Scandis love white interiors. It’s what Nordic interior design is famous for. In White walls – that Nordic Vibe we show why. It’s about peace, light and ‘making things work’… It’s about tidiness and detail. The quick answer to the question why Scandinavians have white walls is that the colour works with everything.
You can get creative and make the pastels pop and the chrome shine. Scandi decorators and home owners tend to add more white or beige or possibly cream to vamp up the look. But why the obsession with white walls?
White walls – that Nordic vibe and Mediterranean Colors
Perhaps it’s a reflection of our closeness to nature, and a way to let in and reflect natural light in our homes. Anyone who has visited the Mediterranean island of Sardinia will remember vividly the pink/turquoise colour combination. It is a theme that runs through many of their interior decor choices to stunning effect.
Only a hundred years ago Nordic homes were darker too. They had chunky furniture and “spraglet”, or multi-coloured accessories spread across table tops and shelves. The white theme was far removed from practicalities of the day. In the 19th Century when the Danes were closer to nature due to farming as main method of income, the white palette was as impractical as could be. Back then, pale was still the choice of wall covering. But often in the form of patterned wall paper or a darker creamy, magnolia colour.
Today the white theme rules – even though it is a palette far removed from the hygge environment we’ve come to know so much about. Cosy Christmassy colours have come to be associated with hygge – that feeling of warmth and indoors. But hygge is actually more about the internal life than the interior decor. And we do like mixing colours with our white palette. It’s the trend called Scandi Boho which mixes the severe Scandi aesthetic with boho finds from travels abroad has grown in the last 20 years.
Denmark – the go-to Nation for white Wall Trend spotting
In terms creativity, Denmark has become the go-to nations for trend spotting. Think of brand names such as Pandora jewellery, Day Birger et Mikkelsen fashion and Noma, the best restaurant in the world no fewer than three times. Plus The Killing TV series, The Bridge, the minimalist Skagen watches, Skandium furniture and more.
These new names are in addition to Danish classics such as Arne Jacobsen furniture, Poul Henningsen and his PH lamp, Bang & Olufsen, Bodum the coffee maker and Georg Jensen silver. Thay have all had a huge influence on both British and American design culture.
So why the colour white, why do Scandinavians have white walls in their homes? Who invented this trend? The answer is that the trend evolved as a way to reflect natural light around the room. That was before Poul Henningsen designed the PH lamp – which is a genius for spreading light without stinging the eye.
And it reflects the Scandi character trait of ‘less is more’, pared down functionality and ‘keeping it safe’. White is a safe colour against which to build a happy, balanced and drama free home. It also complements colours in nature, brown, green, blue.
Six reasons for white walls – that Nordic vibe:
- It’s simple
- It’s clean
- It’s easy – never out of stock at the paint shop
- It represent calm and peace – the Scandinavian way of life
- Creativity – it’s the white canvas on which we can build
Explained – No Drama in the State of Denmark
Scandis famously crave minimal friction in their lives, in society and in their homes. While other nationalities thrive on high drama, the Nordic countries are famously under the radar. Danish society has been built over the last 100 years to function on minimal friction between its people and between the state and its people. Efficiency, simplicity, predictability, functionality are keywords. As in design. We thrive on on easy living.
The Danish Parliament with its multi-party system, and where compromises have to be made on a daily basis, is relatively frictionless. We thrive on on easy living.
Understatement, White Walls & Janteloven – Sticking your Head above the Parapet
Safe and sound defines the Nordic counties and people’s way of living, tapping into the Danish Jantelov, which dictates that nobody should stick their head too high above the parapet. Safe and sound in interior design doesn’t come safer than the colour white. But place a baby blue cushion on a white sofa against a white wall and everything pops.
Abroad a colourful figurative painting on a wall covered in floral or stripy wallpaper or tapestry and rich tassels may be a common sight in some homes. And sometimes that looks good. Many Scandinavians would find the tassled look “spraglet” – a Scandi favourite word for over-the-top.
Unlike the British and the Americans who display lots of accessories, vases, picture frames, souvenirs, heirlooms and other ornaments on corner tables or consoles, we Scandis keep it simple and functional. Accessories and ornaments are rarely functional – they don’t serve much practical purpose, hence the minimal look of Scandinavian interior design.
Hygge – The opposite of white Wall Obsession
However, the white wall trend and the look of Scandinavian homes – particularly Danish homes (check also one of the country’s leading interior magazines Rum – has little to do with the trendy Hygge theme. In fact, hygge is quite the opposite of the trademark Scandi look. Hygge is a feeling as opposed to a look. It’s about warmth, intimacy and cosy of feeling content and being happy in the moment.
And to create these hygge moments you likely need candles, a fireplace and a drink plus the warm, darker colours of a winebar or restaurant. That way people can huddle together against the elements and the outside world. But that’s another story all together – read our lifestyle blog on Hygge, what exactly it is and how you too can create your own version of hygge in your home.