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Why do Scandinavians have White Walls – How to Live with that Nordic Vibe

by | Mar 23, 2019

Scandis love white interiors. It’s what Nordic interior design is famous for.

Here we show why – it’s about peace, light and ‘making things work’…


  • Why Scandis are obsessed with white Walls
  • White Walls & Mediterranean Color Combination
  • Denmark – White Wall Trend Setter
  • Story behind White Obsession
  • Understatement & Janteloven
  • Hygge – the Opposite of White Walls

Why the Scandinavians are obsessed with white Walls

The quick answer to the question why Scandinavians have while walls is, probably, that the colour white just makes everything else easier. On the colour white you really can get creative and make the pastels pop and the chrome shine.

Except, and unless we are talking about Scandi Boho – read more in this article, click here – Scandis don’t pile on too many colours. Instead, Scandi decorators and home owners tend to simply add more white or beige or possibly some cream to help vamp up the look.

That brings us back to the question, why are the Scandis obsessed with white walls?

Some say white walls combined with other Scandi trademark colours such as beige, grey, brown and black is altogether a reflection of our closeness to nature. And that it is a way to let in and reflect light in our homes.

That’s true, except people in other countries are close to nature too and they are famed for their brilliant colours as opposed to white. So there are other explanations too.


White Walls and the Mediterranean Color Combination

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, with 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 fact, in the 19th Century when the Danes were closer to nature due to farming being the 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.

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, Noma as the best restaurant in the world no fewer than three times, 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 which 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 before the PH lamp was invented – 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.

6 reasons for the Scandi penchant for the colour white:

  • 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 constructed 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.

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 in the United States and particularly in the United Kingdom. In many cases it looks good.

Scandinavians are moving towards a more experimental minimalist look – but many 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 – 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, incimacy and cosy of feeling content and being happy in the moment.

And to create these hygge moments you most likely need candles, a fireplace and a drink plus the warm, darker colours of a winebar or restaurant where 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.


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