The Difference Between Scandinavian Design and Minimalism

CEO Khai Intela
Finding Your Perfect Balance of Style and Simplicity In the world of interior design, Scandinavian design and minimalism have become closely intertwined. Thanks to blogs and social media, the two styles have blended to create...

Finding Your Perfect Balance of Style and Simplicity

In the world of interior design, Scandinavian design and minimalism have become closely intertwined. Thanks to blogs and social media, the two styles have blended to create an almost ubiquitous image of the ideal, uncluttered home. However, it's important to note that while these two styles share similarities, they are not the same.

Minimalism, with its focus on creating space and simplicity, has a distinct spiritual and philosophical undertone. On the other hand, Scandinavian design, rooted in practicality and functionality, provides plenty of room to embrace the possessions you love.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between Scandinavian design and minimalism, helping you better understand your design motivations. Furthermore, we will highlight some non-minimalist Scandinavian design elements that work for both minimalists and maximalists. Our goal is to assist you in creating an authentic and personalized interior.

A Brief History of Scandinavian Design and Minimalism

Scandinavian design emerged on the international scene in the early to mid-20th century. Inspired by the Bauhaus movement, Scandinavian designers placed functionality and modernism at the forefront, aiming to make design accessible to everyone. Combining craftsmanship and the concept of "hygge," Scandinavian design emphasized simplicity, clean lines, and spaciousness. The focus on everyday objects like chairs, lamps, and kitchenware resulted in a look that didn't require excessive styling to remain interesting.

Stylish mid-century Scandinavian interior design Stylish mid-century Scandinavian interior design

Minimalism, as a concept, originated in the post-World War II art world. It described visual art that stripped down to its essential forms or structure. Minimalist artists departed from traditional subjective expressions of art and instead aimed to portray reality objectively and analytically. This movement aligned with a cultural shift towards psychological and sociological analysis, helping people process the traumas of war and explore the mysteries of the human condition. Minimalist interior design gained popularity in the 1980s, heavily influenced by Japanese architecture and Zen philosophy, which emphasized concepts like non-attachment, "ma" (space), and "wabi-sabi."

Stark white minimalist living room with couch Stark white minimalist living room with couch

In recent years, minimalism has become a lifestyle movement, especially in the United States. Many people have embraced minimalism as a response to financial constraints, the pressures of a fast-paced society, or a desire for a more meaningful existence. Minimalism offers a way to find joy, peace, and purpose by reducing material possessions and focusing on what truly matters.

Minimalism versus Scandinavian Design: Big-Picture Differences

1. The Ideology vs. the Practicality of Space

In minimalism, empty walls, white space, and a clear calendar often carry symbolic meaning. They represent openness, freedom, and liberation from unnecessary distractions. Minimalism provides clarity and promotes an unobstructed vision. The concept of space in minimalism aligns with various belief systems and practices, such as Christianity, Buddhism, yoga, meditation, and ancient philosophies like Stoicism.

Minimalist kitchen and dining area Minimalist kitchen and dining area

In Scandinavian design, space serves a practical purpose rather than expressing an ideal. It creates a sense of lightness, lifts the mood, and prioritizes functionality – the core of Scandinavian interior design. Space can be seen in bright neutral color schemes, well-defined paths between rooms, and clutter-free surfaces. While the reasons for leaving space may vary, it ultimately facilitates daily activities, increases energy levels, and fosters a relaxing home environment.

2. The Necessity vs. the Function of Simplicity

In minimalism, possessions are often seen as necessary evils. There is caution against coveting or allowing possessions to control us. While minimalists may invest in high-quality items, they do so sparingly, often choosing designs that blend into the background. Minimalism is rooted in the shame and suffocation that come with over-consumption. It offers a powerful antidote to excessive materialism and serves as a tool for constructing a more meaningful life.

Scandinavian design's simplicity serves a different purpose. It is centered around celebrating ordinary life and finding joy in the little things. While natural and traditional materials, efficient construction, and a streamlined look are common in Scandinavian design, simplicity is a result of practicality and the philosophy of democratized design. It's not a counter-movement to over-consumption but an approach that values accessibility and everyday pleasures.

Scandinavian Design Minimalist Kitchen Interior Scandinavian Design Minimalist Kitchen Interior

Scandinavian Design Elements for All

If you are intrigued by Scandinavian design but the minimalist aesthetic doesn't resonate with you, there's no need to worry. Scandinavian design offers foundational elements that can be embraced by maximalists, minimalists, and those in between. Here are some key elements to consider:

  • Contrast: Use contrasting elements like hard and soft, light and dark, and old and new to add depth and interest to your interior.
  • Multi-functional pieces: Incorporate furniture that serves multiple purposes, such as modular pieces or items with extra storage.
  • Nature: Honor nature by bringing in natural light, incorporating plants, and using sculptural wood or nature-inspired vignettes.
  • Hygge: Create a cozy and comfortable space that promotes togetherness and relaxation. Arrange furniture to encourage casual socializing and prioritize warmth.
  • Modern design: Experiment with geometric shapes, clean lines, and unique interpretations of traditional pieces. Contrast can make a relatively modern item look even more cutting-edge when paired with something more traditional.
  • Quality craftsmanship: Invest in high-quality pieces or search for hidden gems at thrift stores. Opt for sturdy items made from real materials.
  • Strong colors and prints: While Scandinavian interiors often feature neutral hues, don't be afraid to incorporate bold colors and vibrant prints. Scandinavian design has been embracing stronger hues and color blocks in recent years.

Modern Scandinavian living room with sofa and elegant blanket, coffee table and bookstand Modern Scandinavian living room with sofa and elegant blanket, coffee table, and bookstand

It's All About You

Scandinavian design is more accessible than minimalism because it is rooted in practicality. It accommodates various personal preferences and can be customized to suit individual needs. With a wide array of design elements to choose from, Scandinavian design can bring joy to your home, regardless of your perspective on material possessions.

At The Modern Dane, we aim to cater to both minimalists and Scandinavian design enthusiasts. Our bedding products are crafted to last, using high-quality traditional materials. Our simple and elegant designs draw inspiration from nature, while maintaining a balance that won't overwhelm your space.

Shop our collection of organic linen duvet covers, made from 100% European flax.