Tra­di­tion­ally, Scan­di­na­vian decor has been light and white, but in re­cent years, pale shades have been in­creas­ingly re­placed with stronger, bolder hues in a va­ri­ety of ex­cit­ing com­bi­na­tions. Au­thor of ‘New Nordic Colour’, An­to­nia Af Petersens, ex­plains wh

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Colour -

To many of us, the term ‘Nordic colour’ may seem like some­thing of a con­tra­dic­tion in terms. The quintessen­tial Nordic home is not known for its vi­brant use of colour. In­stead, the clas­sic Scandi look, as seen in in­te­ri­ors mag­a­zines and Nordic Noir TV se­ries, por­trays white walls and floors, black-framed win­dows, taste­ful mono­chrome prints on the walls and a smat­ter­ing of leafy house­plants.

The geo­graph­i­cal po­si­tion of the Nordic re­gion re­sults in strik­ing sea­sonal vari­a­tions – long days that stretch into light evenings in the sum­mer, and al­most never-end­ing dark­ness and cold dur­ing au­tumn and win­ter months. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions dic­tate how peo­ple work, play and live in the re­gion, and the scant day­light dur­ing the win­ter is the main rea­son that Scan­di­na­vians con­stantly seek light, bright­ness and warmth.

How­ever, in re­cent years, some­thing has changed. The Nordic colour pal­ette is mov­ing away from cool whites and pale greys, and stronger hues are mak­ing an ap­pear­ance. The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is that white walls have been re­placed with more colour­ful shades, but it is also pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine three dif­fer­ent strands within this new ap­proach: bold ac­cents, ma­jes­tic pas­tels and dark eclectic. Here, we ex­plore these new pal­ettes fur­ther and discover how to em­brace mod­ern colour the Nordic way. ➤


This pal­ette pro­vides va­ri­ety and choice. Pale or white walls may re­main in some Scandi homes, yet now they are en­livened by vivid, strik­ing high­lights in the shape of dec­o­ra­tive fea­tures, colour­ful kitchen cab­i­nets and dar­ing fur­ni­ture de­signs. This style em­braces the brave de­tails that stand out and add char­ac­ter to an in­te­rior.

Choose one colour to use as a com­mon thread through­out your space, then com­bine it with a com­ple­men­tary shade. Many paint com­pa­nies have done the job for you and de­vel­oped colour pal­ettes where each hue is easy to match with another. Fo­cus on one or two large ar­eas or el­e­ments, and match them with smaller de­tails in the form of tex­tiles or smaller ac­ces­sories.

Bold de­tails can be bal­anced by neu­tral walls or teamed with an ac­cent wall. Choose your colour with care, as it plays an im­por­tant role in how the room will ap­pear. To cre­ate a sense of space and light, use a lighter neu­tral on the walls and pick out the wood­work and ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails in a darker hue. You can make a long, nar­row room feel wider and squarer if the two shorter walls at ei­ther end are painted in a darker shade.

‘Bold Ac­cents’ is a pal­ette that’s easy to achieve, and it will suit any­one who likes va­ri­ety and change. Base your in­te­rior de­ci­sions on a room’s size, light and lay­out, and ex­per­i­ment with colour on the floor, walls, fur­ni­ture and fixtures. Even if your tastes tend to change, it’s worth in­vest­ing in clas­sic de­signs and ex­per­i­ment­ing with wall colour when you feel the need for some­thing new.

‘Pale walls may re­main, yet now they are en­livened by vivid high­lights in the shape of dar­ing fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tive de­tail­ing’


This lighter in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the new Nordic colours is not so much about del­i­cate, sug­ared-al­mond hues, but in­stead fo­cuses on strong, so­phis­ti­cated pas­tel shades with a fresh feel.

For those who love colour but pre­fer paler hues, pas­tels are a great al­ter­na­tive. Again, it’s es­sen­tial to take nat­u­ral light and the as­pect of a space into ac­count. Light from the north or north­west will make colours look cooler and harder, so you may want to com­pen­sate by choos­ing a warm hue. Con­versely, rooms with light from the south and east will al­ready feel warm and bright.

It is pos­si­ble to draw par­al­lels be­tween the pas­tel colours that are ap­pear­ing now and the hues that were pop­u­lar in Scan­di­navia dur­ing the Gus­ta­vian era of the 1780s. The shades so pop­u­lar then – pearly grey, duck egg blue and salmon pink – are back. Then, clean lines were char­ac­ter­is­tic of the look, but to­day it is an aus­tere aes­thetic that is de­sir­able, rather than clas­sic shapes. You can mix pas­tel-painted walls with nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, such as stone and wood. Also con­sider team­ing them with mir­rors and shiny met­als. Re­flec­tive sur­faces cre­ate the il­lu­sion of a lu­mi­nous in­te­rior by re­flect­ing light, of­fer­ing con­trast to a muted back­ground.

Shades of pink and pale blue go well to­gether, as pink is a warm colour and bal­ances blue-grey ef­fec­tively. It brings a sense of en­ergy and peace, while blues are calm­ing and re­fresh­ing. As most mod­ern pas­tels have black un­der­tones, shades of grey will har­monise with them per­fectly. If you are tempted by grey, bear in mind that it can be per­ceived as cold in north-fac­ing rooms. To avoid a chilly ef­fect, opt for a warm grey with yel­low or red un­der­tones. ➤

‘Deep, in­tense hues – think dusk blue, storm grey and for­est green, in­spired by the dra­matic tones of the Nordic land­scape – are com­bined with un­usual de­tails and global inf lu­ences’


Per­haps as a re­ac­tion to spa­cious, white, bright in­te­ri­ors, the ‘Dark Eclectic’ look is typ­i­fied by a use of deep, in­tense shades – think dusk blue, storm grey and for­est green, in­spired by the dra­matic tones of the Nordic land­scape. Plants and nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, such as wood and leather, com­bine with eclectic de­tails to cre­ate an in­te­rior that is best dis­played against a dark back­ground.

Na­ture is a huge source of in­te­ri­ors in­spi­ra­tion in Scan­di­navia, per­haps now more so than ever. In­creas­ingly crowded cities and a rapid rate of ur­ban­i­sa­tion have led to a yearn­ing for the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, and these de­sires are re­flected in dec­o­rat­ing trends that em­brace or­ganic colours, tex­tures and ma­te­ri­als. The eclectic part of this style, mean­while, is some­thing of a back­lash against the min­i­mal­ism that has been on trend in re­cent years. In­stead of a pared-down look, Scan­di­na­vians now like to mix it up, and the new darker pal­ette is ac­com­pa­nied by global in­flu­ences, teamed with per­sonal me­men­toes and an­tiques.

New Nordic Colour: Dec­o­rat­ing With a Vi­brant Mod­ern Pal­ette by An­to­nia Af Petersens, with pho­tog­ra­phy by Beth Evans, is out now (Ry­land Peters & Small). You can get the book for the spe­cial price of £14.99, in­clud­ing postage and pack­ag­ing (RRP £19.99)...

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