The phrase “let there be light” is never more poignant than when uttered in the land of the Nordic countries, where our northern neighbours have long mastered the ability to create perfect balances between light and dark, cold and warmth.
According to a report conducted by the United Nations on World Happiness, citizens of countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden are consistently considered as some of the happiest people in the world, and rightfully so.
A multitude of factors play crucial roles in these well-deserved accolades, the most crucial of which is the emphasis placed on design, with the goals of creating atmospheres which are positive, welcoming and cosy, influencing every nuance of daily life and enhancing a general sense of well being.
Faithful to its core features of light, warmth, form and functionality, Scandinavian design has long been influenced by the harsh environmental conditions of Nordic Europe. Coupled with an innate sensibility within the characters of its inhabitants, along with the availability of natural resources, these factors have undeniably shaped the imagination of Scandinavian craftsmen and designers, resulting in the creation of spaces infused with light and air, all set amidst a close relationship with nature.
With as little as seven daylight hours in winter months, the lack of sunlight in Nordic countries has greatly influenced the ethos of design. Contributing to the idea of inviting as much light as possible into living spaces, Scandinavians often prefer to leave their windows bare of coverings. Furthermore, in order to amplify the presence of precious natural light, windows are often generously proportioned while curtains or blinds are kept sheer, made with natural materials and designed with minimal ornaments. Neutral and light-reflecting colour palettes are also widely preferred.
Indirect light has always been a key component of the Scandinavian aesthetic, and as long as there is sufficient light to see, cultivating a warm and cosy environment is often preferred. Candles are crucial to add a whimsical touch and romantic glow in homes, restaurants and even some contemporary offices. Public buildings are generously lit all night starting at dusk, while residences prefer to keep elegant candelabras simmering in dining rooms or sitting by window sills. The glow of all these illuminated windows in buildings after nightfall gloriously help to make the cities look like magical glittering postcards.
Mirrors are generously incorporated into spaces, often subtle and strategically placed, with the dual purpose of visually expanding rooms and reflecting any ambient light.
Most importantly, Scandinavians pride themselves on being one with nature and are certainly open to the evolution of modern design trends.
For soft, welcoming lighting, contemporary metals like copper have been rising in popularity within the younger crowds. Despite their tough exteriors, polished copper and hammered brass certainly bring an elegance and warmth to a home. The versatility of these metals has allowed contemporary designers the liberty to experiment with new looks, from pure copper tones to vivid colour stains, pairing them with contrasting materials such as wood and smoked glass to create a variety of feels from mid-century cool to Scandinavian luxury.
The appeal of these materials set in minimal industrial lamps, in particular, exemplify the ability to unite the tones of neutral wood and light-coloured fabrics, providing a sense of modern comfort and hospitality, a welcome sentiment to the Scandinavian mindset.
There is a term the Danish use frequently – “Hygge” – It signifies a balanced frame of mind, nestled between being comfortable, cosy and content. This state of mind is without a doubt the secret ingredient to achieving the best of Scandinavian design and lifestyle, with a positive attitude that should incorporate every little nuance in daily life, with gestures that have the ability to nourish the soul and enhance the quality of everything it touches.
If you’d like to find out more about “Hygge” and its role in Danish design, take a look at “Hygge a Celebration of Simple Pleasures. Living the Danish Way“ by Charlotte Abrahams