What is Scandinavian Furniture Design and Why Should You Care?

If you’ve ever spent time with someone who has an affinity for interior design, you may have heard him or her gush about the merits of Scandinavian furniture.

If that instantly made your mind rush to flat-pack furniture, meatballs and a labyrinth of home-fill props then you might reasonably have been left questioning the sanity of the person whose company you were sharing.

Good news is that we can confirm that there is no cause for concern. In fact, the person you were speaking to is both correct and probably worth engaging further. It’s all just a case of understanding what the term Scandinavian furniture design really means.

Scandinavian Modern Design

Of course, the simplest explanation is that the term refers to any item of furniture crafted in Sweden, Norway or Denmark. But that means almost nothing so we can just dismiss that from the outset.

We can also dismiss the idea that Scandinavian furniture is synonymous with Ikea. We don’t say that because we have a problem with Ikea. On the contrary, we like it, we get it, we sometimes even go there ourselves. In fact, many of its best designs are derivative of the kind of furniture we envision when we hear the term Scandinavian furniture.

To us, that term refers to furniture made in and around the 1950’s and 60’s—furniture that is often referred to as Scandinavian or Danish Modern.

This furniture is characterised by high levels of craftsmanship, clean lines, simple shapes, open designs and a focus on function over fuss. There is nothing frivolous or superfluous here. It’s just the protein and we love it for this very reason.

There are a number of valid explanations for what inspired this trend but we aren’t going to spend any time digging deeper into that here. Instead, we’d like to focus on why we think that this decision to prioritise function over form has endured. Because it really, truly has.

Function Over Form or Form Over Function? 

It’s a good question. You might look at a Danish Modern cabinet, for example, and think: “by raising the cavity off the ground on slender legs you are wasting storage space. That’s form over function, isn’t it?” There is certainly a case to answer.

However, we don’t believe that storage is the sole function of such a piece. Rather, we feel that the shape cannot be extricated from the function. The function in this instance is not just about how to store the most crockery. It’s about how to create a nicer living environment.

These slender legs raise the bulk of the furniture off the ground to allow light to pass through the object. This makes the room look bigger and it creates a brighter, more uplifting atmosphere.

It’s a liberating experience when you see this for yourself because the question you then ask when selecting a piece of furniture changes from “will my crockery fit in there?” to “do I need all that crockery?”

This thought process is, we feel, an important tenet of Scandinavian design. When you start questioning the number of ‘things’ in your home you effectively wage war with clutter. When you reduce clutter in your home, you create a calmer living space.

And if design is supposed to make life better, then this is an example of furniture performing its function brilliantly. We'd say it also goes some way to explain why Scandinavian design received more searches in the first week of January than at any other point in 2017.

New year’s resolution, anyone?

Makers and Materials

How these pieces were created is also an important consideration when understanding the merits of Scandinavian furniture design.

These items aren’t just the work of some bored cabinet makers. They were born of the labour of a group of highly skilled, experienced designers. In the case of people like Kaare Klint and Arne Jacobsen, they are the work of renowned architects.

This means that if you buy an item of Scandinavian furniture, you are purchasing something that has been painstakingly created to perform a very specific function by someone who has a very clear idea of what that entails. And what’s more, it has been made to do so for a very long time.

Scandinavian Modern furniture was invariably made from high-quality materials. This is as true of the veneer pieces of the age as it is of the solid wood items. That’s why you get a lot of teak mid-century furniture (teak is costly and difficult to work with) and it also goes some way to answer the popular search term: “why is Danish furniture so expensive?”

It’s because it was made by brilliant minds using first-rate materials that can, if cared for, last for generations.

Final Word

This piece was never going to be exhaustive but we have tried to give you an idea of what to bear in mind when you consider Scandinavian furniture design.

To us—and we are pretty sure we’re not alone—these pieces are more than just chairs, tables and sideboards. To us, they are emblematic of a desire to find a better way of living.

That’s why we’re happy to source and stock it after all these years of use and why we’re confident that when we sell an item of Swedish or Danish furniture, its journey is nowhere near its conclusion.

See the merits for yourself in our Scandinavian furniture collection.

For more shopping options, visit our mid-century furniture page.

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