Celebrating Global Design

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia

by Sofia Tuovinen

Celebrating Global Design | Design*Sponge

At Design*Sponge we have consciously made an effort to spark our readers’ (and our own) curiosity with beautiful and creative spaces from many international destinations as well as the 50 states. I’m so excited to bring you today’s post from our Celebrating Global Design series because we’re landing on my home turf, Scandinavia.

Although Scandinavian design is renowned the world over for its functionality and streamlined essence, I think it’s timelessness that makes it worth highlighting. Most of the quintessentially Scandinavian design classics are widely considered “modern,” but truth be told they’re most likely reaching a very dignified age. Alvar Aalto’s 30s aesthetic is still an integral part of Nordic home decor, and Josef Frank’s quirky fabric patterns are as blossoming today as they were in the 40s. It’s safe to say that in the region of evergreens, we create evergreen design.

Below you’ll hear from creatives from each Scandinavian country, not forgetting the self-governing Faroe and Åland Islands. Another truly noteworthy area is Sápmi, the cultural region of the indigenous Sámi people, spanning across borders in northernmost Scandinavia and the Russian Kola peninsula. Design directions vary from country to country even within these northern regions, but there are many things that all of us Scandinavians share and cherish: respecting nature and the materials it has to offer. Scroll down to hear thoughts on various aspects of local design from a wonderful mix of Nordic creative minds! — Sofia

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Nayab Ikram (@nayabikram) is a photographer and visual artist from the Åland Islands, the autonomous island realm within the republic of Finland, located in the heart of Scandinavia. “On the Åland Islands, the design is reflected in nature, often expressed in earthly colors with a twist on traditional craftsmanship. I am surrounded by design inspired by the intersection of my own identity as an Ålandic-Pakistani, creating a fun mismatch of objects. The craftsmanship is an important heritage in both cultures. Portrait by Maria Rosenlöf.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

Robin Falck (@robinfalck) is an industrial designer from Helsinki, Finland. “What I most enjoy about Finnish design, whether we’re talking about interiors, products or architecture, is the humility and strong connection to our heritage. While many find it funny that Finns are so poor at promoting themselves and their work, I’ve grown to enjoy it. It’s a humbleness that leaves space to make your own discoveries and I think it reflects the work in a very positive way. Everything isn’t colorful and dynamic, screaming for attention. Instead, things are wonderfully understated and shy in a way that fascinates me. This is apparent in my own home as well. It’s quite dark and relies on wooden elements and a couple of dark walls to create the feeling of a cabin in the woods. I decorate and add color with artifacts that I’ve collected from my travels — small statuettes from Mexico and Japan, some antlers from the game I’ve hunted, and pictures from my travels framed on the wall.”

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

Robin Falck‘s attic apartment in Helsinki, Finland is characterized by the sloping wood panel ceiling, which makes this city home look and feel like a cozy cabin.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

The Nolla cabin is one of Robin Falck‘s latest projects. The idea behind the zero-emission mobile cabin, named Nolla after the Finnish word for zero, was to bring people closer to nature with a minimal impact on the environment. Photo by Fanni Hagman.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

Halla Bára Gestsdóttir is an interior designer from Reykjavík, Iceland. She runs her company Home and Delicious (@homeanddelicious) with her photographer husband. “It’s hard to talk about a strong overall regional style in Icelandic homes. The flair is definitely Scandinavian and similar to interiors in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. […] Scandinavian magazines and books are popular and people tend to buy Scandinavian design, but it’s more of a mixed style with influences from our neighbors and northern Europe. You could say that Icelanders are up to date, quite open to trends and ready to try something new in their homes. They also have an urge to make their homes cozy and that’s because of where our island is located! As an interior designer, I speak for personal style and help people to really dig into their own. I want people to create their own personal habitat that reflects the people who live there, their lives and longings.”

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Halla Bára Gestsdóttir and Gunnar Sverrisson‘s cottage, located by Lake Vesturhóp in northwestern Iceland, includes several self-made pieces of furniture. The couple wanted the space to feel “cozy, informal and comfortable, an escape from the daily grind.”

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Spaces for the littles ones in Michaela and Daniel Grut’s home in Lidingö, Sweden are filled with soothing colors and wonderful scope for the imagination.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

Gunvør Reydberg (@byreydberg) is a florist and knitter from The Faroe Islands.
“I love Faroese design and the passion that this small country with only 51,000 people has for art and design. For me, the combination of rawness and softness in nature is so beautiful and delightful and serves as a big inspiration. It is also important to support Faroese art and design. In our home, we have a lot of Faroese art on the walls, we wear hand-knit Faroese clothing and use Faroese ceramics on the table. Knitting is a special thing for Faroese people. We have a very old tradition to come together to knit. For me, knitting is like yoga — I love to knit garments, especially for the kids.”

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The dining room is Gunvør Reydberg’s (@byreydberg) and her family’s favorite space in their home on the Faroe Islands.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

“Scandinavian interior design is often clean, airy and functional. I apply this at home but I also add color and movement that gives joy in a rather grey and cold climate. I salute personal and individual homes!” says Åsa Nordlöf (@hejmitthem), production manager at an advertising agency. See her family’s home in Sweden here.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

Åsa Nordlöf and her family’s light and airy home in southern Sweden includes bright colors that bring bursts of sunshine even to the greyest Scandinavian days.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

This home in northern Norway celebrates color and proves that not everyone adheres to the “clean Scandinavian” look.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

Renate Alexandersen (@alexark_) is an interior architect and designer based in Oslo, Norway. “What I love about authentic Scandinavian design is the close relationship to the natural materials that we are surrounded by in local nature. You can see that the objects belong to both places and people’s lifestyles in Scandinavia — the way we enhance the quality and beauty of simplicity, which is achievable for each and everyone and therefore a democratic value.”

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Interior architect and designer Renate Alexandersen embraces simplicity in one of her latest projects in Oslo, Norway. Photo by Anne Bråtveit.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

Koko Hubara is the editor-in-chief of Ruskeat Tytöt (Finnish for Brown Girls), “a non-profit organization for Brown People by Brown People.” The organization’s mission is to broaden the representation of people of color in various fields of culture in Finland, from media to communications and advertising. “There is one word that defines Finnish design perfectly: functionality. Did you know that we invented the drying cabinet for dishes, and that Jane Birkin swears by Finnish Fiskars scissors? I am a very functional person — my head is rarely in the clouds, even when I’m writing fiction. Everything in my home is flea market finds of Finnish or Scandinavian design — Lundia bookshelves, Artek couches and dining chairs, Iittala and Arabia dishes, Joseph Frank cushions, and so on. You have to have curtains that block the sun in the summer because it never sets. Although I’m a functionalist, I’m not a minimalist. I have to have lots of books and knick-knacks around me, as well as plants. Most of my decorative stuff is from travels and my other home countries in the Middle East.” Portrait by Toni Härkönen. 

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Classic Finnish and Swedish design pieces have been mixed in with antiques in this apartment in Helsinki, Finland.

Celebrating Global Design: Scandinavia | Design*Sponge

Mette Skov (@weaverbynight) is a visual merchandiser from Denmark. “Denmark has a long history of furniture making and what I love most about Danish design is that it always revolves around nature’s raw materials. Wood and leather are, and have always been, a huge part of Danish design. Bringing the warmth of nature into our homes is essential in Danish design. Another thing we are known for is ceramics, especially in this region of Denmark (West Sealand) — here you’ll find the well-known international ceramic school Guldagergaard, and our town even hosts the yearly ceramic festival.”

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Mette Skov lives in an old Farmhouse in the Danish countryside. Her family’s home is full of hygge, a cozy and modest atmosphere associated with Danish living.

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