Many people are still not quite sure exactly why Swedish furniture and décor distributor Ikea is such a popular, trendy, and successful business. The clean lines and sharp edges might look appealing, but where did this minimalist design come from, and why have furniture manufacturers all across the world begun to churn out their own takes on European-style furniture?
Furniture and interior design echo the art movements of a cultural period, which, of course, are simply the creator’s response to current social and political climate. By the early 20th century, many designers in Northern Europe had embraced a luxurious, commanding design style, with heavy wooden furniture as the norm for a high-class household. This eventually gave way to a more neutral color scheme and more slender furniture. The countries in the region known as “Scandinavia,” including Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, and of course Sweden, spearheaded this new movement. Bulky dark furniture gave way to more sleek, minimalist designs, which were meant to be highly functional and clean. This movement allowed homes to feel more spacious during the cold Scandinavian winters, and so an emphasis on natural lighting emerged to complement the more open spaces that these more lightweight, effective pieces offered.
The whole idea of this “modern Nordic” aesthetic is to perform only those tasks which are needed, leaving the residents more room to express themselves through décor and empty space. Walk into any Scandinavian furniture store and you’re sure to see glossy plastics, straight angles, and practicality in nearly every piece. Eventually, as the decades went on, mixed materials became incorporated into this design. Solid colors made way for contrasting pieces, sculptural decorations with geometric shapes and bold colors became welcome accents, and there were more options for seats and footstools including curved, fitted shapes.
The minimalism and open light design of Northern European furniture and interior design inspired a series of other furniture trends, including mid-century modern and true contemporary design. The Scandinavian design is even making a mark on architecture and landscaping in addition to the furniture items and decorations that people can set up in their home. It’s not always possible to change the structural elements of your home once you’ve settled in, but smaller projects are possible, such as installing different windows, changing the flooring, or even simply repainting the walls. In any case, the Scandinavian design is all about light, space, comfort, and functionality without any unnecessary additives, so all it takes is some imagination to create your own modern European paradise in the limited space you have. Glass decorations and neutral-colored area rugs can help brighten a poorly-lit home, for example.
As part of the Northern European mission was to replace those old-fashioned ostentatious pieces with more graceful, inviting designs, you might not be too surprised to learn that the widespread success of Scandinavian designers like Ikea is helping the design to fulfill its original function: make comfortable furniture accessible to everyone! It might seem like modern European-style furniture is a passing trend that distributors everywhere are capitalizing on while it’s still popular, but the fact is, true Nordic-style designs are not trying to become famous for the sake of recognition. Good Northern European creators know that if a piece of furniture – a chair, a table – is necessary, then somebody will buy it. And in that case, producing quality, simple, and functional furniture is a necessity.
Now that you know what you know about the history of Scandinavian furniture, all that’s left to do is assess its impact. Do you think you’re likely to go buy some new decorations for yourself, or even begin the process of switching your entire aesthetic to Nordic-inspired? Let us know!