Scandinavian chairs

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Whether or not you live in the land of the midnight sun, also known as Scandinavia, art and antique collectors are over the moon for Scandinavian design. And those who have been living with the vintage furniture of this mid century modern style are finding that values are still on the rise and pieces are worth a pretty penny for Scandinavian design. Originated from various Northern European countries–Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden–Scandinavian furniture and design accessories relate to the Scandinavian way of life. One important attribute of Scandinavian design is innovative designs at a low cost as the Northern Europeans are a smart, hardworking and thrifty people.

In Scandinavia, where the summer days are long and light and the winter days are cold and dark, home decorating takes its cue from weather patterns and a lifestyle where enjoying the outdoors in any season is essential. In Northern Europe, there is an interest in using animal skins for warmth along with small scale fireplaces and wood burning stoves. Decorative patterns are produced via hand-woven textiles in the form of upholstered cushions, pillows, blankets, and animal skin throws. Scandinavian homes often feature floor to ceiling windows that reach allowing light in and to highlight the region’s breathtaking landscape vistas. Some furniture pieces and tall case clocks are painted in light pastel colors or pure white to give rooms more light during the darkness of the winter months.

Like their Viking ancestors, Scandinavian people are intuitive when it comes to materials, patterns, and designs. As a cultural norm, the Scandinavians prefer to recycle, repair, and/or restore an object before replacing an object with a new one. Scandinavian people enjoy their natural surroundings making their art and design objects based in natural forms, patterns, elements, and materials.

What to Look For

Scandinavian chairs

Like the mid Century modern design of the 1950s and 1960s and the modern furniture and accessories of Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Isamu Noguchi, George Nakashima and others, Scandinavian design focuses on the cozy and the comfortable. This type of furniture places emphasis on ergonomically correct furniture, muted color schemes of beige, blue, white, grey, etc. and ways to bring the natural world indoors. The architecture, furniture, decorative arts, and even jewelry designed by Hans Wegner, Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen Georg Jensen and others in the Scandinavian style grew in popularity. The Scandinavian furniture was best known for its clean lines, gentle curves, bold patterns, and natural materials.

When collecting Scandinavian design pieces, look to collect animal skins as upholstery, natural woods, white washed pieces, and bold patterns. Marimekko designs, rosemalling or painting on fabric and wood in the Scandinavian folk art tradition, and hand made, embroidery, textile hooked, and macrame items are all of interest to collectors of Scandinavian design pieces. These pieces and the premier furniture pieces are also highly valued on the vintage market.

The calm, muted tones of pale blue, cool grey, white and cream are seen everywhere in Scandinavian interiors. This color scheme has almost become the trademark of Scandinavian design and seems to be one of the main draws to its global mimicry. These colors are unique to Scandinavian minimalism—especially the pale blues; they are not commonly seen in North American minimalist designs. A neutral color palette is favored in Scandinavian design from curtains to carpets.

Scandinavian design demonstrates not only the culture’s interest in saving money and shopping smart but it also shows their love of multi-use rooms like personal saunas, mud rooms, and the juxtaposition of materials like cool metal table legs hosting warm stone slabs or light wood furniture with bright patterned textiles. Scandinavian design continues to inspire both contemporary designers and vintage 1950s and 1960s era collectors alike.

Get an online appraisal of your Scandinavian design object from Dr. Lori.