Scandinavian design is the cool way to decorate your home

By Peter Steinhauer, dpa

COPENHAGEN–Critics have voted Noma, in the Danish capital, the best restaurant in the world three times over. Scandinavian fashion companies like Acne from Sweden and Wood Wood from Denmark are also setting global trends. You don’t have to travel to London or Paris to experience the beautiful side of life: cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and Oslo often have even more to offer — especially when it comes to home decoration.

“Scandinavian design has found a new identity — a contemporary one,” says Sten Rasmussen, owner of the Scandinavian Objects store in Berlin. Rasmussen’s business is a perfect example of Northern European styling: the interior’s atmosphere is remarkably orderly despite the many objects on display in a relatively small space. Everything is harmonious; nothing is conspicuous.

Among the items on sale is a table from the “Pirkka” series by Finnish designer Ilmari Tapiovaara. Hanging on a wall is an example of the “String” shelving system by Nils Strinning, which is universally popular throughout Scandinavia.

The shelves are lined with examples of hand painted wooden “Songbirds” by Denmark’s Kay Bojesen.

Many of the items of furniture and lighting have been on the market for decades, while others are from young Scandinavian designers. The classic designs look just as modern and fresh as their new counterparts. Cool, functional Scandinavian design is timeless. But there was a time, when postmodern design was popular, that Northern European styling fell out of fashion. However, it has re-emerged since 2000. “People want something real today,” explains Mirkku Kullberg from the Finnish design company Artek. “The economic slowdown has something to do with it. Customers want to know where the products they are buying come from. They have to have a story.” Scandinavian design is also enjoying a renaissance because sustainability and ecology have grown in prominence. Designers are using high-quality wood sourced in local forests. “Young shoppers have taken a more critical attitude towards mass consumerism. They prefer objects that encapsulate an ethical commitment, are durable and are intrinsically valuable,” says Kullberg. “Scandinavian design has less to do with a feeling of status and is more about consensus,” explains Sven Ehmann, co-publisher of the photo book Northern Delights. The book is a collection of pictures of tastefully decorated homes. The focus is not on luxury but the interiors do look very sophisticated. According to Ehmann, Scandinavian style represents “discrete modernism.” Design does not aim to be revolutionary; its goal is to improve people’s lives. In uncertain economic times, and when many designs appear bland and arbitrary, Northern European designers are fulfilling a need on the market.