Scandinavian mid century modern furniture design: Features and legacy
By adding a distinct signature to the core features of mid century modern, Scandinavian furniture designers secured for themselves a place in history. Their world-renowned classics can now find their way to your home and bring a touch of vintage Nordic elegance.
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The unique social and cultural context of Scandinavia has been molded by harsh climate and historical tides, invading armies and internal ambition, but throughout the turbulence of the centuries, the unique spirit of the Scandinavian people and the unique sensibilities of their lifestyle remained. Out of this convergence of historic circumstances and Scandinavian traditions, a unique style of décor and design was born and it went on to become a global phenomenon, profoundly changing the contemporary view on furniture, style and design.
Modern Scandinavian furniture is deeply rooted in various design traditions and philosophies, some of which took shape in the Nordic countries themselves, while other reached Scandinavian furniture designers and artists from abroad. This mixing and mutual influence of the external and internal has always played a crucial role in the development of the authentic Scandinavian design style.
In this article, we will take a look at the big names of Scandinavian mid century modern furniture design, their achievements, their legacy, but also the different influences under which they created their most iconic works.
What is modern Scandinavian furniture?
When we say modern Scandinavian furniture, we most commonly refer to the classics of the mid century era that were designed by some of the biggest names in Scandinavian furniture design. This vast collection of flawless icons of the era encompasses dining chairs and lounge chairs, tables and desks, bar stools and ottomans, but also décor accessories and different lighting solutions.
This versatility in function is an important characteristic of Scandinavian furniture in mid century modern style. And, as adherents to the principle of ‘form follows function’, the designers who shaped the history of Scandinavian furniture design easily translated this pluralism of functions into an even greater pluralism of designs. But in order to understand this claim, we need to take a deeper look at what makes Scandinavian mid century modern style so unique.
History, style and philosophy of Scandinavian furniture
The distinct features of Scandinavian mid century modern furniture took shape under a number of different influences that we can roughly divide in two groups. One of them encompasses the social and cultural factors that shaped the unique aesthetic of the classics of Scandi furniture design, while the other includes all those design movements and philosophies that preceded them. So, let’s tackle the things in this order.
Concept of hygge and Scandinavian coziness
Regarding the former, we can mention, first and foremost the concept of hygge. This word found in Danish and Norwegian language is rather elusive when it comes to translation to English, but it is nevertheless one of the most essential aspects on authentic Scandinavian take on style, décor and furniture design. Most commonly translated as ‘coziness’, hygge is a much broader concept that is more precisely described as a cultural category as it relates not only to coziness as such, but also to notions such as providing comfort, joy and overall wellbeing. Maybe most conveniently described as pleasant everyday experience.
Becoming a buzzword in the 20th century, this concept has profoundly shaped Scandinavian design with its focus on comfort and simplicity. Although more commonly associated with interior design and décor, it has undoubtedly played its part in shaping the typical Scandinavian affection for comfortable and highly practical furniture that will allow you to lay back and relax. But, at the same time, hygge requires the furniture to come with a certain simple elegance allowing it to blend in the overall flow of the room, ensuring harmony, calmness and coziness.
Scandinavian modern furniture design and the post-war years
At the same time, we must keep in mind that Scandinavian modern style of furniture design developed in the post-war years, when all of the Nordic countries were in the process of rebuilding and repairing the destruction left by the World War Two. This created a significant demand for affordable and functional furniture which in turn profoundly influenced the overall demands of the market. At the same time, this furniture needed to be produced fairly quickly, which eliminated the opportunity to waste time on unnecessary ornamentation, overabundant details or complex form that will conflict with a furniture piece’s main function. As a consequence, simple elegance with a nod to minimalism became the norm of the Scandinavian mid century modern furniture. This is how post-war social context played a crucial part in Scandinavian modern furniture history and is probably most emphasized in simple yet elegant dining chairs from the era.
Scandinavian designer furniture: At the crossroads of design movements
At the same time, Scandinavian style of furniture design didn’t develop in isolation from the rest of the world. On the contrary, the Nordic furniture designers were inspired by preceding design philosophies and traditions, mostly those that took shape in the first half of the 20th century, including Bauhaus, Modernism, early International style and Organic Functionalism. This is where these designers’ passion for innovation and breaking away from the traditional norms and limitations stems from. The same can be said for their somewhat minimalist and undoubtedly functionalist approach to furniture design.
Most influential Scandinavian modern furniture
The legacy of Scandinavian mid century modern furniture design is so rich and its outreach so wide that it is practically impossible to limit it. One would not be wrong to say that it profoundly shaped and is continuing to shaping the contemporary understanding of furniture as such, with its influences being obvious in functionality, in forms and shapes, sleek clear lines, experimentation and fusion of craftsmanship with industrial processes and many other aspects of contemporary furniture.
So, the best thing we can do is mention some of the most influential pieces of Scandinavian modern furniture that have stood the test of time and are considered to be true timeless classics to this day:
- Hans J. Wegner’s:
- Wishbone chair (Y chair or CH24)
- Papa Bear Chair
- Shell chair
- The chair
- Easy chair
- Arne Jacobsen’s:
- Eero Saarinen’s:
- Tulip chair
- Womb chair
- Lounge chair collection
- Executive armchair
- Eero Aarnio’s:
- Ball chair
- Bubble chair
- Pastil chair
- Tomato chair
- Poul Henningsen’s:
- PH Lamps collection
- Artichoke lamp
- Snowball lamp
Scandinavian furniture stores
Alongside the aforementioned big names of Scandinavian mid century modern furniture design, the manufacturers who originally produced these iconic designs also carved out a place for them in the history of modern furniture. From Frtiz Hansen to Louis Poulsen, most of these mid century style Scandinavian furniture stores are still up and running. But, with their historic success, long tradition and world-famous designs, these manufacturers offer their product with a hefty price tag. This, in turned, provided the incentive for many other manufacturers to start their own business and produce reproductions, knock offs and look-alikes of various quality and similarity to the original. You can easily find these by searching for Scandinavian furniture online.
But, this comes with a risk of low quality, so you should always try to make sure that you are confident about your supplier. Here at byBESPOEK we offer you premium-quality reproductions of these timeless icons of Scandinavian modern furniture that can be yours at just a fraction of the original price. So, we warmly invite you to browse our website and find the classics that can bring your home that Scandinavian vibe you desire.