Scandi Boho Decor – How to Get that Chic Nordic Look

Scandi Boho get the look

Scandi and Boho are two opposite styles. Scandi is neat and minimal – Boho is impulsive, dramatic and colourful. Together they create the Scandi Boho decor chic. Generally, the Nordic style is gallery-like with sharply defined lines and surfaces. Here less is more… But Boho is romantic, a beautiful, welcoming, decorative mess.  Less with more… It may seem hard to imagine how the two styles mix, but they do, and how! When the two opposite styles meet – the minimalist look and the dishevelled Bohemian vibe – they become Scandi Boho. The look is Nordic cool meets hot Mediterranean.

The colour scheme is pale: white walls and curtains or shutters,  doors and frames put together with colourful mementoes. Above is a London living room we decorated over 25 years ago (not quite finished at the time of this photo). And the style affects all rooms from the kitchen to the livingroom to bedrooms, garden, bathroom and hall…and plants, planthangers. Scroll for more information and great shopping tips on how you too can turn your home into a Scandi Boho haven.

What is Scandinavian Boho and why is it called Scandi Boho?

This was before the Scandi Boho term was even used. It was simply thrown together: a jute carpet, white walls and ceiling to start with. Followed by a fireplace stripped back to the masonry. And layered with off white curtains with caramel lining, wicker chairs and distressed wooden chairs placed against the wall. Prints are artfully arranged in a straight line on the wall, framed in wood. 

Green plants and purple heather in a large pot on the round white garden table by the bay window and two white candles. It is as Scandi Boho as it gets.  All that’s missing is a mirror or paintings above the fireplace and a rug in the centre of the room. See also below how 1990’s Danish supermodel Helena Christensen mixed garden furniture with ordinary pieces in her Paris apartment. 

The bohemian element in Sandi Boho is not just “stuff” picked out from the pages of a magazine and it isn’t “decorated” with things. In Scandi Boho pieces are carefully selected. Because each of them tells a story and brings soul to an otherwise empty shell. A Nordic boho style home is furnished with treasured items such as heirlooms. They include pieces from our travels, friends’ hand-me-downs or often second-hands from charity shops – read our piece on how to find beautiful interior pieces in charity shops here.

Scandi Boho Decor Chic – Shabby Chic Ideas for the Living Room

But to find out what Scandi Boho is and means to a Scandi keep reading here…. We will also show how you too can bring out your inner Scandi and create a peaceful, stylish home which is pure you.

Shabby Chic is how we get the mixed looks – a colourful piece from Africa or India dropped into the pale Scandi setting.  That is the charm of Scandi Boho decor chic – mix of colours and cultures in one room turns a home into a gallery of impressions and memories, a stylish reminder of places we’ve been and people we’ve met.

Scandi Boho decor chic is about emotional value as much as a look. Filling our home with objects that represent happy memories turns it into more than just a place to sleep, eat and watch TV. Decorative and even functional pieces are important also for what they represent, not just for how they match a certain interior look or style. 

Shabby and Boho chic are about individuality, often vintage, hygge, charm and affordable elegance. 

Scandinavian Style – The Living Room

Starting fresh, having just bought a home or moved into a place where you’re allowed to decorate? Start with white walls and pale curtains. Here are the 10 steps – plus one – in brief:

  • Clear the space: Start from zero and add Boho
  • Think white: Scandi walls are white – as are most doors, window frames and skirting boards
  • What makes you happy: Scandi Boho decor chic is not about looking like a glossy magazine – it is about how your home makes you feel.
  • Furniture: Keep it simple – functionaly stylish. Pale block colours – beige and white, grey and black…
  • PlantsAn important accessory. They create space and shape the room, more of which later
  • A rug: Placed where it serves a purpose
  • Wall art: Covering the wall in paintings and prints would be ordinary boho chic but to keep it Scandi Boho think modest
  • Photos: Old family photos in frames on the wall is a charming Scandinavian tradition. See below how 90s supermodel Helena Christensen added personal touches to her Paris home with photographs
  • Candles: Candles are an important part of Scandi culture – a key component in Hygge
  • Accessories: Lighting, shelves mirrors and cushions
  • Bonus Point – The Detail: Detail is important – tiebacks on curtains, door handles and knobs. Little touches make a huge difference, they add personality to a room
Scandi Eclectic – Helena Christensen, Celebrity and Boho

The finished look should be an oasis of calm  – pale shades with choice Boho features. Accessories contrasting colours that don’t overwhelm enhance the basic Scandi vibe. Open plan living has been part of Scandinavian life for decades. But keeping the place presentable and functional is a challenge – while channelling the white minimalist look. Scandi Boho is a fair compromise. 

The Scandi Boho room has to have a heart. That means a colourful rug for the baby to play on, colours that can cope with dirty wellies and a table cloth that disguises spilt wine. The boho element adds functionality to the Scandinavian living room.

The best known ambassador for Scandi Boho is 90s supermodel, Danish Helena Christensen. When not walking the catwalk Helena collected a museum’s worth of decorative and functional pieces for her bachelorette pad in Paris. She is a living advert for Scandi Boho decor chic.

She has shown her flat in the coffee table book Paris Interiors by Taschen. Her living room is pure Scandi Boho.  She could have bought the finest furniture by top designers, but instead decorated with finds from street markets and garden furniture. She chose to create her own interior look.

Like Christensen herself, her apartment was cool, individual and understated. A very Danish tradition is hanging family photos in thin gold and silver frames on the wall, grouped together as featured.  In another photo from the book we see how she has casually placed treasured paintings against the wall.

Boho Wall Art – How to hang it

The apartment oozes personality and reflects her boho credentials. It features lots of wood, natural colours, original paintings and posters plus a large pot of sunflowers in a green pot on the table.  Forward 20 years to the 2010s and our own Scandi Boho living room is modelled on the same principle.  It’s personal, albeit more Scandi than Boho.

It could also be described as a bohemian minimalist living room. Every item has a background story. None was added to fill space or simply to create a look. Here, white runs through the decor like a theme.  White walls, ceiling, floor, fabric, shelves, planters, vases and mirror frame. That way the art, the ceramic pieces and plants stand out.

gallery wall scandi boho helena chistensen
The perfect Present: by Paul Allen

It’s how you hang it that matters. Whether it’s original paintings or posters, traditional, tribal or contemporary… so long they reflect to your life experiences or dreams. The Boho spirit is free and easy, often well-travelled.   Boho interior fans decorate with finds and bargains from countries such as India, South America and the Far East. Pieces from those colourful cultures contrast effectively and beautifully with the pale Scandi palet, but that’s what Scandi Boho is about. 

The late Microsoft co-founds Paul Allen once told us that his ideal present would be a painting made by a relative, like a niece. That is straight out ofthe Scandi Boho playbook. For someone who could afford anything in the world, a present that has a personal story attached to it beats expensive decor pieces. The late Microsoft co-founds Paul Allen once told us that his ideal present would be a painting made by a relative, like a niece. That is straight out ofthe Scandi Boho playbook.  For someone who could afford anything in the world, a present that has a personal story attached to it beats expensive decor pieces.

Boho House Plants – What to do with them

Luckily, Scandi Boho is not about luxury. It is about personality and a feeling. It’s a style that easily becomes a conversation piece in itself – something to talk to guests about. And it serves to bring back happy or interesting memories. A gallery wall can look nice: the entire wall covered with paintings from different countries and traditions, mixing styles and colours. And family photos grouped together surrounded by negative space – white space – is an old Danish tradition and certainly tells a story or many. Older photos in antique frames add charm to the room.

House plants are an integral part of the Scandi Boho look and feel. Pick favourite corners in the room or shelves and tables and fill them with bold plants to help your home come alive. They acts a room dividers, helping to create smaller areas within a room. Placed high up, plants help focus the eye upwards and visually expand the height of the ceiling.

It’s a super trick to make the space feel bigger than it otherwise would. As living creatures they bring nature and fresh air into your home.  Where in doubt about what piece of decor to fill a spot, go for a house plant.

Ceramics – A Nordic Tradition

And house plants are experiencing a surge in popularity with super markets increasing the plant and flower range they sell year on year. Garden centres are expanding and selling pots and designer gravel to go with their greenery. Rows of stones in different colours, sizes and shapes – unlike anything we’ve seen in Great Britain. The stones on top of the soil add colour and glamour to a pot plant and act as a stopper for flies. Flies like to nest in the soil near the roots and ruin the plant.

Like the UK and Japan, as well as China, Denmark has a strong ceramic tradition.  Royal Danish Porcelain, Bing & Grøndahl, Bjørn Wiinblad and studio potters, particularly on the Baltic island of Bornholm have carried the tradition for decades. Today’s bestseller in Scandinavia is the Danish Kähler vase, famous for its stripes – notably white on white. But the demand for more unique pieces is growing and the number of people wanting to take up pottery is also growing exponentially.

Thanks to thanks to TV shows such as the BBC’s Pottery Throwdown, studios are under pressure to take on more students and courses are not cheap. Consumers are increasingly looking for hand made one-off pots and vases which you won’t see in a thousand magazines.  Stoneware pots which are sturdier and sturdier-looking than porcelain, are on the up.  They bring nature into the room and are the perfect container for not only fruit but also for plants.

The ultimate in Scandi Boho Decor Chic: Cushions

Cushions matter in the Boho living room – hugely.  But there’s a difference between Scandi cushions and Scandi Boho decor chic cushions.  The former is a well established look – white background with pale block colours in angular patterns across the cover.  Heringbone pattern, abstract art, same colour but different shades, stripes… However, cushions in the Scandi Boho home are the clashing accessory. 

Take a vintage, deep red or maroon cushion, British style with a paisley pattern and team it up with a white cushion featuring triangle pattern, white on white. It’s a clash of two styles and cultures – perfectly Scandi Boho. However, cushions in the Scandi Boho home are the clashing accessory.  It’s a clash of two styles and cultures – perfectly Scandi Boho. We are partial to the India Jane cushion look – this one featuring an old-fashion (quite dull) pattern, with a disco shine to it.

It becomes a different cushion when placed in the starkly white Scandi home. Use cushions generously – plenty on the bed (another British tradition which mixes well with the Scandi aesthetic) and on couches. They brighten up the room – and they are cheaper to change next season than the couch!

Furniture – How does it mix?

What is Scandi Boho furniture?  The short answer is something natural or something white.  Wooden pieces with upholstery in white creamy or subtle colours. Well, that’s the Scandi bit – as for the boho part almost anything goes. That is the point of Scandi Boho… Starting with functional furniture such as a sofa and comfy chair complemented with almost anything else. 

That could be a piece of garden furniture, a clashing tribal collectors item an ornate Louis XVI chair in the Gustavian tradition.  Scandi Boho is a meeting – or a clashing – of two lifestyles so a mismatch serves brilliantly to add ‘personality’. That is the point of Scandi Boho… Starting with functional furniture such as a sofa and comfy chair complemented with almost anything else. 

That could be a piece of garden furniture, a clashing tribal collectors item an ornate Louis XVI chair in the Gustavian tradition. Scandi Boho is a meeting – or a clashing – of two lifestyles so a mismatch serves brilliantly to add ‘personality’.

Even IKEA has a Scandi Boho corner – many of their self-assembly, modern pieces draw heavily on the vintage tradition – read here what they do.

Scandi Style Baskets – Uber Boho and functional

Storage boxes and anything wicker are uber Scandi Boho decor chic…hence the new trend for seagrass baskets with handles and with or without pom poms. The cleverly designed round baskets which fold easily at the top come in white and with white frills or pom poms. But so long the basic decor is pale Scandi, the baskets can be any colour – they never look out of place.

Use for storage – such as loo rolls in the bathroom, yarn or newspapers and magazines in the sitting room or vegetables/food stuff in the kitchen (but without the pom poms.  If you have a wood burner, the basket is perfect for wood storage. But there is a huge number of other baskets shapes and purposes – for plants as well… The hanging plant is gaining territory and even budget store Tesco sells a small but super selection.

The Boho Kitchen – What does it look like?

The Scandi kitchen is simple in its steely look – it is virtually exclusively white and steel…with some wood. The kitchen is above all a functional place – if not where we eat then where we cook and therefore has to be workable and clean.

Therefore most Scandi kitchens are uninspiring, but very practical, hygenic and beautifully simple. However, with the Scandi Boho kitchen there is room to play – literally, with ingredients, tableware, the tablecloth, and even the menu. But also with the design.

While the Nordic kitchen experience is usually post modern food on minimal ware with white napkins on designer chairs, the Scandi Boho supper experience is a relaxed affair.

A delicious, but simple salmon dish with a glass of rose at the kitchen table. And the decor plays a bigger part of the supper experience. Again, influences from foreign kitchens and restaurants play a big part.

Few cupboards….lots of shelves. Most Scandi kitchens are high tech wonders – it’s the boho experience that’ll make it a roaring time and become that other Scandi thing: hygge.

scandi boho chic kitchen
Candles – Very important Accessory

If there were a key ingredient in the Scandi experience, candles are it.  Particularly big white chunky candle stems in different heights.  But candles are more often associated with Hygge….still, it is the hygge element that makes Scandi minimal actually Scandi Boho.  The Scandi candle has a life of its own. It really comes into its own on 13th December thoughout Scandinavia for the religious Santa Lucia festival of lights. 

Children walk slowly in line, dressed in white, holding a lit candle while singing the song Santa Lucie. The head girl, leading the procession, also carries a circle of candles on her head.  Denmark burns more candles per person in Europe than any other EU country, according to the European Candle Association.

That’s both winter and summer.  It is no secret candles have a functional purpose to help keep us warn, but also a hugely decorative purpose, along the same lines as house plants.  They “do something” for the home, give it that undefinable something – being fire and nature, we love it.

What’s different about a Scandi Boho Scent?

The same goes for scents, or potpourie… a key Scandi hygge accessory which serves both as a piece of decor and to add a pretty scent to the room.  Scandis love for things to be both functional and decorative – and because the Scandi boho look is about more than looks and comfort.

It plays on all our senses – the way a place smells is important. Wood burners have yet to catch on in a major way in Denmark, and pot pourri is becoming increasingly fashionable.  Coming in different colours and shapes, and being something you can pour into good looking containers, it is the perfect decorative item.

Bohemians are by definition travellers – in reality or in spirit. Their homes are often a collection of pieces they’ve picked up on the way, which do not coordinate or match anything else. Each piece represents a something: a mermory, an experience, other people… Whether that’s a painting, a ceramic bowl, a vase, a rug or a mirror.

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