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Scandinavian Design: The Minimalist Movement

The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are defined by innovative culture, picturesque landscapes, admirable sustainability, and happiness ratings consistently ranked among the highest in the world. Whether referencing the lively cities of Copenhagen and Oslo or the pure beauty of the Stockholm archipelago and Norwegian fjords, both the thoughtfully designed capitals and the pristine scenery of the countries support the association of high-quality living with which the region has become synonymous. 

 

Scandinavian design is recognized globally as the epitome of minimalism, characterized by neutral tones, clean lines, and natural materials. During my six months living and working in Stockholm, Sweden, I admired the innovation and intentionality of the Scandinavian mentality through which spaces, and the pieces that fill them, are designed with purpose.

Scandinavian Design

The principle of "simple yet effective" is best reflected in the use of warm white tones with pops of black or tan and wood as a primary material in recognition of the Scandinavian relationship to nature. The most impressive aspect of this design model is how spaces that lack a large quantity of furniture and lean into the use of basic color still maintain warmth and a simultaneous sense of energy and peace. 

The minimalist aesthetic characteristic of Scandinavian design today emerged in the 1930s, but the term "Scandinavian design" itself was coined in the 1950s from a show titled "Design in Scandinavia: An Exhibition of Objects for the Home" that introduced Scandinavian design to the United States and Canada. The Scandinavian style was shaped by the countries' relative geographic isolation, which prompted an inclination to use local, limited resources as necessary with a focus on creating pieces that are functional and livable. The notion of one's living environment being composed of simple yet high-quality products is a hallmark of Scandinavian design, and Wisteria echoes this premise with the careful curation of quality, globally sourced pieces for the home. 

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Scandinavian Culture

Although Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are each culturally distinct, the countries do share the values of cooperation, egalitarianism, sustainability, and pragmatism. The term "Scandinavia" emerged in reference to the three-country region when Danish and Swedish universities advocated for the importance of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway's shared history and culture in the 18th century. The movement began in Sweden's southern province of Skåne, which led to the term Scandinavia. 

Scandinavia is also defined by a love of coffee. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark rank among the world's highest coffee consumers in pounds per capita per year. 

The Swedish custom of "Fika" is a mid-day pause to enjoy a hot drink and snack oftentimes revolving around coffee. I enjoyed this tradition, or rather, lifestyle, almost every day while working in Stockholm, typically accompanying my coffee with the traditional Swedish cinnamon bun called "kanelbulle". 

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Scandinavian Landscape

The geographical features of the Scandinavian region are varied, and the expansive landscape inspires the neutral colors and natural materials characteristic of Scandinavian design. The aesthetic is intended to provoke a sense of calm in the home similar to that experienced when in nature. While Denmark is composed of flat lowlands, Sweden and Norway share the Scandinavian peninsula and roughly ⅔ of Norway alone offers mountainous terrain. 

Unlike Norway, Sweden's land slopes eastward to the Baltic Sea and is separated from Denmark by The Sound (Öresund). A train ride on the Öresund Bridge can take travelers over the water from the southern Swedish city of Malmö directly to Denmark's capital of Copenhagen in only 35 minutes. 

The minimalist, neutral aesthetic of Scandinavian design is linked to the history, culture, and landscape of the region, and is admired for its combination of beauty and functionality. The emphasis on clean lines, light, neutral tones, and wood accents can be adopted and introduced into any space or home.

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