For years everyone has referred to Scandinavian style as a catch-all phrase for everything that is minimal, pared back and mostly mid-century modern. But did you know that this is actually more of a Danish look? And I have seen Scandinavians refer slightly crossly to being all lumped in together when they are very distinct countries with their own interior design history and style. This is, in essence, what sparked my idea to write a series on international style for The Financial Times several years ago. I began with Danish and covered Swedish, Icelandic and Finnish, the latter two, as any fule no (sic), are actually Nordic not Scandinavian but, again, they are often all banded together.
However, with interiors magazine and blogs, and even paint companies, acknowledging that grey, while a classic, is no longer in the spotlight, there is also talk that the Scandi-style domination of interiors is coming to an end. They say minimalism is done and we are cycling back to a more colourful – some might say cluttered – maximalist look; one in which wallpaper, colour and lots of stuff is very definitely part of the style.
To which I would say you do mean the dominance of Danish interior style has given way to Swedish? Firstly, as has also been quietly pointed out over the years (but no-one has really taken any notice) the Danes, like the rest of their Nordic cousins, have long dark winters, and tend to use white on their walls rather than grey which has long been associated with the look. Secondly, classic Swedish style, as popularised by the artist Carl Larsson and his family, has always been more colourful and cosy in style.
Drottningholm Palace, the best preserved castle in Sweden dating back to the 1600s, is a riot of colour and baroque, rococo and revivalism. The founder of Rococco chocolates, Chantal Coady (who is no longer associated with the brand) told me years ago that the decor for her shops, Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue and Citron, was directly inspired by the Swedish palace’s colour palette.
As well as this greenish blue and slightly muddy yellow, the Swedish colour palette includes lots of rich red, a colour that is the legacy of all the Swedish Iron ore (the country has 92 per cent of Europe’s iron reserves) which gave rise to the prevalence of this colour which you see all over the country on the roofs of country houses.
If you look on Swedish estate agents (or follow them on instagram) you will note the warm colours, rumpled linen tablecloths and lots of floral wallpaper. It seems the love for William Morris is strong in Sweden. But they also have their own, quintessentially Swedish design. Spring Flowers, designed by Josef Franks, an Austrian who, in 1933 fled the growing anti-semitism in his country and moved to Sweden. He was then 48 and his subsequent work in his adopted country has had a huge impact on the history of the country’s style.
Sofie Izard Hoyer (@izardhoyer) a Swedish interiors stylist, says that while Danes do use colour, they tend to use sharper version than those popular in Sweden, which are warmer in tone.
“Scandinavian style and Danish style are different, I think. Many people think it’s the same thing. Scandinavian homes are often airy, light with light wood and very little furniture. The Danes think more function while the Swedes take the nice before the practical,” she said.
“The Danes are more architectural and more austere. We are more cosy here in Sweden. Danish interior design is more direct, dramatic and playful than it usually is in Sweden.”
And many of you will be familiar with the work of designer Gocken Jobs (1914-1995) whose Rabarber wallpaper is in the cosy kitchen of my podcasting co-host Sophie Robinson.
So I put it to you that “scandi” is not dead, it’s just moved its focus from Denmark to Sweden. What do you think? I love these rooms and they all feel right for now. A little warmer and cosier than their very stylish Danish cousins but, perhaps, a little more relaxed now that we are all at home so much more?