Two tone cabinet finishes can be found in Scandinavian style kitchens

Get a Scandinavian Style Kitchen

When you hear the words “Scandinavian kitchen”, you probably think of “less is more”. And that’s not wrong, but there’s so much more to today’s Scandinavian style. Scandi style starts out as basic minimalism, then adds warmth to its practical design. The result is a light, open, livable space that’s simple and functional and accessible to everyone, no matter their style preference.

What’s the Story behind Scandinavian Style? Why Is It so Popular?

Scandinavian design came from Nordic country traditions. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland – the Nordic countries — prioritize efficiency and functionality, and these traits are found in their homes. The Nordic design finds the balance between functionality and beauty.

Scandinavians also deeply value nature and spending time outdoors, something that is also reflected in this style. Scandi style has become very popular in the US, thanks in part to the Swedish company, IKEA, that opened its first retail store here in 1985. People fell in love with the modern, simple designs and wanted the company’s signature look in their homes.

Scandi Style in the Kitchen

Simplicity, minimalism and functionality, the key characteristics of Scandi style, work especially well in the kitchen, where function and practicality are essential.  

Since Scandi style adapts very well to everyday living, an entire kitchen design style has evolved around it. The Swedish-inspired kitchen with clean lines, bright whites, warm wood, lots of light, natural elements and metallic accents is now popular in modern American homes. 

When you choose Scandinavian style for your remodeled kitchen, you’ll get simple lines, but it’s not boring. The Scandinavian style is much more than just white walls and wooden floors. Part of what makes it so pleasing is its lack of clutter. You won’t find any unnecessary items in a Scandinavian-style kitchen. Everything has its place.

Specifics of a Scandinavian Style Kitchen

When it comes to kitchens, creating a Scandinavian-inspired space involves warm wood in the flooring, bright whites on the walls and cabinets (although warm woods work here as well), natural elements, lots of light and simple lines.

Scandinavian design is characterized by its clean lines, simplicity and minimalism. However, don’t think that minimal used here means cold. Thanks to lots of light and the use of wood and other natural materials, Scandi style kitchens are filled with warmth, which has contributed to their popularity.

Let’s look at the individual elements that make up a Scandinavian style kitchen.

1. The Color White

The color white comes to mind right away when we think of Scandinavian style. And it’s true – Scandi style kitchens always include white as the dominate color. White brightens the space, something very important during the winters that Nordic countries experience. Homeowners want their kitchens to be bright, light and cheerful, a refuge from their long, dark winters.  

Since white is already a popular color when it comes to kitchen design, most everyone will be happy with this color in their new kitchens.

However, the style is not completely lacking in color. It’s dominated by white and natural-toned woods, yes.  However, in addition to white, blue is a popular color in Scandi-inspired spaces.  Dark blue, icy blue, dark green and moss or sage green bring the colors of nature into the kitchen.

Note:  Just because your kitchen is white doesn’t automatically make it “Scandinavian”. For a true Scandinavian kitchen design, you need soft wood tones, lots of natural light that does away with dark corners and a hint of color to achieve the look.

Beyond white and nature-inspired colors, the Scandinavian kitchen can include black painted cabinets that bring the drama.

2. Wooden floors

Wooden floors, especially light woods like beech, ash, pine or even teak add warmth and texture to your kitchen. Wood floors tend to remain uncovered. Unlike American homes, carpets are rarely seen inside a Nordic home.

Wooden floors are practical, and their natural, untreated look is much more in keeping with Scandinavian style. In fact, wood finishes are a key part of creating an authentic Scandinavian kitchen.

3. In Touch with the Outdoors

Scandinavians have an innate love of the natural world. It’s in their DNA. From hiking to skiing, they spend as much time outdoors as they can. Thus, it’s no surprise to see this love reflected inside their homes, especially the kitchen.

House plants are a great way to bring the outdoors in and soften the spare lines. We already mentioned the use of nature inspired colors, the blues and greens. Another nod to nature that’s typical of Scandinavian style is the use of wood. Oak, maple and pine with a natural stain to bring out their true colors, are all ideal additions for Scandinavian style in a modern space.

4. Lighting

Lighting is an important component of the Scandinavian kitchen. Large windows are a trademark feature of this style. The more natural light you can let in, the better, since most Nordic homes only see daylight for about seven hours a day. Natural lighting is a must and features prominently in a Scandi style kitchen.

When it comes to choosing electric lights for your Scandi kitchen, pendant lights and warm ambient light will create the ideal setting. Pendant lights over the kitchen island will cast a cozy glow. Plus, pendant lights give you the chance to add a metallic accent to your Scandi kitchen. Metallic accents are part of the style, and hanging lights in your kitchen give your kitchen character.

5. Kitchen Layout = Family Togetherness

You will want an open plan kitchen with plenty of space for your family to gather. Gathering together for meals as a family is incredibly important in Scandinavian culture. A dining area or breakfast bar will ensure the kitchen is the heart of your home.

6. Metallic Accents

By pairing your white walls and white cabinets with metallic accents, you can add warmth to your new kitchen.  Metallic accents – especially copper – will add warmth to a minimal white color scheme. But chrome, gold, steel bring some shine to your Scandinavian kitchen. In this photo, the copper pendant is a showstopper.

7. Clever Storage to Control Clutter

As we’ve said, Scandi kitchens are known for their spare, clean lines. However, you can’t get this look without clever storage solutions that get the “stuff” off your countertops and into the cabinets.

(We’ve written articles about storage solutions. You can read more about our recommendations here. )

Your kitchen designer will help you create functional and practical storage so you can have a clutter-free environment. Floating shelves or open shelves are commonly used in a Scandi-kitchen rather than having closed up wall cabinets. The shelves create a more open feel to the space and provide casual storage for everyday items, like plates, bowls, cups and other frequently used items.

In the photo above, a wall mounted rack provides a place to hang utensils and keep them off the countertops.

8. Scandi Style Cabinetry

Cabinetry that features clean lines and smooth, rounded edges help create the Scandi look. Plus, their cabinets typically resemble chic, modern furniture.

The door style should be simple, a slab or flat panel door with no ornamentation. The Shaker cabinet style is ideal. With its plain, five-piece flat panel doors, it fits perfectly with the minimalist Scandi style.

Tell your kitchen designer you want frameless cabinet construction. (If you’re not sure what that means, we wrote an article that goes into detail.) Frameless or full access cabinets are sometimes called European cabinets because it’s the dominate cabinet style there. Frameless cabinets are ideal for a new Scandinavian style kitchen because not only do you get some additional internal storage space, you’ll also get the continuous, smooth run of cabinets that create the minimalism you’re going for.  

9. Cabinet Finishes

If you’re not sure you want all white cabinets, some Scandi kitchens include two-toned cabinets with white on the top and light stained bases. You can also get an island in a different finish from your perimeter cabinets. And as we said above, black is often used in the Scandinavian kitchen as a contrast to the all-white look.

Matte finishes lend themselves well to the Scandi style, as they tend to be more understated than high-gloss.

Another way to break up the all-white kitchen is to have one or two accent cabinet doors in a contrasting color or material. Or include one with a plain glass door. Or you might decide on a modern aluminum-framed cabinet door as a way to add some metallics to your new kitchen.

10. No Hardware?

You won’t find decorative pulls and handles in a true Scandinavian kitchen. The idea is that your kitchen is a continuous, uninterrupted line, so choose push-to-open latches to create this sleek effect.

11. Cozy Minimalism

Minimalism is often thought of as unadorned and bare and nothing-but-the-basics, but that’s not the case with the Scandinavian style kitchen. Scandinavians hate clutter, that’s true. They much prefer warm and inviting over cold and stark. This mindset ties in with the hygge craze, and its philosophy of creating a cozy environment while keeping things simple.

Scandi Style Kitchen Costs Less

Scandinavian style has gained popularity because it’s easy to create a lovely modern kitchen for less money than more complex design styles. Popular Scandinavian kitchen elements like Shaker cabinets with frameless construction are less costly than most other modern kitchen materials.

Traditional Scandinavian style is simple and cheerful and very achievable for most any budget.

Conclusion

When it comes to streamlined, uncluttered kitchen design, nobody does it better than the Scandinavians. With their sleek surfaces, clever storage and simple color palette, Scandi style kitchens appear bright, light and super stylish. Thanks to IKEA, Americans have embraced the Scandinavian style for their homes, specifically their kitchens where simplicity and practicality are essential.

Sources for this article and for additional reading

The Spruce | Scandinavian Kitchens

Life in Norway magazine


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