Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate

Your guide to Scandinavian interior design

Monday, 18th October, 2021 // Tips & Advice

What is it and how to get the look. – by Rebecca Lowrey Boyd

You’ve no doubt heard the term used in the world of home and decoration countless times, but what is Scandinavian design, or ‘Scandi’, exactly?

Scandinavian interior design can be defined as a minimalist and functional aesthetic that has been influential since the mid 20th century.

According to Domain, “the style emerged in the 1950s as part of a modern movement in Nordic design (i.e. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway) that prioritised function and affordability over preciousness and luxury.”

“Marked by pale colours, natural materials and lean, leggy furniture, the aesthetic was largely a response to the region’s short days and long winters, which called for bright, practical interiors.”

Scandinavian interior design has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years, and its light and airy appeal resonates strongly in Australian homes. Rooted in simplistic but quality design, Scandi’s warm aesthetic lends itself to many other decorating styles, making it a perfect base from which to build personality. It’s all about hybridity – feel free to add a mid-century, boho, or coastal slant.

However you choose to interpret this design style, we think it’s fairly safe to do so – Scandi is here to stay! Here’s what you need to know.

Image: Sharyn Cairns /

What is hygge?

Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, hygge is a Danish term that roughly translates as cosiness. According to Home Beautiful, “it’s the recognition and treasuring of the simple moments in life, enjoying togetherness with the people who matter”.

In interior design, you can achieve the look by surrounding yourself with soft fabrics, natural materials and handcrafted objects.

Image: Maree Homer /

What is lagom?

Lagom is a Swedish word that’s means just enough. It reflects the moderation that defines the Scandinavian aesthetic: not too much, not too little: just right.

In interior design, it means eschewing clutter for clean lines, functional décor and a neutral colour palette.

“Having a home with as much natural light as possible was imperative,” said Elisabeth Carlsson, author of The Lagom Life.

Image: Brooke Holm /

Love the Scandinavian look? Here’s how to get it


“Start with simple and sturdy furniture pieces, as these will stand the test of time in terms of wear and tear and style,” Danni Tan of Scandi store The Design Edit told Home Beautiful. Typically, you’ll find Scandi homes tend to feature a mixture of investment pieces and more budget-friendly options; it’s all about timelessness and thoughtful purchasing.

“Sometimes we are tempted to jump straight to a statement piece because it catches our eye, but my advice is to start off with a few large pieces in simple designs to give your styling more versatility.”

Image: Alicia Taylor /


Think natural fabrics with loose-weave textures such as linen, jute, rattan and cotton; tactility is incredibly important when it comes to this design style, and it certainly doesn’t have to be refined.

“Scandi style can [also] be heavy on furs and chunky woven textures,” stylist Sarah Ellison told Home Beautiful.

Modernist Scandinavian designs favoured timbers in teak, rosewood, birch and ash, but birch, maple, light oak and pine are popular today.

Image: Eve Wilson /

Colour palette

Scandinavian homes are designed so that they allow as much natural light into the space as possible, taking advantage of limited daylight hours. Neutral and calm colours dominate the colour palette in an effort to get back to basics.

According to Dulux colour expert Andrea Lucena-Orr, “think clean hues: soft whites, neutral pinks, soft amber, darker blue (almost charcoal), soft icy blues, dark greens, pale putty and moss colours”.

While it’s true that neutrals form the base of this interior style, its many offshoots mean that you do have versatility when it comes to adding colours.

Image: Maree Homer /

Get the look on a budget

It’s easy to decorate your home in Scandinavian style. Make a beeline for stores like Kmart and Ikea for affordable furnishings with clean lines and a minimalist aesthetic. For an authentic look, add some vintage pieces to the mix. Scour sites like eBay and Gumtree for second-hand mid-century modern pieces, like chairs and coffee tables. Look for lamps and pendants that diffuse light for a soft look – or use candles instead.


Disclaimer: The opinions posted within this blog are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate, others employed by Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate or the organisations with which the network is affiliated. The author takes full responsibility for his opinions and does not hold Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate or any third party responsible for anything in the posted content. The author freely admits that his views may not be the same as those of his colleagues, or third parties associated with the Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate network.