Sleek And Sustainable: The Secret Of Scandinavian Design's Ongoing Success


Scandinavian design influences have been celebrated by architects and designers for decades. There is more to its timeless success than sleek lines, simplistic style and muted palettes. Its enduring appeal stems from a deep-rooted connection to nature and sustainability. It is a design movement that is evolving in sync with the current world urgency to address climate change. 

The beauty of Scandi influences are seen in minimalist interiors and architectural marvels across the world. Yet, its founding principles align with a collective agenda to tackle climate change and explain why Scandinavian design has been replicated in fusion Japandi and accentuated in biophilic design. This article explores the ongoing love affair interior designers and architects have with the eco-friendly Scandinavian trend.

Enduring sustainable design success

Sleek And Sustainable: The Secret Of Scandinavian Design's Ongoing Success

Villa Timmerman by Olsson Lyckefors - Image Credit: Kalle Sanner

Scandinavian design is a pivotal interiors movement that can be traced back to an exhibition at Brooklyn Museum in 1954 called 'Design in Scandinavia'. It is characterised by its blend of simplicity, minimalism and functionality. Scandi's long-term influence, however, lies in its ability to evolve with the times and extend beyond the mere aesthetics of striking furniture, clean lines and functional layouts. 

With nature at its core, the onus is on creating sustainable and energy-efficient homes. The Nordic region is seen as a role model when it comes to fighting climate change and protecting the environment. Indeed, the 2023 Scandinavian Design Awards highlighted the important role sustainability plays in Scandinavian architecture and design, emphasising how it promotes a simple environment with quality items while minimising excess consumption.

With net-zero carbon targets and environmental concerns at the forefront of everyone's minds, Scandinavian designs are a good fit. The emphasis on organic and clean-living materials permeates our eco-conscious and drives forward the cause to adopt eco-conscious practices in construction and design. The Scandinavian way is also fuelled by its concept of 'Allemansrätten'. This is a law that protects people's 'freedom to roam' and advocates public access to natural spaces. It follows that being closer to nature makes it easier to relate to and engage in living more sustainably.

Creating environmentally-responsible spaces

Sleek And Sustainable: The Secret Of Scandinavian Design's Ongoing Success

Lindesberg Health Centre by White Arkitekter - Image Credit: Åke E:son Lindman & White

Scandi's sustainability focus is to create healthier and environmentally responsible spaces by using healthy materials for good indoor air quality. This aligns with a growing emphasis on selecting materials with a low environmental impact that are good for clients' health. By opting for materials that emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carefully-designed spaces can foster well-being to create health-conscious eco-friendlier homes.

The sustainable and wellbeing principles underlying Scandi designs are in tune with the universal design ethos of biophilic design, complementing each other by incorporating natural elements to make practical and healthy living spaces. The human-centric approach focuses on a person's connection to nature as well as the natural processes within the buildings where people live and work. Bringing nature into our homes can benefit well-being by reducing stress. 

While London's Barbican is one of the UK's most famous examples of biophilic design, architects and designers go beyond the sustainability principles in Scandi and biophilic to focus on regenerative designs that promote healthier buildings. Scandi designs source raw materials and natural water features, drawing natural light in to enhance well-being. Such interiors also incorporate greenery in addition to textures and earthy tones for floorings, furniture and decor, to tap into this inherent connection with nature and of feeling closer to it inside and outside a home. 

Prioritising functionality with energy-efficiency

Sleek And Sustainable: The Secret Of Scandinavian Design's Ongoing Success

ERIK BUCK Model 61 Stool - Image Credit:

Alongside sustainable measures, Scandinavian design places value on energy-efficiency and in implementing clean energy initiatives like recycling and waste reduction within its projects. This ties in with the growing call for designers, consumers and builders, across the world, to engage with reclaiming materials, reusing items and fuelling homes with smart tech, and greener renewable energy solutions. These initiatives cut global emissions and lower everyone's dependence on energy. Moreover, being associated with such measures has supercharged Scandi's design appeal to broaden its reach and ongoing popularity.

With Scandinavian design promoting the 'less is more' ideology, the desire is for simple, clean-lined furniture that is built to last from natural and durable materials, such as wood, wool and other natural materials. The pioneering Scandinavian designers like the renowned Norman Cherner swivel chairs and Erik Buck's authentic furniture ('the most beautiful in the world') continue to flourish. The Scandi footprint for smooth comfortable finishings and functional industrial designs continue in contemporary Scandinavian bar stools.

Forging a deep connection to nature

Sleek And Sustainable: The Secret Of Scandinavian Design's Ongoing Success

Tverrfjellhytta by Snøhetta - Image Credit: Ketil Jacobsen

Scandi style forges deep connections between humans and their natural surroundings. Its elemental grounding focuses on natural sunlight, nurturing plants and referencing nature throughout the home or property in question. With Scandinavian winters known for being long and dark, this design favours any method of letting in as much natural light as possible. This trend will be noticeable by the use of large windows, paler colour palettes, and minimal furnishings to help spaces feel fresh, lighter and brighter. The predominantly light neutral palette seen in Scandinavian design also maximises light, helping to reflect and spread it to brighten interiors. 

The Danish and Norwegian concept of 'hygge', a term for being content, is another enduring quality that has kept Scandi's design appeal ranking high. For Scandinavians, comfort by design takes precedence and while this concept is rooted to the Northern climate and locality, the principle of combining comfort and contentment in your home is equally highly prized in homes across the globe. 

Observing the continuity in Scandi simplicity

While Scandi style is highly functional, there is beauty in its simplicity. Its minimalist aesthetic has an airy, calming feel that provides refuge from our increasingly busy, complex world. With light and uncluttered spaces, interiors exude the solace and tranquillity that nature affords people. In this way, the continuity of Scandi design balances modern living with natural aesthetics to provide comfort and warmth. This harmonious combination makes Scandi as appealing today as when it first emerged. 

Beyond its understated beauty, Scandinavian design focuses on integrating buildings into their natural terrain and using local, recycled or repurposed materials. Even with its fluid, organic shapes, the designs remain streamlined and devoid of any distracting elements, prioritising a building's functionality without sacrificing visual appeal. This fusion of utility and beauty sets the Scandi style apart from traditional modern architecture which tends to prioritise function over form. Scandi design values simplicity, functionality and human comfort, blending modern techniques with traditional methods, to create spaces tailored for inhabitants who desire more than surface-level aesthetics. 

Scandi's endurance is thanks to these links to sustainability and a healthy connection with nature. It advocates for a future that is eco-friendly and one that builds or designs with sustainability, functionality, aesthetics and modernity at its heart. This has secured its place in the design world. Yet, Scandi also remains distinctive, with its own unique character shaped by the landscapes and cultures of northern Europe. So while Scandinavian design has been around for decades, it shows no signs of going out of style and its principles remain as relevant as ever.

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