Minimalist Design, Danish Style

Vases from Illums Bolighus, Copenhagen

Vases from Illums Bolighus, Copenhagen

This past weekend my husband and I visited Copenhagen, an incredibly beautiful city. It was also incredibly cold, so in order to keep warm, we spent more time than usual going in and out of shops.

We had a wonderful time browsing the local housewares and furnishings stores. We’ve always been drawn to the Danish design aesthetic, as we find its clean lines and simple forms quite appealing. We’ve been using simple glass Bodum coffee mugs for years, and our former sofa (currently in storage back in the States) was made by a small Danish company.

What I particularly like about Danish design is that while it’s minimal, it would never be considered cold or sterile. Danish interiors are often spare, yet still manage to be warm, inviting, and interesting. I thought it’d be a great opportunity to pick up some home décor tips! To that end, I observed how the Danes use the following elements to create beautiful, minimalist spaces:

1. Natural materials. Almost everywhere we went, we noticed the incorporation of wood into the furnishings or room itself. (Even the airport terminal had wood floors, and the train station had a gorgeous beamed ceiling.) Whether it was a sofa, coffee table, or an entire room, a touch of wood gave warmth and texture to the streamlined designs.

2. Light. Window coverings seem to be kept to a minimum, in order to maximize natural light. Cafes and restaurants invariably had simple votive candles flickering on every table, giving the interiors a warm, magical feel with a minimum amount of décor.

3. White. White walls, combined with lots of natural light, made the interior spaces feel light, airy, and spacious. Many of the textiles and ceramics we saw were also ivory or white.

4. Whimsy. Splashes of color, or simple decorative motifs, gave a sense of interest and fun to many of the housewares and interiors we saw. These little touches kept the minimalist aesthetic from being too sterile or serious.

5. Celebration of form. The shape of each vase, bowl, cup, table, or chair seemed to celebrate the item’s function. I imagine that using them would bring a particular mindfulness to the activity in which you’re engaged (be it eating a bowl of soup, drinking a cup of coffee, or arranging flowers in a vase).

While we didn’t purchase anything, we greatly enjoyed the education, and will try to incorporate some of the above principles into our own home. Even though we’re minimalists, we appreciate beautiful design and enjoy creating an environment that’s visually appealing.

If you’re interested in learning more about Danish (and Scandinavian) interiors, I found the following books on Amazon (see if your local library has them!). They’re cheaper than a plane ticket to Denmark. :-)

Does anyone else appreciate Danish/Scandinavian design, or have any other tips for beautifying spare spaces?

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Related posts:

  1. Minimalist Design: White Floors
  2. Minimalist Flooring: Carpet Tiles

22 comments to Minimalist Design, Danish Style

  • I love Scandinavian design, in all forms, but especially in the bedroom. Typically, only a duvet cover is used, rather than a full set of sheets, and I like how their beds are often close to the floor, on a simple platform. Without the traditional headboard/footboard, I find it more streamlined and pleasing to the eye.

    Really love this post, especially as I move to my apartment in 2 months. Although I’m a die-hard minimalist, I want to bring some warmth into my new home, too. The idea of natural fibers and celebrating form are two things I’ll keep in mind as I do this.

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks for your comment, Sunny! I’m with you re. a streamlined bed. In our former house, DH built a low platform for our futon mattress and it looked great (though we’re perfectly happy with a futon on the floor now!).

      I hope you’ll blog about your new apartment (and minimalist decor)! I’d love to hear all about it. :-)

  • Meg

    How fun to travel and see how other cultures have incorporated simplistic design. I’m totally in love with Bodum – my hubby and I use their French press and have never had such great coffee. Love the glass mugs and teacups, too. I like a touch of vintage married with my version of minimalism, so I’m more in love with the Shakers than the Scandinavians, but both cultures use lots of warm woods. Our wood floors are so beautiful I don’t like to cover them with rugs. :)

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Meg! We replaced our coffee maker with the French press too, and love it.

      I like the idea of incorporating vintage pieces into a minimalist household. I think a few well-chosen antiques, highlighted in an otherwise spare room, would look gorgeous.

  • Sara

    I love Nordic designs. We have a shop in Sydney called “Nordic Fusion” which has great products from the north. Beautiful earrings, shoes, crockery and other stuff. There is a beautiful brand of jewellery called Scherning, which look like the jewellery version of the vases you show above. If your interested their website is: http://www.nordicfusion.com.au.

    I once saw a photo spread on Helena Christensens house in Copenhagen, and it was beautiful. Lovely prints, but lots of space and light.

    Thanks for your great posts.

    Sara

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks for the link, Sara! I saw something very similar to the Scherning jewelry while in Copenhagen, but it was by Anne Black:

      http://www.danishceramics.com/smykker/oerenringe/anne-black-flower

      It took a lot of willpower to resist those sweet little earrings–although they do take up less space than shoes or handbags. :-)

      • Sara

        Thank you Miss Minimalist.

        Oh my, those Anne Black designs are divine. How on earth did you stop yourself from buying any? You must have great will power and/or a great set of existing earrings. Did you buy anything on your trip?

        There are some great designs coming from the north, have you heard of Odd Molly and Rosemunde?

        I love the simplicity and earthiness of the nordic world.

        Sara

        • miss minimalist

          Sara, I didn’t buy anything, but it wasn’t easy–especially considering it was my birthday and my husband kept encouraging me to “pick something out.” But the trip itself was the best gift ever–nothing else needed! :-)

          I haven’t heard of those designers, but I’ll google them (like there’s not enough temptation here in London… ;-) ).

  • Frances

    I am certainly with you on the idea of having blinds rather than curtains which to me are just dust attracters as well as blocking out the light. I once rented a little cottage in Shropshire for a holiday and unfortunately it had those “elephants knickers” blinds which blocked half what little light there was. Every day I had to resist the temptation to take the blinds down! Truly horrid. Congratulations on the willpower by the way! Dont think I would have done as well.

  • Aurora

    If you want ideas for Scandinavian design, I commend Elizabeth Gaynor’s Scandinavia Living Design and Finland Living Design to your attention. Lots of lovely minimalist homes and details featured, and the photos are so lush! You can find them at your local library or through interlibrary loan- one of my tips for being minimalist and saving money is Ye Olde Public Library. I do buy, but only if I’m really going to reread it a lot.

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks for the recommendation, Aurora! I will definitely look for this at my local library (I love browsing through such books, but don’t like to own them!).

  • Heather

    Lovely inspiration. My look leans toward a pared down beach look but is similiar in I like simple white or grey or washed out furniture design. I look for simple lines and everything that is in a room is condisered part of the decor. We have plantation shutters, which work for me because we don’t need curtains and they add a texture to the wall. We can open them all the way or open the slats in each individual panel. What I have learned, no matter what style you choose, texture is very important in taking something from bland to oh la la!!! : )

  • Being from Finland, I think this style of decor is in my blood ;)
    I definitely love the use of wood and other natural materials, light, functional and comfortable (and sparse) furniture… The Shaker and Scandinavian modern design are often quite alike. Modest, simple, inviting. Though the inherited rococo sofa will have to fit in there somewhere… ;)

  • jack wieland

    Have tumbled into your site searching for interior designers specializing in danish modern design. i live in atlanta, but would consider someone from the east coast or a two hour flight. any thoughts? thanks.

  • smiling eyes

    I am Danish and a huge fan of Scandinavian design. We have wooden floors in most of our house (tiles in kitchen and bathroom). I love wooden floors – it makes a room more serene. We havent got any carpets at all. We havent got a lot of furniture, but the furniture we have is mostly made out of wood: coffee table, dining table ect. I would however like to live with even less furniture – I am working on it.
    Since the winter here is long and dark we try to let as much sunlight in as possible, so we havent got heavy curtains or other window treatments.
    Love Anette from Denmark

  • [...] Minimalist Design, Danish Style: This past weekend my husband and I visited Copenhagen, an incredibly beautiful city. It was also incredibly cold, so in order to keep warm, we spent more time than usual going in and out of shops. We had a wonderful time browsing the local housewares and furnishings stores. We’ve always been drawn to the Danish design aesthetic, as we find its clean lines and simple forms quite appealing. We’ve been using simple glass Bodum coffee mugs for years, and our former sofa (currently in storage back in the States) was made by a small Danish company…{read more} [...]

  • Cynthia

    I love Danish design. Oprah has a video online in where she tours a danish women’s home (and offending her simplicity but the danish lady handles it gracefully). Google interior danish homes and you’ll find it. I love the look and am happy to read they use wood for a warm look. I use 3 rules for decorating my house; it has to be simple (minimalist), the things I do have have to have beauty and the rooms have to be cozy. Sometimes the simple and cozy compete but cozy doesn’t mean clutter. And wood definitely adds warmth. Another rule I use are the “2 P’s”; things have to be pretty and practical. Aestetics are very important to me and so is practicality. I know the danish design has inspired me a lot and was so pleased to see this article. Now I know I’m not the only one who thinks outside the box and borrows european ways.
    Thanks for the article and this website!

  • Caroline

    The reason I like the movie “Munich” is for the decor. And the houseboat in particular blew me away. I wish I could find stills of it on the internet…

  • My first encounter with minimalism was in Copenhagen. I went to visit a friend of my brother’s while I was living in Europe. When I used to go to Scandinavian furniture stores in the U.S. I remember thinking that it looked a bit spartan. I mean, surely it’s just a store! People wouldn’t actually *live* with just a few things in an empty room, right. I remember showing up in their flat and, yup, people would actually live with just a few things in a basically empty room. I mean each wall had like one thing and otherwise it looked empty. I said “you don’t even have books?!” (it’s a tradition in my family to line rooms with bookshelves and fill them with books). They said “we go to the library”. I remember that their flat was so old that it didn’t have a tub or shower. They had something I’ve never seen in the U.S.: a fold-up shower stall on wheels. When you want to use it, you plug one tube into the sink which goes to the top and another from the drain at the bottom which goes back to the sink (was there a pump to get the water back up? maybe). I’m still amazed: I mean, they didn’t even seem to have food. Just a chair and a table and a shower stall. Anyway, I may move to Manhattan soon and if I do I’m going to try owning a futon and a chair and a dresser and nothing else. Well, ok, and a set of dishes for two people and nothing else. Maybe a desk. Might need some curtains so I can sleep at night. Uh oh.

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