Scandinavian interior design is famous for its white-on-white palette and clean lines. Minimalist Decor Style: How to add Color shows ways to shake it up with subtle and unusual color combinations while still keeping it minimal.
It has become such as strong look – and a bit of a cliche maybe – that Scandi homes are all white. They may be on the pages of glossy magazines, but in real life it isn’t practical.
The Nordics don’t all live in dreamy loft apartments with double height ceilings and flowing lace curtains. In real life we have children with greasy fingers, pets and sometimes wet boots.
To live a life in a dazzling white cube is unrealistic for most people but, the main colour – the canvas, if you will – is white.
On that we add a few colours which are true to nature. Subtle blue, green and brown earthy colours are favourites and pink to add a feminine touch. Yellow is another favourite which represents the sun and the cornfields.
Adding Color – 1970s Scandinavian Dogma
In 70s Scandinavia it was almost a sin to match green and brown – a major faux pas (we remember, we were there…).
This strict rule spilled into the Scandi fashion arena, too – a green scarf with a brown coat was a no-no.
It was the time of disco. It was a time of bling. Everything was orange, red, yellow and shiny. And it was the beginning of Scandi Boho Chic – more of which in another article.
Then someone pointed out that the most ordinary colour combination of all, the one we looked at every day without really taking in, was the colours of trees: green and brown. Who had got that colour combo all wrong? they asked.
Soon, green and brown were in fashion and to this day it’s a recurring theme and one of the most refreshing colour combinations.
Add to that a little blue (for the sky) and you’ve brought colour and nature into your home – a look you’re almost guaranteed to never tire of.
But where to add Color?
Now that we know what colours the Scandis favour, the next questions is where do you add color? Well, it’s not the walls that are going to be brown or green or yellow or, heaven forbid, pink (unless it’s a children’s room).
And it’s not likely to be the curtains, either. Painting door frames and skirting boards is not a Scandi tradition either (boho-chic but not Scandi) and the floor is likely to be pale or neutral coloured too.
Those static areas above are difficult to change colour-wise. And the look can be over powering. Pick on smaller decor objects which you can swap and move when you need a new palette.
So how do we bring colour into the apartment or house? The answer is: in small doses.
The Scandis like small splashes of colour in strategic places. It’ll be a pink flower in a white vase or blue and green cushions in a white sofa. It could be a brown sofa in a predominantly white sitting room.
In the kitchen it might be a yellow fruit bowl on the white kitchen table with pink flat cushions on the chairs. Or even a white bowl with fruit to colour up the table: oranges, red apples, pears, bananas. Bright and breezy and just enough colour to cheer us up. But not too much.
There’s another school of thought. Colours are rarely spread randomly around the room – some prefer to save colour for artwork.
When adding Color artfully placed
Colourful paintings emphasise the white aesthetic, while, vice versa, the white environment really does make the paintings pop and dominate the space. It is the ultimate statement look and for those who think about what and how they want their living room to ‘say’ as well as look.
It is no co-incidence art galleries are usually white walled and bathed in spotlight.
White the white palette dominates Scandi home decor, most shy away from bold colours to off-set the white – the look that’s been hugely promoted by glossy magazines and coffee table books with mouthwatering photoshoots.
It is a highly curated and beautiful and dramatic look. It represents Scandi design at its starkest, particularly Danish design which has built up a reputation over several decades for contrasting colours, strong lines, elegance and functionality.
Again, it is no co-incidence the minimalist with bold colours theme is a hot favourite with stylists. It appeals to us on so many levels and taps into the idea of what our homes could become if we just took the next step.
And it sells magazines. But it is high maintenance and hardly representative of the vast majority of Scandis. We’re not much for drama.
Indeed, it is a look that goes against the Scandi character which wants to keep things simple and relatively low profile. Outside the world of interior magazines, designers and stylists, people stick to subtle colours or an earthy palette.
The natural look doesn’t appear shabby after the dog has been let loose. Muddy paws on white floorboards don’t look so bad when the rugs are caramel coloured and the cushions on the sofa are brown.
Read also our blog Mixing it Up: Scandinavian Home Decor on how to add your own personal touches to the minimalist room.
Minimalist – How you can add a touch of Drama to your own room Scandi Style
1. Small doses: Add a touch of colour strategically placed. That can be a flower, fruits, a painting, cushions, a rug…but not all at one.
2. Think nature: Use the earthy colours of nature such as brown, blue, green, charcoal…jazz up the look with pastel shades.
3. Think small: Avoid the large static areas such as walls, curtains, door frames and skirting boards. You’ll be looking at the same colours for a long time unless you want to spend time repainting. Smaller colourful objects can be easily moved. And the look can be over-powering.
4. Think practical: Look at glossy magazines featuring Scandi minimalist apartments – enjoy and take inspiration. But what you see in the glossies are often high maintenance and impractical no matter what your budget – adapt it to your own lifestyle.