What is Scandinavian Furniture, And Why is it Important?

Today, more than ever, Scandinavian furniture is getting attention. Whether it’s guests on The Daily Show sitting in Knoll office chairs or the Saarinen replica chairs that can be found at contemporary restaurants, you can probably think of dozens of pieces that are highly influenced by the mid-century modern trend. However, much of what we call mid-century modern furniture is actually Scandinavian furniture.

danish design museum

Scandinavia is a historical and cultural region in Northern Europe. It includes the mainlands of the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Although, the Danish Faroe Islands are sometimes included, as well as Iceland and Finland, because of their historical association with the Scandinavian countries, peoples, and languages. Scandinavian furniture mainly comes from Denmark and Sweden.

Modernism was a cultural movement that began in Scandinavia at that end of the 19th century. The goals of the movement in Scandinavia were the production of designs that the general public could enjoy, along with an emphasis on minimalism and functionalism, two concepts that were greatly influenced by the social changes that were happening in Europe with the end of the First World War. However, the term “Scandinavian design” actually comes from a design show that traveled around the United States and Canada from the years 1954 through 1957.

Below we provide some examples of the designers and brands that characterized this movement along with a brief description of the most important elements of Scandinavian furniture design.

Scandinavian Furniture Design

The first golden age of Scandinavian design was from the 1930s through the 1970s. During this period, 20th century furniture designers from Scandinavia created designs that offered unique twists that would soon become prized for their innovative features.

The designs worked well in Scandinavian homes given that Scandinavian interiors, generally neutral walls and open-plan layouts for each room. They offered balance between the interiors and the overall ambience of a space while also being highly functional, yet aesthetically pleasing.

scandinavian design

Today, midcentury-modern furniture is more popular now than ever and it is important to consider the exact reasons why. Several key elements set Scandinavian apart from the furniture of other regions and have contributed to its popularity, including:

  • Lighter colored woods. Scandinavian furniture relies on solid wood in order to provide the excellent support and durability that it deliveries. Generally, lighter colored woods, such as ash, are chosen to create these designs so that the materials also stand out as important design features.

  • Balanced proportions and soft lines. Scandinavian furniture makes use of balanced proportions and soft lines in order to create a look that is especially suited to the modern home. These proportions also reflect the fact that the pieces are also designed to be functional in nature.

  • Lightness. From the choices of upholstery fabrics to the whimsical shapes that can be found in Scandinavian furniture, there is a lightness to the overall look of the furniture. This makes every piece seem unique and distinctive, creating an eye-catching focal point for the room no matter where the furniture piece is placed.

Famous Scandinavian Furniture Designers

There are literally hundreds of famous Scandinavian furniture designs and much of their work was so highly regarded, that they were produced en masse at the time and the demand for replica furniture still remains high even today.

Therefore, the most well-known Scandinavian furniture designers and brands you are already likely to be familiar with even if you do not know them by name. Some of the most striking and memorable designs were created by the following designers:

Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971), the Danish architect who designed the SAS Air Terminal and Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, was also the designer of the famous Egg chair. The chair was originally designed in 1958 for the lobby and reception areas in the Royal Hotel, in Copenhagen.

Arne Jacobsen

Eero Aarnio

Eero Aarnio is a Finnish interior designer who earned an important place in 1960s popular culture thanks to his unique furniture designs. When you think of the 1960s, Eero Aarnio’s Ball chair is one of the most charismatic furniture designs of that period.

Designed from upholstered fiberglass, it became an instant hit at the 1966 Cologne international furniture fair and later became a staple of 1960s futuristic "Mod" style. This chair design also made appearances in many movies of the time and years later, including Men in Black II (2002), Dazed and Confused (1993), The Prisoner TV series (1967-1968), Tommy (1975), and Mars Attacks! (1996).

Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) was a 20th-century Finnish American architect and industrial designer noted for his neo-futuristic style. His famous design, the Tulip Chair was produced by the Knoll furniture company. He designed many of the most recognizable Knoll pieces, including the Tulip chairs and tables, the Womb chair, and the 70 series seating collection.

Finn Juhl

Finn Juhl (1912-1989), a Danish designer, was one of the designers that was credited with bringing Scandinavian design to America thanks to his debut at the MoMa in New York City in 1951. He is the designer of the Chieftains Chair. His designs were considered to be iconic because of their unique shapes.

Poul Henningsen

Poul Henningsen (1894-1967), was a Danish designer that received international icon status when he invented the PH lamp, Artichoke lamp, and Snowball lamp. At the time, the electric lightbulb was still considered to be a fairly new technology. As a result, these lighting designs were certainly striking in their appearances. The influence of these designs is seen even today with the renewed interest in pendant lamps for the home.

Artichoke lam

Greta Magnusson Grossman

Greta Magnusson Grossman (1906-1999), was a Swedish designer who was responsible for designing the Grasshopper Lamp. As one of the moe the first female furniture designers to be internationally recognized, she opened a studio on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, California and ended up selling her furniture to notable personalities like Greta Garbo and Frank Sinatra. With a focus on lighting and furniture, they also sold to several well-known furniture companies such as Sherman Bertram, Martin Brattrud, Cal-Mode and Barker Brothers' Modern Shop.

Build Your Own Scandinavian-inspired Furniture

At Medley, we can help you build your own Scandinavian-inspired furniture with our unique Hand-to-Home craftsmanship, we use only the best quality materials to make each piece of furniture one-by-one. If you are looking for some ideas to help you get started, browse our modern furniture products to see the options that we can personalize for you.