Scandinavian design, at its most classic, is typified by the use of natural materials, light or pale colors, clean lines and shapes and functionality. In a region that battles with long nights, the light colors take full advantage of what little daylight does cut through — and wood is a far better insulator than sheet metal.
But, once we look beyond Ikea, what do we see? Who is pushing the West’s most popular design style into the future? Let these five design firms lead the way.
Easily the biggest, best-known design outlet on this list has been at the forefront of contemporary Scandinavian design since its founding in 2002. Ever-colorful, Hay nods to its roots through poppy colors and a simple, clean-lined approach. The brand, however, is not bound by the restrictions of the region’s past — a look through its catalog and you’ll see cast-iron lamps and an upholstered chair that calls to classic Japanese design, and tips its cap to one very famous egg-like chair.
Ferm largely does away with bright hues, leaning into color and material contrast in place of lightness — matte plant boxes for glossy green plants, a metal chair with cozy upholstery and an oak veneer, a birchwood document organizer. You won’t see the vibrant colors of Hay, but the comination of mixing materials, finishes and shapes aims to serve the same purpose. Ferm’s catalog takes the traditional aesthetic of Scandinavian design and brings it to the present in a quieter manner.
A recently released collection of furniture and accessories caused Northern to drop the “Lighting” off its name, but even if the Norweigan brand was still only making lamps, they’d have made this list. Northern’s small but growing catalog is quite diverse for its size — few items would be easily grouped together in any natural way. But that’s what makes it different — the brand isn’t all clean lines and matte finishes. Highlights include a chrome-covered bar cart, a very pretty ’70s styled mini media console and one of the prettiest wooden chairs ever made.
Few nuovo-Nordic brands so precisely express forward-thinking Scandinavian design more than Muuto, whose name literally means “new perspective” in Finnish. Muuto aims at a combination of clean lines, craftsmanship and functionality with fresh materials. Expect plenty of powder-coated, lightweight metal frames, waxed wood, contemporary textiles and, like others on this list, Nordic-Japanese hybrids (like this handsome drink tray).
Despite a name that suggests kitsch, Fjordfiesta’s foundation lies firmly in classically Nordic material use — just with a distinct twist in shape. Nearly every product features wood in some way, with most being made entirely of it. You won’t find slats and clean lines, however. Passive ergonomics prevail through its collection of tables, chairs, benches and more.