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Danish Furniture and the History of Scandinavian Design

Scandinavia is an area of Northern European made up of several states, including Denmark, Norway, and Sweden and sometimes, the Danish Faroe Islands, as well as, Iceland and Finland. It has a cultural and regional entity that is very distinct from the rest of Europe, with these countries having managed to remain at peace with one another for nearly 200 years, despite differences between the different countries.


Given the limited nature of raw material resources available to the region and the harsh climate with 9 months of winter, the natural world has remained a significant influence in Scandinavian design, with ingenuity being a necessary adaptation for the Scandinavian peoples.


With a long tradition of craftsmanship, there has always been a heightened appreciation of design for this region. In fact, handcrafting remained in place for far longer in Scandinavia, in comparison to the rest of Western Europe and America, given the late arrival of industrialization to the region. Industrialization in Scandinavia did not begin until the 20th century, in contrast to the first industrial revolution, which occurred in the UK near the end of the 18th century.


industrial revolution


Over the past 200 years, Scandinavian design has evolved and is now a major influence in modern furniture design. Danish design also emerged as a prominent contributor to Scandinavian design philosophy with many of the designers that are most well-known from the mid-20th century hailing from Denmark.


Danish design was originally developed in the mid-20th century and was influenced by the German Bauhaus school. Drawing on the Scandinavian tradition of craftsmanship, simplicity, and functionalism, many Danish designers used new industrial design techniques to form a basis for industrial production of their designs.


The establishment of The School of Arts and Crafts at the The Royal Danish Academy of Art in 1930 played a major role in the development of furniture design in the country, thanks to the teachings of Kaare Klint and Hans J. Wegner.

Scandinavian Design Interest in Modern Times

With the reintroduction of mid-century design to pop culture in recent years, people began to gain new interest in the furniture designs of the 20th century by designers that have since become internationally renowned.

Scandinavian design of the mid-century period is generally understood to be furniture created during the period after World War II through to the end of 1960s. The original mid-century modern movement in the U.S. was heavily influenced by Brazilian and Scandinavian design at the time.


scandinavian design


Cutting-edge designs from Danish designers, such as Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen, Finn Juhl, and Poul Henningsen defined this period, with their works being featured in exhibitions in America and Europe. American designers were also influenced by Danish designers, notably Charles and Ray Eames, the designers of the famed Eames lounge chair.


In addition, these designers became widely known by the average American consumer after Hollywood actors, actresses, and musicians began purchasing their designs from furniture manufacturers that had taken up production of the most popular Scandinavian and mid-century modern designs.


Given the sheer number of influential Scandinavian designers, the popularity of Scandinavian design today is not surprising. This growing interest is a spin-off of the world’s ongoing obsession with mid-century design.


Although Scandinavian furniture was originally designed with the idea of making it available for everyone to enjoy, it also attracts the elites in the world of art and design collecting. Scandinavian furniture is highly regarded as works of art with rare pieces of original Scandinavian furniture fetching high prices at auction.


Scandinavian Design Principles

The design philosophy of Scandinavian design is characterized by simplicity, functionality, and clean lines. Minimalism is an important concept that is echoed through these designs in order to create furniture that contributes to a simple home environment that is designed to improve one's daily life.


Materials are generally chosen for their beauty and durability. Lightly colored woods are often selected to make Scandinavian furniture, with teak and oak preferred. In some instances, pine may be used. However, it is often treated with special oils that are designed to reduce the yellow tones of the wood.

scandinavian chair

Shell Lounge Chair

In addition, metal and plastic are two other materials that are often used in Scandinavian furniture. These materials offer designers more flexibility when it comes to shape and color options.

For the upholstery, natural fabrics, such as linen, cotton, wool, and leather are key choices for these designs. Scandinavian design places a strong importance on the organic, which has lead to the adoption of sustainability and eco-friendliness as key factors in the selection of the materials to create new furniture.


Quality craftsmanship is of optimum importance as furniture should be made to last. The designs are often crafted using a 360 degree design methodology to ensure that the furniture looks good from every angle.


One of the features that is echoed throughout the majority of Scandinavian furniture designs is stark contrast. Designers often choose to emphasize contrast by featuring bold colors alongside natural materials, such as wood, leather, and metal.

Scandinavian homes often feature white or off-white interiors as a means of magnifying the natural light that enters the home. As a result, this contrast provides balance in a space that would otherwise look rather sterile without these touches of color.


Abstract shapes are often used to transform everyday interior design elements, such as chairs, sofas, tables, lighting, and accessories. Although the natural finish is often maintained, the resulting shapes of the materials are significantly distinct from those that would occur naturally.

scandinavian lighting

Giraffe Floor Lamp

Geometric, free form, and organic patterns are common given this design style's emphasis on nature. In addition, rounded edges are a common feature of Danish furniture. Rounded edges offer modern appeal and are designed to eliminate distractions and to make furniture surfaces easy to move around. Scandinavian furniture designs tend to also feature lighter and more airy frames.


If you're inspired by Scandinavian design, Viesso can help you select the right furniture for your home.


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