial interiors such as retail, hospitality, and workplace design as well as product and concept design.

For more Finnish designers, be sure to check our list of emerging talent.

 
 

 

Swedish Design

Swedish design is minimalist, with an emphasis on functionality and clean lines. It’s most famous export, IKEA, also places emphasis on democratic design, meaning good, quality design should be accessible to all – especially when it comes to furniture. Sweden is also known for traditional crafts including glass, the instantly recognizable Dala horse, and Sami handicrafts, these are the bone and leather items crafted by the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sápmi.

 

Famous Swedish designers

Anna Petrus
(1886-1949)

Sculpture

Petrus, a sculptor and industrial designer, was at the forefront of the Swedish push towards artistic design of the 1910s and 20s. Her intricate and ornamental work includes tables, candlesticks, vases and more.

Sylvia Stave
(1908-1994)

Silversmith

Designer and silversmith Sylvia Stave created a number of popular pieces – mostly home and interior goods – during her career in the 1930s. Her minimalist, functional style was, and remains, extremely modern and fresh. Stave acted as artistic director for CG Hallsbergs Goldsmith from 1931 – 1939.

Josef Frank
(1885-1967)

Architecture & Design

Josef Frank was an Austrian-born architect, artist, and designer who adopted Swedish citizenship in the latter half of his life. Together with Oskar Strnad, he created the Vienna School of Architecture, and its concept of Modern houses, housing, and interiors.

Greta Magnusson-Grossman
(1906-1999)

Architecture, Interior & Product Design

Greta Magnusson-Grossman was a Swedish furniture designer, interior designer, and architect. She was one of the few female designers to gain prominence during the mid-20th century architectural scene in Los Angeles.

Stig Lindberg
(1916-1982)

Ceramicist, Glass & Textiles

Stig Lindberg was a Swedish ceramic designer, glass designer, textile designer, industrial designer, painter, and illustrator. One of Sweden’s most important postwar designers, Lindberg created whimsical studio ceramics and graceful tableware lines during a long career with the Gustavsberg pottery factory.

Want more? Check out these Swedish women designers to know.

 

Classic Swedish Design Brands

Svenskt Tenn

Opened in 1924 by Swedish designer Estrid Ericson, Svenskt Tenn is Sweden’s best known design store and heritage brand. The majority of the items sold in the store are of the company’s own line: items by Ericson herself, as well as Josef Frank, who joined the company in 1934, set the tone for what is a visual universe unlike any other in the world. The bright colors and joyful prints of Svenskt Tenn define Swedish design as much as any minimalist interior ever could.

Rörstrand

Europe’s second oldest porcelain company, Rörstrand has created beautiful porcelain tableware since 1726. In 1930, the brand produced the Swedish national service, which is now called Swedish Grace; it was designed by Louise Adelborg. The company has changed with the times, making stoneware as well as porcelain from the 1960s. Vibrant, detailed, and drawing on a range of style inspirations, Rörstrand is as relevant today as ever.

Kosta Boda

Founded in 1742, Kosta Boda is Sweden’s best known glass-maker. Creating vases, bowls, glasses, candleholders, and glass art in their glass factory, the brand is famous for its incredible craftsmanship. They also have a glass hotel and bar in Småland, southern Sweden. There, you can find out everything about glass-blowing as well as purchase pieces for yourself.

Iris Hantverk

Founded in 1889 in Stockholm, this company makes wooden brushes for cleaning as well as other kitchen and bathroom uses. Still made using traditional Swedish methods, the items are made by a team of visually-impaired craftspeople. Brush-binding is skilled work, and each piece looks made by hand at the highest level.

Dux

Have you been sleeping correctly? Dux has been trying to make it possible since 1926, when Efriam Ljung began producing the first inner-spring mattresses in Sweden. Four generations later, the company is still family owned, and they’re just as obsessed with sleep as ever before. In addition to their excellent beds, Dux produces a small portfolio of modern and classic Swedish furniture; namely, pieces by Bruno Mathsson and Claesson Koivisto Rune, in addition to their in-house designs.

Hästens

The visual of the famous blue checked bed proceeds Hästen’s reptuation, but luckily their reputation is nothing short of stellar. Know for making some of the highest quality mattresses in the world (with the price tag to match), Hästens has taken the concept of “a good night of sleep” to new heights. Founded in 1852, the brand has expanded to include sleep accessories like headboards, bedding, and even slippers. They are official purveyor of beds to Swedish royalty; not too shabby.

Kasthall

Making beautiful rugs in their factory in Kinna, Sweden, since 1889, Kasthall is known throughout Scandinavia as one of the highest quality rugmakers of the region. In addition to their new designs, they have a number of archive designs that you can choose from.

 

Modern Swedish designers

Selam Fessahaye

Fashion Design

Selam Fessahaye is a Swedish-Eritrean costume designer who launched her first ready-to-wear collection in August 2018. Her work is romantic, with exaggerated silhouettes and sparkling fabrics, and deeply personal.

Jenny Nordberg

Industrial Design

Well-known and deeply respected in the Scandinavian design world, Swedish designer Jenny Nordberg has made a name for herself with her often humorous and always ingenious pieces and exhibitions. Her multidisciplinary work ranges from small home products to furniture, but always has a touch of the unexpected. Nordberg is also focused on production, and is the founder of the local sourcing production platform SPOK.

Tham & Videgård

Architecture

Tham & Videgård are based in Stockholm, Sweden, and directed by co-founders and lead architects Bolle Tham and Martin Videgård. Since the start in 1999 the practice has attracted attention for its experimental approach and innovative works. Notable works include the Moderna Museet in Malmö and the Stockholm Concert Hall.

Wang & Söderström

Art & Design

Comprised of Swedish designer Anny Wang and architect Tim Söderström, Wang & Söderström focus on digital/physical explorations and fabrication.

Kajsa Willner

Industrial Design

Based in Malmö, Swedish designer Kajsa Willner specializes in furniture, product, and exhibition design. Her pieces are usually site-specific, taking into account the environment and atmosphere of the location. Willner’s willingness to experiment, play with materiality, and focus on sustainable design makes her a stand-out amongst emerging Swedish designers.

 

Left: Kajsa Willner‘s Materiality Aggregation; Right: Wang & Söderström, photo by Mishael Phillip

 

For more, check out our list of emerging Swedish designers.

 

Modern Swedish Design Brands

Massproductions

Focusing on modernist design principles, Massproductions has become an avatar for the future of Swedish design. The brand, which launched in 2009, has control of their entire supply chain, from production to distribution, and therefore present a fully-realized vision. They have a handful of pieces that are already icons, including the beloved Crown Armchair.

IKEA

You thought we’d have a list of Swedish design brands and not include IKEA? Not possible! The original mass-produced flat-pack furniture brand, IKEA has grown from a small Swedish company founded in 1943 to a major global retailer. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a piece of IKEA design in their home? From kitchen items to couches and even custom-made kitchens, IKEA has redefined what Scandianvian design means, and has reintroduced truly democratic design on a huge scale. They’ve even given rise to the business of “IKEA hacks;” creative ways to upgrade your IKEA furniture that makes it feel more unique and high-end.

Design House Stockholm

Founded in 1992, Design House Stockholm sees themselves as a “publisher of design, rather than a conventional producer,” due to the way they work closely with designers. The brand makes everything from furniture to small interior accessories, with success across the board. Their Nordic Light by Jonas Grundell has become a ubiquitous design classic.

Hem

With three showrooms – Stockholm, NYC, and LA – and a defined, playful aesthetic, Hem has quickly become one of Sweden’s biggest design exports of the last few years. Their ability to zero in on what will be “the next big thing” has resulted in a number of major design wins for them, including genuinely joyful pieces like the Last Stool by Max Lamb.

Fogia

Known as the “benchmark of Swedish design,” Fogia has been around since the 80s, but became its current iteration in 2011 under new ownership. The brand both designs and produces in their own factory in Gdansk, Poland. Modern classics like the Bollo Chair have cemented Fogia as one of the most innovative and important voices in Swedish design today.

Wästberg

Magnus Wästberg founded his eponymous company in 2008 in order to produce beautiful, innovative, and environmentally-concious lighting. The brand works with designers and architects to create minimalist and sophisticated lights of all sorts. How seriously do they take good light? Check out their “Principles of Good Light.

 
 

 

Norwegian Design

Factors such as nature-inspired forms, graceful lines, and light are prominent in Norwegian design, but its biggest influence is function. The design in Norway is geared towards the outdoors and thriving in harsh winters, with very little room for luxury. Instead, a sense of well-being and balance is found in the comfortable and robust design heritage.

 

Famous Norwegian designers

Jac Jacobsen
(1901-1996)

Product Design

Jacobsen originally worked in the textile industry, before he developed the Luxo-L1, a balanced-arm lamp, in 1937. Today, the lamp is part of various exhibitions in museums around the world as as an example of classic lamp design.

Else Marie Jakobsen
(1927-2012)

Textile & Product Design

Else Marie Jakobsen was a Norwegian designer and textile artist, she is particularly known for tapestries and her work on altarpieces. She made 33 at home and abroad, including in Copenhagen, Spain, and the UAE, and wove over 500 tapestries for private homes and public buildings.

Ingmar Relling
(1920-2002)

Furniture

Relling started life as a carpenter before launching a company in 1950. From 1960 he focused on chair design, most notably developing the Siesta and Orbit styles.

Tias Eckhoff
(1926-2016)

Product Design

Educated in ceramic arts but ultimately multi-disciplinary, Eckhoff was one of Norway’s most versatile designs. His work includes his notable cutlery collection, Maya.

 

Classic Norwegian Design Brands

Fjordfiesta

Thought it was only founded in 2001, Fjordfiesta is a furniture producer focused on relauching classic designs. Their first project was the famous Scandia chairs from the 1950s by Hans Brattrud. Since then, the brand has relaunched a number of pieces including the Krobo Bench by Torblørn Afdal. They’ve also partnered with top contemporary designers, such as the Alto table by Andreas Engesvik.

Magnor Glassverk

Launched in 1896, just outside of Oslo, Magnor Glassverk creates beautiful, functional glasswork. They specialize in drinkware, tableware, and other home goods like lighting. Expertly-crafted, its no wonder that Magnor Glassverk’s products have been a Norwegian classic since the workshop opened.

Mandal Veveri

A textile mill that’s been in operation since 1918, Mandal Veveri is one of the top producers of woollen items in Norway. They also work with linen, cotten, and mohair. The mill produces the iconic Bunad blankets, designed in 2012 by Andreas Engesvik, which showcase bunad motifs from the five regions of Norway.

 
 

Modern Norwegian Designers

Anderssen & Voll

Furniture

Anderssen & Voll was established in 2009, and works within various fields of design but focuses on domestic objects in particular. Their work receptive to cultural influences and applies market knowledge in forward-thinking ways to generate groundbreaking, functional and desirable products.

Andreas Engesvik

Product Design

Engesvik is an internationally renowned designer of furniture, tableware, and other product design for a great variety of brands including Iittala, Muuto, Folgia (see header image), Fontana Arte, Ligne Roset and Asplund. His personal practice is concerned with contemporary classics.

Kristine Five Melvær

Product Design

Melvær designs tableware, lighting, furniture, graphic design and textile objects. She connects visual communication with design and focuses on the communicative potential of objects in order to create emotional bonds between object and user.

Looking to buy some modern design when in Oslo? Make sure to stop by Kollekted By.

 

Modern Norwegian Design Brands

Vestre

Vestre is a different kind of design brand. Their focus is on outdoor furniture and products, with the goal of building more functional, beautiful, and sustainable outdoor urban spaces. Their work is colorful and clean, bringing a sense of fun and undeniable design to any city’s public areas.

Snøhetta

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Oslo Opera House? That incredible building, as well as so many other including the 7th Room of the Tree Hotel in northern Sweden and the Hilma af Klint Exhibition Space in Järna, Sweden. In addition to architecture, the firm is known for their exhibitions, interior design, product development, and graphic design. They do it all, and whew, they do it well.

Elementa

A production house specializing in interior architecture, Elementa has designed a range of highly-functional office furniture, storage pieces, and smaller items like planters. Their work is minimalist and sleek, made to make your space work for you.

Heymat

What’s something you didn’t know you needed? How about a really well-designed door mat? That’s what Heymat produces, and they’ve made their case surprisingly well! With refined, sophisticated designs, the mats are also made to withstand the tough Norwegian elements; truly a marriage of form and function.

Northern

Known for their fantastic lighting, particularly the gorgeous Oslo Lamp, Northern is an Oslo-based design house making furniture, lighting, and home accessories. Their focus is on craftsmanship, natural materials, and functionality; a true Scandinavian trifecta. The result is sometimes playful, always refined.

 
 

 

Icelandic Design

Contemporary Icelandic design is perhaps an anomaly amongst Scandinavian design. While its by no mean impractical, it is the most consistently avant-garde. Wool is ever-present and plays a large part in Icelandic traditional design, while more modern materials like fish-leather can be found in modern contemporary design.

 

Famous Icelandic Designers

Guðjón Samúelsson
(1887-1950)

Architecture

Guðjón Samúelsson was a State Architect of Iceland, and the first Icelander to be educated in architecture. He’s considered one of Iceland’s most influential architects and designed notable buildings like Hallgrimskirkja.

Einar Sveinsson
(1906-1973)

Architecture

Einar Sveinsson was an Icelandic architect. He was the City Architect of Reykjavík between 1934–1973, and widely considered to have played a key role in shaping the appearance of Reykjavík in the mid-20th century.

Högna Sigurðardóttir
(1929-2017)

Architecture

Högna Sigurðardóttir was a leading Icelandic architect and the first woman to design a building in Iceland. Notable works include the Bakkaflöt house.

 
 

Modern Icelandic Designers & Design Brands

Hannah Whitehead

Ceramic, Homeware & Product Design

Studio Hanna Whitehead focuses on a hands-on approach, working in a personal way to interweave story, shape, materials, and color. Her work borders art, design, and craft, often utilizing diverse materials within the same subject.

FÓLK

Interior

Founded in 2017, Fólk is an interior and lifestyle brand that makes designs for modern sustainable living. Fólk works with progressive designers on smart homeware, furniture, and lifestyle products focused on sustainability, responsibility, and transparency around the production process.

Augustav

Furniture Production

Producing furniture, lighting, and other home accessories, Augustav uses traditional methods to make contemporary furniture rooted in principles of Scandinavian design.

Usee Studio

Fashion & Homeware

Usee is a small design studio launched by friends Halla Hákonardóttir and Helga Björg Kjerúlf.

Find more emerging Icelandic designers to know here.

 
 

 

Scandinavian design differences between the countries

Although it may originate from one group, there are subtle differences between the Scandinavian design coming from each country.

Norwegian design can be described as less style-conscious than its Scandinavian neighbors. Its designs offer a quirky mix of cutting-edge, modernist, and historical design.

Sweden stays muted in colors but also in character. Sticking to pale tones and nothing too loud. A distinguishing feature of Swedish design over the years is the prioritization of efficiency; an ethos that its designers successfully embrace.

Perhaps as a way of encouraging hygge, Danish design can be more playful than its Scandinavian neighbors, as it welcomes tonal shades and the odd pop of color. Danish design has also been heavily influenced by the German Bauhaus School and the country’s special relationship with Japan.

 
 
 

How does Scandinavian design differ from mid-modern century

The two are often conflated and used interchangeably, but there are crucial differences between the styles. While there is a great deal of overlap, mid-modern century is an altogether darker style that focuses less on light. It’s typically used to describe Modernist design from the 1940s-1960s.