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
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)...