What Scandinavian Design Looks Like Today

Scandinavian design has been a global phenomenon for decades, but a new book illustrates its contemporary evolution.

Thanks in part to the mass-produced genius of Ikea, Scandinavian design has spread its influence around the globe. But a new book Scandinavia Dreaming from Gestalten brings lovers of this ubiquitous aesthetic back to the motherland(s), detailing the distinctions in each country’s creative culture while highlighting how the entire region’s orientation toward nature still shapes contemporary design.


“The day-­to­-day struggles against extremes have tended to make northern life more frugal, dignified, just, resourceful, practical, and resilient,” explains design writer Shonquis Moreno in the compendium’s preface. “Nature has furnished certain habits, attitudes, and social rituals, as well as the materials, crafts, and technologies particular to each place.” For instance, Iceland’s otherworldly geography and weather–volcanoes, hot springs, bulging icebergs, unending days, Northern lights–are reflected in the immense creativity of its designers and artists, like musician Björk or fashion designer Sruli Recht. Sweden’s wealth of forests manifests in their designers’ creative use of wood and their conception of luxury as a combination of quality, comfort, and simplicity. As Moreno writes, “a smart designer can turn a plain birch box into an out­doorsman’s villa.”

The rest of the book is filled with rich images of contemporary Scandinavian homes that will make any interior design geek drool. Among the highlights: the simple but compelling shapes of Gubi, a Copenhagen-based design house that reinterprets historical designs for today while showcasing the work of new artists; a house on the island of Vega in Norway with stellar full-sized windows that make the surrounding landscape seem like a painting; a rustic kitchen table paired with glorious yellow chairs from Simrishamnsvägen 3, a Swedish home originally built in the 1900s with interiors designed by Sofie Ganeva; and the Vipp Shelter, a prefabricated house designed by Morten Bo Jensen that looks right at home in the forests of Sweden.

Design in Scandinavia never looked so good. See a few of the featured projects in the slide show above.

About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture.