Scandinavian style has long been associated with a chic, pared-back wardrobe. Think boxy oversized blazers, crisp shirting, and no-fuss straight-leg denim. Much like French-girl fashion, it’s a look that’s emulated by people all over the world – but not just sartorially. For our homes, it means a focus on function with clean lines, pale hues, soft lighting, and cosy materials like sheepskin rugs and mohair throws.
Ever inspired by confronting frigid Nordic winters, the aesthetic embraces the concept of “hygge” (pronounced ‘hoo-ga’). This Danish and Norwegian term describes a mood of cosiness and “comfortable conviviality” characterised by feelings of wellness and contentment. With autumn creeping in and chilly, lengthy evenings around the corner, here’s how to incorporate Scandinavia’s enduring design principles into your home – just in time to stave off the winter blues.
Luxury London-based interior designer Naomi Astley Clarke begins, “your home should promote guilt free and unconditionally relaxed living in a beautiful atmosphere. In this uncertain world and especially when it’s freezing outside, our homes continue to be our security blankets.” To make your sanctuary as hygge as possible, she advises: “first ask yourself – how do I need my space to make me feel? For example, in your bedroom, you’ll want to be calm, cosy, and well rested. Think about the colours, textures, and things that will help you achieve those feelings.”
In keeping with the Scandinavian love of the natural world, consider layering your space with a range of organic materials such as blonde and charred woods, linen, waffled cotton, jute, sheepskin, and leather. Astley Clarke adds, “imagine a scheme with timber floors, a plush, deep pile rug, and billowy linen curtains, broken up by mid-century wood furniture. Tall indoor plants in oversized vintage urns bring lush height and depth to the space. And if you’re after a more luxe look, incorporate some mixed metal details and marble finishes."
If you’re wondering where to begin in your own sanctuary, consider the lighting. A dazzling overhead light can be quite the mood killer. Instead, varied and layered lighting – a mix of floor and table lamps, wall lights, and pendants – will cast a pleasing glow around your space for the ultimate hygge factor in the darkest months of the year. Lighting design studio, lights&lamps, has just collaborated with lifestyle creator and co-author of Scandi Rustic Reena Simon, on a range of hygge-inspired fixtures in aged brass, natural walnut, and charred wood. The collection features warm-toned bulbs and layered linen shades, designed to soften a light’s brightness and create a tranquil feeling.
Once your lighting is sorted, keep the chill away by indulging in some toasty accessories. Drape a couple of throw blankets over the back of your sofa or favourite leather armchair, and layer over fresh bed linen for a final textural touch. If you’re willing to splurge, go for the Tartan Blanket Co’s Neutral Check undyed alpaca to throw in shades of camel, cream, and fog or Forestry Wool’s dusky pink Stream blanket. For some affordable alternatives, look to Zara Home’s velvety chenille and jumper-esque knit throws, or H&M Home’s wool-blend and jacquard-weave blankets.
Bo Hellberg, chief marketing officer at Scandinavian modular storage pioneer, String Furniture, shares, “when it comes to Scandi design, there’s often a big misconception: ‘minimalism.’ Although there are parallels, the region’s style is more than just understated, neat, and necessary. Equally essential as pure function is beauty that draws inspiration from Nordic nature” – which isn’t just pale birch trees and blankets of snow. Consider the wildflower garlands that adorn heads, maypoles, and tabletops during Midsommar, the Swedish celebration of the summer season and the longest night of the year. Don’t be afraid to draw on these joy-inducing shades and botanical motifs to accessorise your Scandi-inspired interior.
For example, the String Pocket – a compact floating shelf, ideal for holding books, candles, and houseplants – now comes in hues ranging from neon orange and violet to blush, rust, and sage green. A pop of colourful shelving sits prettily against white walls, transforming a blank canvas into a functional focal point.
Cushions are another simple way to inject vibrance and interest into an otherwise pared-back furniture scheme. I suggest fabric studio Molly Mahon’s hand block-printed throw cushions. Lately, I’m in love with their frill Strawberry Copper, Chequer Blues, and Piped Luna Pink designs. Coco and Wolf’s frill-trimmed cushions in rambling floral prints also never disappoint.
Candles are a key finishing touch to any hygge-fied home, adding to the cosy ambience and engulfing your space in your favourite mood-lifting aromas. As a candle enthusiast, I often spend my lunch break wandering Liberty’s fragrance hall, so I’ve smelled a lot of smells – but lately, nothing has captured my attention quite like Malin and Goetz’s new Strawberry candle. It’s not at all juicy or juvenile. Instead, it highlights the fruit’s green leaves and stem, accompanied by notes of fresh bergamot, pink pepper and warm musk. Unexpectedly autumn-appropriate, it’s an androgynous scent that’s reminiscent of the neck of your favourite sweater after you’ve worn it all day – warm, comforting and familiar. Suddenly I’m addicted to breathing, and there’s nothing I can do about it except keep Strawberry lit and in my vicinity.