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Anna G. Larson, Published January 05 2013

Simply Scandinavian: Minimalistic designs, bright colors work well in small spaces

MOORHEAD - During cold northern winters, nothing says “Velkomen” like a touch of Norwegian – or Danish or Swedish – style.

“I think people often think the style is cold, modern, too white and expensive,” said Moorhead resident Elizabeth Tangquist. “It’s totally opposite.”

Tangquist uses Scandinavian style throughout her modestly sized home. The minimalistic design works well in small spaces, she said.

“You can have a small space and do so much,” Tangquist said. “Scandinavian mid-century modern style is kind of eclectic, and somehow, it all flows together. It’s clean, simple and versatile.”

Bright colors and geometric patterns add warmth to her home’s mostly white palette. Other than blinds, windows are kept bare.

“I let in as much light as possible,” Tangquist said.

It’s common in Scandinavian design to forego draperies and opt for naked windows, she said.

Lighting fixtures are also kept minimal, said Mary Larsien-Cantrell, president of Scan Design in Fargo.

Popular fixtures include Le Klint’s folded pendant lamp shades and Louis Poulsen PH5 pendant lamps, she said.

“There’s nothing harsh about the lighting,” she said. “They favor nicely diffused light.”

Furniture in the Tangquist home is minimalistic and low to the ground, and the floors are wood.

Scandinavian style puts a lot of emphasis on natural materials, Larsien-Cantrell said.

“Scandinavian style is about making healthy, comfortable indoor environments,” she said.

Wood, especially light-colored wood, wool and cotton are popular, she said.

Steam-bent wood makes up some of the most iconic items of Scandinavian design, like the Danish Wishbone Chair designed by Hans Wegner. Unstained woods, like beech wood, are especially common in Scandinavian style, Larsien-Cantrell said.

“The natural markings of the wood are seen as beauty,” she said. “There’s a respect for natural materials.”

Glass, metal and harsh edges are usually not used in the design style, even though it relies on minimalism and clean lines, Larsien-Cantrell said.

“It’s all about clean lines and function,” she said. “Form follows function.”

Bright colors, like reds, oranges and blues, along with monochromatic color schemes, play a large part in Scandinavian design, Larsien-Cantrell said.

Textiles, like those from Swedish textile company Ekelund, often feature geometric patterns mixed with organic elements, like vines or leaves.

“(Scandinavians) seem to have less fear of using color than people in the U.S.,” Larsien-Cantrell said.

Tangquist incorporates pops of turquoise, red, yellow and fuchsia into her home through art and pillows she makes herself. She also adds color and texture when she reupholsters furniture.

“I think any color works since white is the backdrop,” she said.

Most of Tangquist’s furniture is from her grandmother, estate sales, second-hand stores or the curb during clean-up week. She says many used items just “need a little love” in order to become prized décor. She also shops at Ikea for new items, like bedding.

Some of her favorite furniture includes a Thonet side table (inspired by the design of German-Austrian furniture maker, Michael Thonet, who is known for classic bentwood furniture designs) she found on a boulevard and her Swedish grandmother’s hope chest.

“It’s all really well constructed, so it lives on,” she said.

Incorporating elements of Scandinavian design into the home is easy, Tangquist said.

“Don’t be intimidated, the whole house doesn’t have to be Scandinavian style,” she said. “One piece of furniture and a few pops of color can transition a traditional space into Scandinavian mid-century modern.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525