Sweden and Interior Design

The Swedish home.

Sweden, and the Nordic countries in general, are quite known for their interior design aesthetic. I’d classify classic Swedish interior design into two different camps:

  1. Sleek and Modern – Crisp white lines, graphic posters on the walls, and retro lamps and clocks. Lots of clear glass and white or black porcelain. In fact, everything is either white or black with just a pop of metallic silver or gold. This Swedish aesthetic is also known for its clutter-free look. Imagine of just one or two items visible on a side table. We might call it minimal. The Swedes call it lagom. Either way, it makes cleaning easy!
  2. Back to Nature – Think natural materials and textures – wool blankets, wooden decorations, metal candle holders, sheepskin rugs, and plants everywhere. A level of earthiness that adds character and comfort. Soft lighting, preferably from candles and a fireplace. A handmade trasmatta (rag rug) on the floor. More books than electronic gadgets and probably a katt basking in the sunshine. Oh, there always seems to be the scent of kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) baking in the oven. This design aesthetic will take you right back to a more humble time.

You can’t go wrong with either aesthetic – both are Pinterest-perfect and #scandivibes. And the Swedish home is often a well-balanced play between designer and homemade pieces. And Swedes love a good flea market find! Search for a local loppis (short for loppmarknad, or flea market) to find some hidden treasures. Not only does this help keep your home looking unique, it also is better for the environment.

Want to make your own home a little more Swedish? Here are items you’ll find in most Swedish homes:

  • A Marshall stereo – I don’t know what it is about these British stereos, but you’ll find one in many Swedish households. Perhaps it is the upscale look?
  • An IKEA Billy bokhylla – This bookshelf is a staple throughout Sweden. With its low cost and simple design, it is easy to see why.
  • String shelving system – And speaking of shelves, the Swedes also love designers Nisse and Kajsa Strinning’s 1949 system. This modular shelving systems allows for flexibility and easy rearrangement. They are simple and beautiful, and remind me of the Poul Cadovius Cado unit we have in our living room (though he was a Danish designer).
  • A smörkniv – A Swedish breakfast table isn’t complete without a smörkniv, a wooden butter knife. Most Swedish households have a homemade smörkniv as the kids here often make them in school. If you are living outside of Sweden, head to your local IKEA to get your hands on one.

Fun Facts:

  • The trasmatta (rag rug) is a staple in most Swedish homes. It is made of scrap or recycled pieces of fabric and is woven together on a floor loom. It is now seen as a symbol of a down-to-earth home. However, in the early 1800s cloth was in high-demand for the printing press and rugs became a symbol of wealth as only the über-rich could afford cloth that would just sit on the floor. When the production process of paper mills changed in the mid-1800s, cloth became more affordable and the rag rug made its way into the homes of humble farmers.
  • It was a competition to get Swedes to read more in 1949 that sparked architects Nisse and Kajsa Strinning to create the iconic String shelves. The competition, hosted by local publisher Bonnier, aimed to provide Swedes with more practical shelving to encourage them to buy more books. Now that is a competition I can get behind!
  • Swedes are tied for second place for most square meters per resident in Europe with an average of 44 m2. Denmark is first at 51 m2 and the UK is tied with Sweden.

Tess’ Tips:

Having lived in Sweden since 2018, I’ve now been in my fair share of Swedish homes and have frequented many home goods stores. After taking many mental pictures and saving my kronor ($$$), I’ve built up a collection of things I love having in my Swedish home:

  • Sheepskins – I was a little turned off having sheep skin roaming throughout my home at first, but now I am totally in love with them. Sheepskins add such a mysigt (cozy) feel to my home. In the winter months particularly they are so warm and homey. And they make our Ray and Charles Eames Side Chairs more comfortable to sit in during a lazy breakfast or a game night with friends. Do your research and find a good, ethical, and local supplier. We bought ours from our local farmer’s market (Reko Ring). Christmas markets are also a great place to find them! Be prepared to pay at least $100 per sheepskin.
  • Klong’s Gloria candle – This halo-shaped candle holder is one of my favorite pieces in my Swedish home. It is elegant, yet simple. Luxurious, yet understated. Perfect for the holiday season, though I leave it out year round.
  • Moccamaster – The Moccamaster is a Dutch coffee maker that offers excellent design in a fun range of colors. The quality is high and the speed is fast (10 cups in 60 seconds!). Perfect for hosting coffee-obsessed Swedes!

Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!

7 thoughts on “Sweden and Interior Design

  1. I always enjoy reading your posts! Your phrase “coffee obsessed Swedes” made me laugh. My Swedish grandpa, Emil, used to say coffee was “Swedish gasoline.” 🤣
    I still remember walking into their house as a little girl and smelling the coffee from their percolator. ☕️And my grandma would make cardamom bread🥰🥰…another delicious smell!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m looking around my home now and thinking it’s a far different esthetic from the two Swedish approaches you detailed. Far more crowded but also filled with my personal treasures. And, always fresh flowers! But, perhaps a little editing will be helpful…. 😁

    Thanks for the design post, Tess!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Sweden and Architectural Design | Sweden and Me

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