Welcome back to Part 2 of the ultimate guide to creating picture perfect Scandinavian, or rather, Nordic, interior design with just the right amount of personality. You’re in for a treat as Part 2 is all about the LIGHTS! I’ll hand you back over to the lovely Eva….
“In Part 1, we explored how ‘that Scandinavian look’, in my opinion, depends on finding that equilibrium between contrasts. However, you can get just about everything from Part 1 right and still destroy it with a bad light-setting. Here is why:
1) Windows and curtains: I guess it is because of the long dark Nordic winters and the rather unstable summer weather. Whatever light or sun is available outside ought to be welcomed into the home! The most obvious way of letting in as much of the light as possible is to use curtains that are in a light colour or white, with discrete or no pattern and often in a lightweight fabric too.
Roll/fold-down curtains are often used too; but in my view, you have to be quite careful to avoid them looking like they belong in the bedroom. In a living/dining room where you do not feel overlooked, you might just do without any curtains at all (in the old days curtains had an insulating effect, but most homes have thermal windows now).
This all has one obvious benefit: if white home-sewn (or IKEA) cotton curtains are perfectly acceptable, you can put your money aside for other investment pieces….
Forget all about dark heavy draped curtains, unless you own a real castle – or really want to make a personal statement in an otherwise very Scandinavian interior. Their nickname alone should scare you off; literally ‘butt-cheek-curtains’ (from the obvious shape of the drapes). Nobody wants meter-high butt-cheeks around their windows, right?
An example of light neutral curtains (from pashionforfashion.dk). Not related to the curtains, but I just spotted this: I have a safari chair exactly like the one in this photo (a Kaare Klint safari chair, designed in 1933, still in production at Rudrasmussen.dk). I inherited it from my grandmother, who bought it – probably with a little financial help from my great-grandmother – sometime in the late 1950s. That’s what I referred to in Part 1 as value-for-money-over-time!
2) Indirect lighting: Bad lighting kills any sense of cosiness… Hanging just one big blinding lamp from the ceiling in a living-room should be banned. And spotlights belong in the kitchen, bathroom and hallways.
While ceiling lamps have a natural place over the dining table, the rest of living/dining rooms should be lit with indirect light from a number of smaller lamps. These are often placed in the window, on side-tables or a shelf, in a way so you are never blinded by the lightbulb. Think about that wonderful indirect light you have in the forest on a sunny summer day. Or maybe it’s about re-creating the warm glow from the open fireplaces that for obvious reasons were the centrepieces of older houses?
The traditional white hand-folded Le Klint lampshades and the 3-in-1 glass/metal PH-lamps are examples of evergreens spotted in almost all Danish homes. The latter was created by Poul Henningsen (1894-1967) back in 1925. His aim was to ‘bend’ the light from the electric bulb, achieving a glare-free uniform light. The most popular PH5 version in metal is from 1958.
As so many other Danes, I grew up with this type PH5 dining table lamp over my family’s dining table (first photo from LouisPoulsen.com). While the ceiling lamp creates functional light over the dining table, it would rarely be lit without remembering the more cosy light from smaller lamps, like on the second photo (from leklint.dk). This is also a good example of how some design pieces are adapted by different generations; my grandmother had the exact same green glass lamp, but she did most certainly not have a Bob Marley poster next to it!
Both Le Klint and PH lamps (and dozens of other lovely examples from Nordic or International designers) might be long-term investments. Many are also design centrepieces; beautiful even when not in use. But the same indirect soft lighting effect can be achieved almost regardless of brand name or price range; you just have to pay attention to it.
My latest ‘investment piece’ was a limited edition of the Louis Poulsen PH-lamp in glass and copper. In the shop it was even displayed up against a turquoise wall (my absolute favourite colour), I was completely sold the minute I saw it! Unfortunately I will have to wait to unpack it until I am back in Copenhagen next year (second photo from LouisPoulsen.com).
3) Candle light: No piece on Nordic style would be complete without mentioning candles. They are the magic ingredient that gives instant ‘hygge’ (cosiness, that homely lovely atmospheric feeling that makes you want to sit down right here and have a good time). If you are lucky enough to have an open fireplace, that is even better, but the rest of us will have to make do with the next best thing.
As a rule of thumb, the low tea-lights belong in window frames, on side/sofa tables placed in small glass, porcelain or metal holders; while the long candles are often placed on the dining table in stylish tall chandeliers. And the candles themselves, if in doubt, just go for the classic un-scented white variety.
I think you would struggle to find a Nordic home without the immensely popular iittala.com Kivi glass tea-light holder. It comes in a wide variety of colours, so fits every mood and style. Another popular stylish classic would be the Kubus candlelight holder (it has already found its way into the home of one Brussels friend). Traditionally it is in black iron, but I adored the new copper version so much… With 4 pretty glass ornaments hanging on it, it doubles up as an easy Christmas Advent calendar (designed by bylassen.com, but photo from septemberblog.dk).
We use candles all the time, in lanterns on the balcony in the summer-twilight and definitely indoors on a dark winter evening. No occasion needed, maybe I just had a long day and want a cup of tea while watching the News, and I would still light a little tea-light.
No dining table is ever complete without candles – that would be like forgetting the plates or napkins. Even at a work-canteen lunch, tea light candles would not feel out of place. Every December the workplace service-men have to send an info-email stating that candle lights are still not allowed in the offices (this we simply ignore or grumpily have to use the fake LED-variety that we would not accept at home!). The ‘calendar candle’ that counts-down from 1 to 24 December is a must in all homes over Christmas. Several of my Brussels friends (including Jill) have taken up this cosy count-down tradition.
The photos above show my family Christmas tree (with the family dog in the photo too, he managed just fine without setting fire to himself or the house). And an example of the calendar candle – it comes in all sizes, designs and qualities (photo from valdemarro.dk).
We also hang small, real candles on the Christmas tree, even when there are kids around. Electric lights are for the garden trees; which by the way also looks lovely. I love Copenhagen in December, full of Christmas fairy lights (mainly the stylish white variety) in all gardens, windows and shopping streets. Candles are even used to celebrate the end of the Second World War, at least in Denmark. No need for fireworks or military parades; on the evening of 4 May candles are traditionally placed in the windows of most homes as a symbolic commemoration of the end of ‘five dark years’.
And the fact that candles are not terribly environmentally friendly? Let’s not talk about that….
Well, that’s all from me. I hope I have explained away some stereotypes, whilst providing you with a little Nordic/Scandinavian inspiration and I hope that you will enjoy the continuous development of your own home!”
So, how have you enjoyed Part 2 of the Definitive Guide to Scandinavian interiors? I love it and have learned so much from Eva and her impressive sense of style. I think she should contribute more regularly to the blog – let me know if you agree and we can
bully encourage her into sharing more of her insights with us (maybe even some shots of her own home….?)
Happy travels, and shopping