Like all great fusions, the boho-Scandinavian design style takes the best of both aesthetics—the Scandi sense of beauty in plainness and the bohemian propensity for bold free-spiritedness—and blends them into an artful mashup of pared-back and delightfully undone interiors. But it's perhaps because of the two styles' inherent similarities—not their contrasts—that they work so incredibly well together.
Like the midcentury design style, Scandinavian design, too, is characterized by clean lines, minimalism, accessibility, and functionality (and it arose during the same era), but the Scandi style takes an "unencumbered living" approach that goes hand in hand with the colder Nordic climate and the desire to be at one with nature. Bohemian design, although outwardly opposite with its focus on global eclecticism and bold colors and patterns, similarly celebrates inclusivity, comfort, and the love of nature.
What Is the Scandinavian-Bohemian Design Style?
It's a mashup born of minimalist tendencies and unfettered design principles. Think neutral walls, an edited mix of handcrafted decorative items, bold patterns, sumptuous textures, and clean-lined midcentury modern-inspired furniture.
Those fond of either approach will still love the yin-yang dichotomy of the boho-Scandinavian design style. The Decorist designer Courtney Aleksa, for one, is partial to the amalgam's "variety, focus on natural, organic materials and multilayered, cozy, uncluttered aesthetic."
Meet the Expert
Courtney Aleksa received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in interior design from the Syracuse University School of Design before joining Decorist, where she specializes in residential projects. She founded her eponymous Boston-based design studio in 2018, and her work has appeared in Boston Common magazine.
To ride the line between playfully undone and structured, follow these 14 design tips and establish your own well-balanced boho-Scandinavian space.
Rein in Wall Color
"White and neutral colors are the foundation for a bright, calm, and airy Scandinavian aesthetic, and black, as well as richly-pigmented colors like deep indigo, pinkish-brown, and gray-green accents are high-contrast, high-impact bohemian colors," says Aleksa. To represent both styles, keep wall colors neutral and relegate intense tones to furniture and decorative accents, as done in this relaxed, muted-pink living area.
Commune with Nature
Honor the boho-Scandi style's strong bond with nature by bringing in furniture that resembles biomorphic and organic shapes, tall trees, potted plants in colorful containers, and fresh cuttings that invite the outside world. A simple arrangement of flowering branches in a tall, organic vase—as seen in this nature-inspired dining area—is quintessentially Scandinavian and "brings in a sculptural element that's alive with color and kinetic energy," says Aleksa.
Creating a calming, comforting Scandi-boho environment has much to do with how one lives and very little to do with gilding the lily. Hygge (Danish for the feeling of cozy togetherness) nurtures an emotional state, and both bohemian and Scandinavian homes are meant to be livable, relaxed, and convivial. Create intentional spaces outfitted with creature comforts, like a reading nook with comfy chairs to curl up in or a large dining table that family and guests can all sit around.
To further foster hygge and a relaxed, boho vibe, encourage meaningful conversation with intimate, face-to-face seating arrangements and always avoid making a TV the focal point.
Scandinavians furnish and decorate with organically derived and eco-conscious pieces because they foster sustainability and beget oneness with the natural world. Collect vintage, all-natural, hand-hewn, and wabi-sabi pieces with a rustic flair, visible brushstrokes, and slight irregularities (they concur with bohemian style, too) and give them pride of place, as seen in the perfectly imperfect bathroom above. Aleksa shops Bloomist and Etsy for natural, artisanal goods.
Choose Patinaed Furniture
Scandinavians put a premium on high-quality, patinaed furniture meant to last, like the well-worn midcentury-era sofa seen in the room above by Gachot Studios. Temper functional investment pieces by Scandi design giants such as Alvar Aalto, Bruno Mathsson, Børge Mogensen, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl, and Poul Kjærholm (they used resilient hardwoods like rosewood, teak, birch, and ash) with bold, bohemian-inspired pieces, like a low-lying daybed, a live-edge coffee table, or stitched-leather poufs.
Scandinavians follow the design ethos lagom, meaning "enough, sufficient, adequate, just right," in which clutter is eradicated and moderation is key, as exemplified in this pared-back kitchen/dining area. Lagom is the buzzword when it comes to mastering the magic mix that is boho-Scandi style: "Always be mindful of what you're bringing into your home," explains Aleksa. Plus, she adds, "In an uncluttered space, you can better appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of all your belongings."
In an uncluttered space, you can better appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of all your belongings.
Resist the urge to load walls and shelves with every painting and tchotchke you own. Instead, condense your collections—as done atop this tidy fireplace mantel by Penny Cohen Interiors. You can do this by selecting only the finest, most high-quality pieces, and sticking with stylistically similar objects, like framed artworks (old family photos are a Scandi custom), or those of a specific genre, like abstract landscapes. Likewise, says Aleksa, "soft" elements, such as "woven textiles or an assemblage of handwoven baskets, make Scandi-boho spaces feel layered."
Select Sculptural Lighting
No Scandinavian-bohemian home is complete without sculptural lighting in ethereal, biomorphic shapes. Aleksa suggests organic shades in metal, fabric, and paper, such as the Akari 10A floor lamp by Isamu Noguchi (above) that noiselessly blends into the corner of this moody blue living area. She also loves Arturo Álvarez's mesh Nevo lamp; Poul Henningsen's "artichoke" pendant; bohemian fixtures in plywood, bamboo, and rattan; and stoneware and birch versions from Cedar & Moss' Tumwater and Yugen collections, respectively.
Scandinavian-boho interiors generate movement and depth by virtue of touchable textures and rich patterns. "The more you vary textures and materials throughout the space, the deeper and more welcoming it becomes." To wit, even a monochromatic palette jumps to life when infused with fringed, embroidered, and fluffy textiles. Bold florals and graphic Scandinavian patterns, as in textiles by Astrid Sampe, Josef Frank, and Marimekko, also work well.
The more you vary textures and materials throughout the space, the deeper and more welcoming it becomes.
Naturally, candles and fireplaces have become functional essentials in Scandinavia, as truncated daylight hours start in fall and extend throughout winter. Norway even has a word describing the feeling of contentment generated by the warmth of an indoor fire: peiskos. No fireplace? "Candlelight is the next best thing," says Aleksa, who suggests keeping a smattering of chunky pillar candles, skinny tapers (take cues from this inviting dining area by Kristin Lagerqvist), and twinkly tealights lit throughout the day.
Bohemian homes include worldly mashups of sentimental, quirky, and unique finds. The boho-Scandi style still accommodates decorative items but curates them with a keen collector's eye, akin to this organic mix of beloved baubles. Think hard about how, where, and what you'll display. Marry vintage and modern-day decor, says Aleksa—such as midcentury-era ceramics by Bjørn Wiinblad and Arabia Finland—with sculptural, metallic objets d'art from brands like Ferm Living and Burke Decor.
Enhance Natural Light
The Scandi-boho style savors natural light; select window treatments that allow as much daylight as possible to pour into every room. This bright, airy living area nails it. Eschew heavy, double-lined curtain panels for sheerer versions in linen and cotton that just touch the floor. Aleksa recommends semi-sheer and opaque cellular, Roman, and roller shades, as well as unlined, grasscloth, natural-woven, and matchstick treatments "that provide privacy while allowing ample light to filter through."
Hygge also extends to both literal and visual iterations of warmth, says Aleksa, who loves adding a Nordic twist to boho style by draping shaggy sheepskins and faux fur blankets over chairs, benches, and beds for requisite dimension and softness, as shown in this warm boho-Scandi living area.
Wall-to-wall carpeting doesn't jibe with Scandinavian or bohemian style. Instead, use combinations of animal-hide, high-pile, and flatwoven rugs to anchor common spaces.
Make a Messy Bed
Cold Nordic weather begets a layered approach to bed-making—this wood-clad bedroom gets the calculatedly "undone" look right—and bohemian ideology grants you license to play with patterns (busy florals, paisley) and earthy colors like moss green, denim and indigo blue, browns, and yellows. Aleksa likes "lived-in," rumpled linen, chambray, and organic cotton sheets, as well as soft, thin quilts and faux fur, velvet, and wool blankets.
Ready to take this design mashup to the next level? Here are five Scandi-boho products that embody this rich, multilayered style.
Bring Boho-Scandi Style Home
You'll be one step closer to mastering this design mix with these six sustainable products.
Organic Pendant Lamp
Its shade is composed of a blond bent-bamboo frame and hand-pressed paper composed of recycled organic materials—and at 38 inches high, it's a sure statement-maker.
Even over 50 years after architect Josef Frank's death, his colorful, botanical textile designs continue to delight and beguile.
Hand-carved teak depicts a Southeast Asian botanical motif—a.k.a. the epitome of laid-back boho-Scandi style.
Colorful Area Rug
Plush, colorful, and oh so hygge, this high-pile area rug is the boho antidote to neutral walls.
Let the flickering flame of this vintage indoor fireplace generate peiskos, and warm your Scandi soul.
Handmade in Portugal, with slightly irregular, textured edges, this place setting of ceramic dishware looks and feels charmingly wabi-sabi.