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Design Diary: The real Scandinavian chic

Brutal as it may sound, there is so much more to Scandinavian design than Ikea. It’s time you knew about it

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Known for clean lines, sumptuous curves, an almost monochrome palette and an inherent respect for natural elements, Scandinavian design — originating from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland — has a knack for delivering maximum style with minimum fuss.

On the heels of the Second World War, the fresh palette of the Scandinavian style that first debuted at the 1947 edition of the Triennale di Milano offered stark contrast to the nautical leanings of the neo-American aesthetic and the pompousness of European offerings. As we settled into the new world order, it offered calm and simplicity, signalling a fresh start.

Life in the harsh Nordic climes — with long winters and shorter daylight — inspired the design school that shunned opulence for sensibility, dark for light, and patterns for textural depths. The result is an ever-rising appeal that has buckled many a trends, even the indignation of mass-production, whilst seamlessly combining beauty with practicality.

Its cornerstone — a pared down aesthetic where function takes precedence — is borrowed from the Bauhaus movement, and while it has always been a beloved in design circles (honestly, I can’t get enough of the classic 1950s and 1960s Scandinavian chairs: Google Arne Jacobsen’s Egg and Eero Saarinen’s Tulip), the public’s growing interest in Scandinavian design is fuelled in equal measure by popular culture schemers — sets for movies and TV, fashion glossies and art — and big-name brands rejuvenating their product lines with new materiality and high-profile collaborations that appeal to a contemporary audience.

Regionally, Scandinavian design has seen a surge in popularity at the hands of interior stylist and Instagrammer extraordinaire, Linda Dekkers (@liveloudgirl), the multi-brand haven of Scandi goodness D.tales and Downtown Design, the annual international design fair. Against our sweltering climate and a general predisposition for the excessive, Scandinavian design offers a new approach to better living. Here are some the most coveted Scandinavian brands worth that plane ticket.

MUUTO

Derived from the Finnish word for a new perspective, Muuto is a hundred per cent true to its name. With its colourful approach to a moody, monochromatic palette that one usually associates with Scandinavian design, it is the gatekeeper of New Nordic style. The secret to its sustained success is its hand-picked roster of leading designers who deliver a bold take on Scandinavian chic, while eulogising its basic premise of craftsmanship and authenticity of form.

STRING

If Scandinavian design were to be defined by a singular iconic piece, it would be a humble system of shelves. The result of a competition announced by Sweden’s largest publishing house, Bonnier, in 1949 and designed by the Swedish architect and designer Nisse Strinning, the String shelf system had all the makings of a Swedish classic — easy to flat pack, easy to transport and just as easy to assemble. Since then, the brand has continuously evolved; their portfolio now offers smart and stylish solutions for the living room, kitchen and office. While adding to the colours and material palette, the brand remains singularly Swedish.

MENU

The brand intent on infusing urban energy into the Scandinavian ethos is committed to preserving skills while creating the best modern design. Their trademark crisp look is thanks to the highest order of naturally available materials honed by detail obsessed designers and craftsmen. Be it the naked elegance of an armchair — its wooden structure and leather exposed, not concealed — or a mouth-blown glass vase, the good people at Menu strive to create stunning design moments for everyday living.

FERM LIVING

What started on the back of a few wall covering designs in 2006 is today a one-stop solution for the discerning aesthete. In accordance with its Scandinavian heritage, the brand revels in contemporary designs with a touch of mid-century charm. From interior accessories and furniture to lighting, the brand offers a luxe design with a conscience — think of clean, real commodities with a minimal impact on the environment.

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