It may be true that the world is shrinking, thanks to rapidly emerging technologies that connect global citizens as never before. However, it’s also still true that each of the world’s regions has its own distinctive style and characteristics. This is definitely true of Scandinavia; Scandinavian style has been heavily influenced by the region’s wintery landscapes, simple lifestyles, family values, local wildlife, unique geography, and unusual seasonal weather patterns and idiosyncrasies.
Simplicity and modernity are two important characteristics of Scandinavian style. These elements carry over into many aspects of Scandinavian style, and typify Scandinavian architecture, furniture and even design motifs.
Scandinavian furniture is world renowned for its quality, functionality, and style. Many noteworthy examples are now classic pieces that were originally designed during the midcentury modern period. These furnishings are distinctive for their simplicity, clean lines and modernist aesthetics. Many of these pieces are noteworthy for what was, at the time, ground-breaking use of new materials, particularly plastics and other synthetics.
Scandinavian Furniture Manufacturers
Ikea — The Ikea furniture brand is noteworthy for affordable, functional designs offering simple style and a clean, unpretentious look.
Vitra — The Vitra furniture brand has a long and distinguished history, and has produced furniture designs by some of the most influential Scandinavian furniture designers of the modern era.
Scandinavian Furniture Designers
Verner Panton— Verner Panton was an influential Danish furniture designer and interior designer. His furniture designs are still in high demand today, and some of them are still being produced. For example, Panton originally created the Verner Panton chair (pictured at right) in 1960; later in 1967, he collaborated with the Vitra furniture company to mass-produce the design. This chair is still included in Vitra’s furniture collection, decades later.
Kaare Klint— Kaare Klint’s was a versatile designer whose interests included painting, architecture and furniture design. Some of his most noteworthy furniture designs include the Faborg chair, Propeller Stool, the Safari Chair, the Deck Chair, and the Church Chair. He designed these pieces in the 1910s through 1930s.
Klint was influential not only for his own design work, but also because he taught and inspired other influential Danish furniture designers. He was instrumental in founding the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Furniture School, and he also took an active role as a professor there. Because of this influence, his impressive design work, and his extraordinary talent, he has been called the “Father of Danish furniture design.”
Eero Saarinen — Eero Saarinen was one of many influential Scandinavian-born designers who can be credited with influencing the American public to embrace the modernist aesthetic. Saarinen was a Finnish-American architect and furniture designer. He was born in Finland, and later naturalized as an American citizen. Since he made his mark in America rather than Finland, he is often spoken of as an American rather than a Scandinavian designer. However, it would be silly to disregard the influence that Saarinen’s Scandinavian heritage and upbringing had on his work.
Eero Saarinen’s father, Eliel Saarinen, was a prominent architect, and one of his primary artistic influences. He was also greatly influenced by the work of his mother, Loja Saarinen, who was a noteworthy textile designer.
Saarinen was a colleague of, and friends with, prominent mid-century American designers Charles and Ray Eames. Saarinen collaborated with Charles Eames to design an award-winning collection of chairs that they entered in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1940 competition for Organic Design in Home Furnishings.
Saarinen was also friends with Florence Knoll of Knoll Associates. Knoll produced (and still produces) a number of Saarinen’s furniture designs, including the Womb chair, Executive chair, Tulip chair, Saarinen table and others. Saarinen’s furniture designs remain in high demand now, and are popular with vintage furniture collectors, interior designers and modern design enthusiasts. Knoll credits Saarinen with helping to “establish the reputation and identity of Knoll during its formative years.”
Danish Modern Furniture
Vintage Danish modern furniture is highly collectible. Of particular value are well-crafted pieces made of teak and similar hard woods.
Traditional Scandinavian Motifs
Scandinavian knitting motifs aren’t just for decorating ski sweaters, mittens and woolens. They often find their way into home décor, and might embellish a diversity of home accents including blankets, throws, pillows, tea cozies, table runners and curtain panels. Popular Scandinavian motifs include snowflakes, reindeer, and stars. These motifs consist of at least two colors, and often more, as they can be worked in the colorful fair isle knitting technique.
- At the Vitra Furniture Website: The Verner Panton Chair
- At the Museum of Modern Art Website: Tulip Armchair Model 150
- At the Knoll Furniture Website: Designer Biography of Eero Saarinen and Furniture by Designer Eero Saarinen
- At the Carl Hansen Webiste: Kaare Klint Biography
- At the Kaare Klinte Website: Kaare Klint Biography