The Key Characteristics of a Scandinavian Kitchen

Scandinavian design began to grow in prominence in the 1950s, and with the exception of a few short spells where it fell briefly out of favor, it’s been the interior design style of choice for anyone who favors bright, contemporary décors ever since. The style was originally developed as a way of countering some of the bleakness of the Scandinavian landscape. Short, dark winter days led Scandi’s to favor light, bright spaces where each scrap of daylight was captured and enhanced. Light colors, simple, clean forms, and an absence of clutter or ornamentation helped maximize light at every opportunity and became the bedrocks of the interior style.

As much as Scandinavian design is about light, it’s also about utility. Scandi’s are loath to give up their valuable space to furniture or decorative items that fail to add value and will try to get as many different uses out of their furniture as possible. “The modern movement was called ‘Functionalism’ in Scandinavia and architecture and design were intended first and foremost to be useful,” Cambridge, Massachusetts, architect Mette Aamodt says. “Function combined with inspiration from nature creates a very warm strain of modernism that is very easy to relate to and continues to appeal to many people.”

With its characteristic elements of lightness, utility and enough warmth and brightness to make any space seem cozy and inviting, where better to introduce a little Scandi magic than the kitchen?

Clever Storage Solutions

Given that the kitchen is perhaps the most functional room in the house (with the possible exception of the bathroom), Scandinavian style, with its emphasis on practicality and utility, is a great way to go. Clever storage solutions that allow you to hide away all of the pots, pans and other items that make a kitchen look cluttered or untidy are very much in keeping with the Scandi design brief, as are wall shelves and floating units that provide useful storage without taking up too much floor space (Scandi’s love to maximize space, and a clean sweep of floor will go a long way to achieving a sense of spaciousness).

A Neutral Color Pallette

White might not seem the most practical color for the kitchen, but use it in combination with backsplashes and tiles, and you’ll be able to create a clean, bright space that is practical enough to withstand even the messiest of chefs. That said, white isn’t the only option you have at your disposal. While it’s true that Scandi’s do love a plain white wall, they’re not afraid to add a few pops of color where needed. Consider your basic color palette as neutral or muted shades (whites, dove-greys, washed-out blues, sage greens) and then add little pops of bright (although try to stay clear of neon), bold colors to add a little fizz of interest. A big trend in Scandi design (and one that works especially well in the kitchen) is monochrome: think white walls with a black and white tiled backsplash (you could even try white tiles with black grouting for an unusual and striking take on the idea).

Wooden Details

Wood is a big feature in Scandinavian design. A big, farmhouse style kitchen table in raw, untreated wood will look stunning in a Scandi style kitchen, adding that little bit of rustic to offset and enhance the otherwise contemporary vibe of the space. Wood needn’t be limited to the furniture, however: wooden chopping boards, large wooden surface top bowls, and even plain wooden vases holding a simple flowering branch are all great ways of introducing a touch of the natural into your interior.

The Importance of Form

If you want to carry off the Scandi style, you’ll need to pay attention to your form. When considering a new piece of furniture, function is obviously paramount, but form comes in a close second. As Designing Home notes, pieces should be pared back to their simplest form. Whether it’s a table, a dresser, a kitchen chair or a storage unit, look for items that have clean-cut lines, the ability to look good at any angle, impeccable craftsmanship, and a simple, elegant aesthetic. Avoid anything overly ornate or with lines and features that detract from the otherwise clean elegance of the room. This applies as much to dressings as to furniture: don’t detract from the beauty of a table by covering it with some fussy tablecloth, and if possible, keep your windows free from treatment. If privacy is an issue, a simple wooden roller blind or a gauzy voile curtain will allow you to keep your dignity without detracting from the overall vibe of the room.

Natural Materials

As much as possible, aim for natural materials and fabrics. Wood, as previously mentioned, is key when it comes to furniture. When it comes to any other fabrics you introduce, look for inspiration from nature: a hardwearing hessian rug under the sink, a fluffy sheepskin rug to warm your toes, or a knitted wool throw to hang off the back of a chair will all help enhance that “rustic meets modern” aesthetic of the Scandinavian kitchen.

Embrace the Light

On average, Scandinavians get around 60 days where the night is 24 hours long. With such short, dark days, Scandi’s make the most of every little bit of natural light they can- and where natural light fails, they aren’t averse to making the most of artificial resources. As Outsource Plan notes, Scandi’s apply the same principles to their lightening as they do to their other design features, with an emphasis on simplicity, clean lines, and a simple, neutral aesthetic. Avoid chandeliers or anything extravagant and opt instead for pendant lights. As well as being cheap and available in a range of colors and styles, they’re also adaptable enough to be used in most settings: in the kitchen, for example, they work great when set over a kitchen island or kitchen table.


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