Nordic contemporary design is the envy of the world, extending beyond the spheres of furniture and lighting design and into architecture. Here are Arkitexture’s best tips for creating a home that looks to northern Europe for inspiration: welcoming, light-filled, full of natural materials, particularly clever use of wood – but with enough innovation and invention to feel bold and new.
1. Respect the vernacular
The last few years has seen a modern reinvention of the typical Nordic summerhouse – the family-centric second homes where everyone escapes to when the days are long and the sun almost never sets. What distinguishes the new crop is how architects have managed to make these homes sit so easily within their settings and the existing homes that surround them. That partly comes from how they respect vernacular styles and materials, reinterpreting them in contemporary ways. Tham & Videgård’s Husarö House on the Stockholm archipelago illustrates this well: with its black exterior and steeply pitched roof it clearly resembles a simple timber farm building, made modern with huge picture windows and traditional timber cladding replaced by metal sheeting.
2. Be natural
Natural materials, and wood in particular, are a must in a Nordic home: houses have been built from this most sustainable of materials for centuries, and using it for interiors as well lends an intrinsically calming and relaxing atmosphere. Wooden floorboards are standard, but it can also be used to clad walls and ceilings, and be used for cabinetry, for a truly enveloping feel. Villa Wienberg (below and main image) in Aarhus, Denmark, by Friis and Moltke architects and Wienberg Architects, is like a forest house in the suburbs, offsetting swathes of timber with concrete, leather and white-painted walls.
3. Make it monochrome
Nordic designers and architects are masters of understatement, creating homes that are warm and welcoming without the need for bold look-at-me statements. This quiet confidence often manifests itself in schemes that are monochrome and pattern-free, instead relying on a play of textures. Humlebaek House by Danish designers and architects Norm sums up the approach: pale crumbly stone walls and well-worn wooden beams contrast with the crisper outlines of boxy white cabinetry and round black pendant lights.
4. Throw in the unexpected
Nordic design is known for being reliably beautiful, but perhaps not experimental or irreverent. Some of that reputation goes out the window at Sweden’s Treehotel, a series of magical structures, set in wild forest: some truly break the mould with their offbeat materials and forms, although never straying from the central idea that the guests who stay here should feel as close to nature as possible. Sandell Sandberg’s offering, called Blue Cone – peculiarly, considering its appearance – makes no attempt to blend in, yet still strives to maintain the simplicity of the best Scandinavian design.
5. Aim for a home of hygge
The Danish concept of hygge is hard to translate: it describes the sense of peace and well being we get from being cosy at home, close to family and friends, especially in winter. And while hygge is a feeling, it has a lot to do with your surroundings: dimmed lights, a real fire, lit candles, and plenty of soft textures to bury your toes in. These finishing touches turn a house into a home, no matter where we live.