Scandinavian design of the 20th century

Over the past few months we have been immersed in the world of Scandinavian furniture. We have been searching, restoring and reviving the jewels of this design style. Scandinavian furniture has a rich history and design that has won the hearts of many lovers of aesthetics and functionality around the world.

The history of Scandinavian design

The five Scandinavian countries are relatively united politically, economically and ethnically. When it comes to design, however, each country has a unique character. Although there are many stylistic differences, the main and inherent characteristic of the Scandinavian nations is all-round practicality. The main idea behind Scandinavian design is the harmony of form and function.

Teak arbor and Rag armchair with footstool designed by Danish designer Bernt Petersen for Shiang. Photos by Dita Havránková

Nordic respect for nature and craft tradition

The Nordic environment and harsh climate provide the main inspiration for finding a balance between man and nature. A long tradition of craftsmanship and folk art demonstrates an empathy with materials and a desire to bring ordinary things to life with natural beauty.

Scandinavian craftsmanship became a dominant influence on the overall development of modern design in the 20th century. In response to the needs of post-war Western Europe, affordable, practical and beautiful objects for the middle class began to emerge.

The essence of Scandinavian design is primarily about enriching everyday life, not simply signalling social status or position. It is based on the principle of minimising waste in a natural way to reduce environmental impact. As a result, artists eschew the ostentation of high style in favour of a subtle to minimalist approach to creating cosy spaces, where the choice of quality materials and skilled craftsmanship are key factors.

The influence of Bauhaus and Functionalism on Danish furniture

Danish design is unique in the way artists draw inspiration from different artistic movements and create original works with their own regional character. The direct influence on 20th-century Danish furniture design, seen in the simple elegance of functionalism, is linked to the German Bauhaus art school. The core values of this school also underpin the work of Danish designer Kaarem Klint, whose pioneering research into anthropometry, use of high-quality materials and emphasis on functionality and craftsmanship contributed to the development of Danish design in the 1920s. Subsequent generations, including Børge Mogensen and Hans Wegner, continued Klint's principles and built on the modern reworking of vernacular furniture.

The long tradition of "good design" is one of Denmark's most important industries. Formal and functional purity, together with a timeless approach to the environment, are more important today than ever.

Wooden shelving system from the Danish company Domino Møbler. Photos by Dita Havránková

Finnish design's relationship with nature

From their close connection with nature, the Finns have developed a specific approach to design based on a natural respect for organic materials. The Finnish concept of sisu, which means perseverance, courage and the will to succeed no matter what the obstacles, has become a fundamental source of inspiration. In the field of applied arts, it manifests itself as perseverance in the search for a balance between form, function and material.

From the 1930s, the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto brought a new perspective to functionalism, moving away from the austere aesthetics of the Bauhaus. He incorporated organic forms and natural materials based on the character of the Finnish landscape. Together with the artist Arttu Brummer, they laid the foundations for the development of post-war Scandinavian design.

The combination of pure function and form, the knowledge of old craft traditions, the respect for materials and the connection with nature have inspired other nations in the field of design.

Peem leather armchair, Sika Møbler coffee table and ÚLUV floor lamp from Nanovo. Photos by Dita Havránková

The social focus of Swedish design

The influence of Sweden's state religion, Evangelical Lutheranism, is evident in the purity, functionality and social emphasis of Swedish design. Similarly, IKEA was founded in 1943 with the aim of providing affordable yet aesthetically pleasing furniture to the lower classes.

Today, the traditional principles of Scandinavian design are combined with a conceptual approach in Sweden, bringing new impulses that were originally reserved for the liberal arts. The eminent Swedish design educator Viktor Papanek says: "The sustainability of life on this planet can be promoted or hindered by the design and use of the objects we produce. Ethical design must be environmentally friendly and respectful of the earth's ecology. It must be on a human scale; it must be humane; it must be rooted in social responsibility".

A secretary designed by Egon Ostergaard and a rocking chair inspired by the design of Lena Larsson and Ilmara Tapiovaara. Photos by Dita Havránková

Norway's approach to sustainability

The cornerstone of Norwegian design is the incredibly rich and distinctive culture of folk art. Traditional patterns and motifs have been inspired by the artistic imagination of the Vikings and the Nordic Lapps, as well as the rich palette of colours and shapes found in nature.

Norway is the country that has worked most intensively in design to develop sustainable solutions to reduce its environmental impact. Products combine craftsmanship with an interest in simplification, functionality and aesthetics.

Hans J. Wegner coffee table and wooden doll by Antonín Hepnar. Photos by Dita Havránková


List of products from the Scandinavian furniture series:


Domino wooden shelving system

Wooden shelving system from the 1960s by the Danish company Domino Møbler, one of the major manufacturers of Danish Modernist furniture, combining minimalist lines with natural wood.


Wooden armchair with footrest Rag

The original Rag wooden armchair with footrest was designed by the Danish designer Bernt Petersen for Shiang around 1965. It consists of a solid oak frame and cushions loosely placed on the frame.


Coffee table Hans J. Wegner

Wooden table from the 1960s, designed by Hans J. Wegner for the Danish furniture manufacturer Andreas Tuck. Andreas Tuck was a furniture manufacturer who made modern Danish furniture design famous by collaborating with leading Danish designers.

Teak arbor

Wooden arbor with wide lockable drawers. The arbor is made entirely of particle board veneered with teak. The minimalist design combined with natural wood and quality details, such as the wooden handles on this arbor, are typical of Danish modernist furniture from the mid-twentieth century.

Coffee table Sika Møbler

Coffee table with spider legs from the 1970s by Danish manufacturer Sika Møbler. It is a table in the Danish Modernist style that combines minimalist lines with high quality natural wood.

Desk Jesper International

Wooden desk from the 1960s made in Denmark by Jesper International. It is a desk in the Danish modernist style, combining minimalist lines with high quality natural wood.


Sofa and armchair FORM 75

The FORM 75 three-seater sofa and armchair were manufactured in Denmark in the 1970s by Hadsten Møbelfabrik. The frame of the sofa and armchair is made of solid teak. The forms and style are reminiscent of Empire furniture.


Leather armchair PeeM

A leather armchair made in the 1970s by the Finnish company PeeM for the Czechoslovak market and sold exclusively by the Tuzex chain. It was a superior product for its time and as a result these chairs are often in very good condition.


Rocking chair

Rocking chair made in Finland in the 1960s. The chair is inspired by the design of Lena Larsson and Ilmara Tapiovaara.


Leather sofa

Three-seater leather sofa from the 1970s. The sofa is upholstered in genuine leather in a rust-coloured shade, typical of the sunny interiors of the 1970s, which were characterised by warm tones.


Leather armchair

Leather armchair from the 1970s. The sturdy and comfortable construction of the armchair is supported by low legs. The chair is upholstered in genuine leather in a rusty shade, typical of the sunny interiors of the seventies, which were in the spirit of warm tones.


Secretary with desk

Wooden secretary with an extendable writing tablet. The secretary was made in Sweden in the 1960s to a design by Egon Ostergaard for the manufacturer Bröderna Gustafssons.


Siesta armchair

Leather armchair from the 1960s by Norwegian designer Ingmar Relling for Westnofa. Ingmar Relling was a Norwegian architect and designer who is considered an icon of Scandinavian design. He designed his furniture to be ergonomically sound. He emphasised ecology and designed his furniture to be easily repairable.