Scandinavian design – so lovely it takes your mind off murder

Entire magazine articles have been given over to tracking down the interior design wonders from Borgen

A scene from  the Scandi-noir TV series The Bridge

A scene from the Scandi-noir TV series The Bridge

 

While Scandinavia is exotic to us, it’s not tropical-cocktail exotic. Despite the fact that when they’re speaking they sound as if they’re just about to get sick, and their sense of froideur (would you be any different if you spent nine months out of every 12 perpetually freezing) can be difficult to navigate, we share many similarities: a tendency to reach for the booze to either celebrate or commiserate, or just because it’s there, and an over-reliance on shapeless woollen wear to hide our hideous bodily truth from the world.

From a part of Europe previously known only for eating raw herring, Abba, and where Santa lives, Scandinavian design is now to be found as much in Manhattan lofts as in your bijou telephone box one-bedroomed in Ranelagh.

It’s not just the haughty beauty of the design, it’s the simplicity and utility of it. Lines are clean, colours are muted and there’s function to match the form. Simple style statements – “Go monochrome or die!” – appeal to the permanently indecisive, and if you thought slate grey was a boring colour, look at what our friends up north can do with it.

And while it does help to have high cheekbones to accessorise with your Poul Henningsen artichoke lamp, such is the sway of these coldly sleek designs that it was BBC4 Scandi-noir Saturday night TV that brought Scandinavian interior design to a wider international audience. A child may have been abducted, a woman may be getting sawn in two, but did you see the marble coffee table when she went to answer the telephone?

Apple lamp

The success of shows such as The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge led many people to completely discount the narrative richness of the characters and plotlines and instead put up screenshots of the modernist half-peeled apple lamp prime minister Birgitte Nyborg has hanging in her kitchen, with the plaintive request: “Where can I buy this tomorrow at 9am?”

The answer is to be found by searching through Danish designer Tom Rossau’s beautiful lights, at your leisure.

Entire web pages and magazine articles were given over to tracking down the interior design wonders from Borgen and The Bridge – and if the original was found to run into the thousands price wise, links were put up to good replicas of same.

The appeal is obvious: Scandinavian design is heavily influenced by the natural environment. There’s a lot of copper and wood going on, but the alchemy here is in transforming such sturdy materials into mini works of art.

Neutral backdrops provide the canvas for Scandi design. Greys and whites create the clean look to allow the furniture little background distraction. The simple lines and use of organic materials also help create a smooth flow.

The reason lighting is so crucial in Scandi design is because the people spend so much of their time in darkness, with their September-April winter months.

And precisely because Scandinavians spend so much more time indoors, they want to be among beautiful things.

On any given Sunday, twice as many Irish people visit a branch of Ikea as go to Mass. It is no coincidence that the company began in a deprived area of southern Sweden where the people, according to Ikea’s founder, are “stubborn, cost-conscious and ingenious at making a living with very little”.

Of the company’s core values: form, function, quality and low price, they very much put the emphasis on the latter, and there doesn’t exist an adult who has bought something they have absolutely zero need for in Ikea, but purchased it anyway “because it looked nice”.

Whether mass-market or niche, top-end that’s the USP of Scandi design. With online articles entitled “Top 10 Tips for Creating a Scandinavian Interior” now elbowing each other out of the way for Google hits and with names such as Brita Sweden, Marimekko, Nordic Nest and Klippan Yllefabrik now attracting browsing eyes worldwide, being mad enough to take a photograph of the television when Birgitte Nyborg’s kitchen light comes into view is becoming the new normal.

Full tactile experience

Close to home, the Nordic Makers shop in Dún Laoghaire ( nordicmakers.com) will give you the full tactile experience of Scandi design. The white space shop features works by established designers as well as those just coming through.

Dubbed “perfect porn for interior designers”, the 700-plus pages that make up the book Scandinavian Design, by Charlotte and Peter Fiell, is your perfect background reading matter here. The authors wanted to illustrate the “marriage of beautiful organic forms with everyday functionality”. The book doesn’t actually tell you to “Go Monochrome or Die!” but the suggestion lingers afterwards . . .

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