Ask Americans what typical Scandinavian homes look like, and you'll probably get the same responses from everyone: They're minimal and all white. Sure, the Swedes are known for perfecting the whitewashed look, but colorful Scandinavian décor does exist. After paying a visit to both Denmark and Sweden, we realized the reason their interiors are so stunning isn't actually the lack of color—it's the sparing and brilliant use of it.
One of the first things we noticed was the unique choice of colors. Natural materials like raw wood and buttery leather peppered the interiors, while muted, dusty hues added depth. Rich colors that we'd never even thought of decorating with—amber, moss green, and rust—worked seamlessly in the pared-back spaces, almost as if they were neutrals.
By layering a few accessories in these colors on a white or cream base, Scandinavians make their homes look effortlessly cool. If you're wondering how to go about decorating with color the Scandi way, look no further.
Below, explore our favorite colorful Scandinavian spaces and learn how to blend minimalism with vibrant hues.
Look to Nature for Inspiration
Decorating with color doesn't have to be intimidating. Rather than choosing bright statement hues, Scandinavians opt for subtle shades inspired by nature. When styled together, these colors don't look forced or out of place (for example, moss green pairs easily with other forest hues, like mottled cedar or charcoal). If you're nervous about introducing Scandinavian colors like dusty pink or rust in your home, start small with a few new pieces of décor.
Add Warmth With Wood and Leather
Just as Scandinavians look to the landscape to inspire their choice of colors, they do the same with materials. You'll find worn wood floorboards and buttery, soft leather chairs in almost every cool Swedish home. These natural materials add warmth to an otherwise white and cream space. It's worth pointing out that quality is key here: Scandinavians invest in well-made furniture so that the leather or wood wears well with time. Choose quality furniture like a statement leather chair that'll only look better with age.
Use Greenery to Experiment With Color
The Danish are obsessed with plants. The streets of Copenhagen brim with dedicated cactus and succulent stores, and every shopfront and home has a windowsill packed with plants. Aside from adding a touch of life and texture to a home, plants also inject color. Interestingly, we noticed that greenery in Danish homes wasn't actually green. Instead, Danes often choose plants that add unique colors to the room, like dried red leaves or a purple-tinged rubber plant.
Embrace Amber Hues
Time and time again, we noticed one color stood out in every cool interior: amber. It's not a shade we see in many American homes, but in Sweden, it's used in abundance. While skeptical at first, we eventually saw why amber works so well with Scandinavian style. It's dusty and muted, like the other colors in their palette, and adds a hint of warmth to rooms that feature white, blue, and charcoal. In some cases, amber items were so subtle that they basically appeared to be another neutral.
Create Character With Mismatched Accessories
Our favorite American interiors are often styled to perfection, but Scandinavian homes are the polar opposite. In fact, imperfection is prized, and it's not strange to see a dining table styled with an odd assortment of chairs in mismatched shapes and colors. This eclectic, playful approach to decorating makes it easier to add streaks of color.
Layer Different Shades
We hear you: Mixing and matching colors can be a stressful ordeal, so Scandinavians have found a solution. Simply choose one color, like brown, and layer accents in different shades of that color to add subtle variation. As you get more comfortable with your statement hue, you can dial up the intensity or pair it with similar shades, like teal or fjord green.
Try a Dusty Blush
If you're looking for a warmer accent tone, try styling your space with dusty blush colors that contrast white rooms. This feminine shade is an earthier version of standard pink, and reminds us of fresh roses and floral-scented rooms. Minimal furniture in this bedroom plays up Scandinavian style by pairing mostly white bedding with a few blush throw pillows and an upholstered headboard.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Scandinavian design is best known for its bright, clean whites, but that doesn't mean these homes are never styled with dark colors. The key is in the details: Rather than painting an entire room in black paint, incorporate the shade in smaller accents. The statement wall and sliding door in this bedroom are decidedly bold, but their minimal use in a white space just brings contrast to the room without darkening the overall design.
To make your design more dynamic, introduce texture to your walls, furniture, or doors with patterns that break up deeper colors.
Let the Décor Do the Talking
Even if you're working with an all-white space, you can introduce color through small accents in the décor to draw the eye around the room. Cookbooks, fresh flowers, and patterned hand towels bring a playful character to this airy kitchen. Whether you're styling a kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom, or even a bathroom, minimal pieces of décor may be all you need to add some life to your space.
Paint a Small Mural
We know—murals and Scandinavian décor don't seem like they go together. But it all comes down to scale. The small, earthy mural in this stylish corner brings a touch of warmth to a white room, while an abundance of lush plants contrasts it with lively green hues.
Choose a Single Statement
For a pop of color that won't overwhelm your minimalistic design, choose a single piece of décor for your statement. We love how the rich, earthy green pillow stands out against this greyscale bedroom. Simple white walls and smaller black accents help add to the airy vibe, while a patterned duvet makes the space feel complete.
Style a Minimalist's Rainbow
Who said Scandinavian design can't also be rainbow? We love how this interior designer incorporated every shade on the color wheel in this vibrant stack of books. Styled behind a neutral wood guitar, the colors in this corner feel intentional, warm, and cohesive even inside an all-white room.
If you're not ready to commit to a single shade, introduce color to your space through finishes on your hardware, light fixtures, and furniture. This metallic gold floor lamp adds just enough warmth to a black and white living room to stand out. Paired with simple wood and woven materials, it creates a minimal flair of elegance among natural décor.
Incorporate Playful Throw Pillows
Along with the lovely muted blue on this bed's duvet, we can't get enough of the throw pillows. One pillow blends the statement color with a soft, ombré vibe, and the other brings a unique character to the room with several small pops of color. A mix of black-and-white patterns throughout the space stays true to its airy feel while adding in a boost of personality.
Add a Touch of Boho
There's nothing quite like the interiors we see when Scandi and bohemian design come together. We love how this living room effortlessly blends white walls and sofas with warmer accents like tasseled Amber throw pillows. Get the look in your space by keeping your window frames natural wood (or sanding them down, if need be) and pairing the furniture with a single statement color.
Look to the Floor
Rather than bringing in color through your furniture, wall art, or décor, style a Scandinavian-inspired space with natural flooring. We love how the rich, earthy tile in this open kitchen-dining area adds a welcoming warmth to the white room. Natural wood decorative accents from the table to the woven chairs, throw pillows, and picture frames help bring character to the minimalistic space.
Get Inspired by Your Plants
If you're unsure which colors to include in your home, get inspired by the one that's likely already there: green. Look to your plants for a natural shade that blends with your overall design without standing out too much. In this bedroom, a simple green corner creates an artful, geometric statement while blending in with potted wall plants.
Style a Patterned Rug
For a minimalistic pop of color that won't overtake your design, style a patterned traditional rug in your space. In this bedroom, white walls, bedding, and décor are complemented by a few woven and natural accents alongside the earthy colors in the rug. We especially love the way the upholstered bench matches the rug's cooler accent hues.
Mix Warm and Cool Hues
We're loving the contrast of colors in this Scandi designer living room. Cool blue hues in the wall art, throw pillows, and textured blanket stand out against warm leather accent chairs. The whole space comes together thanks to bright white walls that create a neutral background.