De-Clutter 2012 Challenge: Simple Scandinavian Design

When I think of clutter-free home, I think of Scandinavian designs. Simple. Teak. Empty spaces. Frank Lloyd Wright (ironically, an American architect with similar design style.) So I asked my friend, Sonya Kanelstrand, a staff writer on Green Living Ideas and Etsy business owner of Kanelstrand to explain Scandinavian home decor to me. Sonya lives a simple life on the Scandinavian coast in Norway that encompasses organic living in tuned with nature. Sonya is having a “Simple Living Challenge” starting today, February 1st, on her blog where I will be contributing a guest post. Hope you’ll join me and sign her pledge to continue our quest of living clutter-free lives. Now, let’s learn how we can decorate with simple Scandinavian design in mind and live in clutter-free homes.

What can we learn from the Scandinavian simple design style?

Scandinavian design is known around the world for its minimalism, lack of clutter, simple forms and bright spaces. In fact, Scandinavian homes are more than that; they are warm and welcoming and full of texture. Scandinavians have a passion for soft color and light that is expressed in minimal but effective decorations.

Once you enter a Scandinavian home you will quickly understand why clean lines, delicate color schemes and light-filled spaces have turned into the symbols of Scandinavian design. While present-day Americans are trying to move away from over cluttered homes, Scandinavians keep on living the way their forefathers did – simply and humbly.

If you seek to de-clutter your interior and incorporate Scandinavian simplicity in your decor you don’t need much, just get back to the basics:


Via Pinterest from

Scandinavian countries are known for their Northern Lights displays and long dark winters followed by temperate springs and short, temperamental summers. The long winter nights have taught us how light influences people’s moods and we treasure every second of daylight. Our rooms are designed to welcome light and to interact with it.

We highly treasure ambient light and we love to have several light sources instead of one overhead light. We tend to scatter floor and table lamps in different areas around the room to add several levels of lighting.

Candles are a trademark of Scandinavian living and add a warm element of natural light to dark winter days and a cozy feel to the airy summer nights.


Via Pinterest from

While Scandinavian houses look like over-saturated spring flowers from the outside with their typical deep red or yellow colors the interiors hold the calamity and vastness of a cool sunset.

Light pastel colors constitute the typical Scandinavian palette not just because they are unobtrusive and nurture a sense of warmth but because of their softness that reminds of the tender Scandinavian spring and is in contrast with the rugged Nordic landscape.

The walls are typically white to intensify the light, to visually open up the living space and to work as a neutral color platform. Think of Scandinavian walls as of the white canvas you need to let your imagination run wild.


Via Pinterest from

Scandinavian homes’ trademark is minimalism. Instead of cluttering the space, we decorate with carefully chosen clean-line objects that have a practical use also. Usually those objects have sentimental value and looking at them each day recharges us positively. Unlike Americans we place the furniture in a way that will allow easy and undisturbed movement throughout the room. Using big mirrors is another trick we employ to cheat small spaces and make them appear bigger and brighter.


Via Pinterest from

Scandinavian design is famous for its functional aesthetic. It is freed of any extra embellishments or needless decoration and that is easy to be witnessed in any given Scandinavian home. The typical decorations are neat and basic. The simple shapes and straight lines of the furniture leave room for breathing, visually expanding the indoor spaces.


Via Pinterest from

The secret of Scandinavian comfort lies in the natural elements.

Wood is highly valued and central to Scandinavian decoration. Combined with other natural materials it provides a comfortable and serene space for relaxation. Traditionally, the floors are either hardwoods that nowadays get painted white, or birch, fir and pine, which reflect light and make the room look brighter and more spacious. The wood grain in the floor makes for a subtle contrast against the white walls and ceilings.

The most commonly used textiles are soft and natural, such as linen and cotton. They are easily combined with patterned fabrics featuring checks, stripes, gingham and floral prints. You will hardly find polyester or plastic in a normal Scandinavian home. Sheepskin is also common not just because it is readily available most everywhere (including IKEA) but because it is warm and creates a natural feeling of comfort. If you visit any of the Scandinavian countries you will probably be surprised by the lack of curtains. One reason for that is that we feel safe in our homes but we also keep curtains minimal and in pale colors to let the light in for as long as possible.

Scandinavians are not afraid to mix and match old and new and when the past has been focused on simplicity it is easy to combine it with the present to a wonderful and stylish result. Reusing is extremely common and you can witness 100 year old pieces of furniture renovated and enjoyed to the fullest.


Decorating reflects lifestyle. And Scandinavians take life easy most of the time. When we go through stressful moments we have our homes in which to relax and feel safe. But we also love spending time outdoors. Scandinavians are known to be outdoor people. So we unwittingly take nature indoors and incorporate it in the space and calamity of our homes.

We hang landscapes on the walls – either paintings or photographs and we decorate with natural items gathered from our daily walks – pebbles, pine cones, seashells, branches and fresh-cut flowers. This turns our Scandinavian homes into a constantly evolving art installations, temporary exhibitions, precious for the memories they keep and fragile because of their transience.

Image by kanelstrand used with permission

As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” And this is exactly what you get in Scandinavian homes – clean and bright, uncluttered spaces, natural materials, beauty found in simplicity, focus on what is important and valuable to the heart, all combined to assist the dwellers in their search for inner piece and development.

De-clutter your surroundings to de-clutter your mind. Is there anything simpler than that?

[First Image via Pinterest from]


  1. says

    This is how I live…no joke. Clutter drives me batty; the simple act of dusting takes too long when there’s way too much stuff around! But I don’t love the stark feeling of monochromatic in cooler colors/whites so we usually go with shades of brown in our house. People rarely believe it when I tell them I go through my ENTIRE house every 6 months (or less) to get rid of the stuff I’m not using…then they come over! My house isn’t empty by any means but I just prefer more space than stuff. Great info here!

    • says

      That is awesome that you clean out your entire house every 6 months. I need to do that too… makes so much more sense to do this every January out of necessity. But if I lived in a clean & simple house like the Scandinavians, I can see the motivation to live like this.

      • says

        Karen, I was thinking that I actually clean the entire house 4 times a year.
        For Easter, then mid-summer, then autumn and Christmas clean-up.
        It gives me time and space to actually organize stuff as the seasons progress.

  2. says

    What a beautiful post Sonya! This is the first time I have read about the why behind Scandinavian decorating. It makes so much sens and is calming too. Thank you!

    • says

      It does make more sense now that we know the reasons ‘why’, doesn’t it? It is beautiful way to decorate and to live.

  3. says

    I love, love this post so much I shared the link on my blog today. Scandinavian style is a big part of why I’m so enamored with that beautiful part of the world. Sonya’s descriptions are spot on!

    Lately I’ve come to a decluttering plateau, but this post has inspired me to go further and create me own, simple, beautiful home with the lovely Scandi style in mind.

    • says

      I LOVE your “Dearly De-Cluttered” list! I didn’t think to list every mug I donated but seeing your list inspired me. I am going to list e.v.e.r.y. item I donated or repurposed!

      Thanks for visiting. Let’s keep 2012 clutter free so we can live like the Scandinavians. There is no such thing as hitting the “decluttering plateau” :)

      Oh, and thank you for mentioning this post on your blog today.

    • says


      They are definitely inspirational, aren’t they? Something to strive for in my clutter free life this year.