It’s safe to say that Scandinavians are no stranger to darkness. If you’re in Oslo, Norway in December, you can expect the days to be only five hours long between sunrise and sunset, with the sun slipping below the horizon at around 3 pm. In the parts of Scandinavia that lie above the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t rise at all, and it remains dark for months at a time. Needless to say, if you want tips and tricks on how to keep your space light and bright during the dark winter months, nobody knows better than the Nordics.
Did you know that Danes burn more candles per capita than the rest of Europe? The inventors of hygge -- the concept of cozy conviviality -- know what they’re doing. Candlelight creates the illusion of warmth when it’s anything but warm outside. But even when it’s the height of summer, candles give off a festive glow. Americans tend to select candles for their fragrance and appearance. Scandinavians, on the other hand, use them to create pools of light in their homes. For that reason, they prefer simple unscented pillars or tea lights in shades of white.
A cluster of candles gives off the same ambiance as a cozy fireplace, even if you don’t have one. You can also float tea lights in a large glass bowl for a unique effect.
You don’t have to ditch your overhead lighting fixtures altogether, but lights that glare down from above tend to sap all the coziness out of a room. It’s not easy to fully relax when you feel like you have a spotlight shining on top of your head. Scandinavians prefer to have at least three points of light in any given room, rather than one big one. Get creative with different heights and shapes of floor lamps, table lamps, and candles and see how they transform the whole ambiance of your room. Dimmer switches allow for even more versatility.
You might have noticed that minimalist, Scandi-style rooms tend to have blindingly white walls, pale floors and furniture, and a neutral palette. Believe it or not, that’s not just some design preference built into Nordic nature. Lighter colors reflect light, which is important in regions where sunlight is scarce.
Neutral colors are also less jarring than bright, clashing colors and are more restful on your eyes.
Decorative mirrors not only make a space look bigger, but they bounce light around the room, making everything appear brighter too. Just make sure that you’re hanging your mirrors strategically so that they are facing windows and reflecting the sunlight that comes in. For maximum impact, make a gallery wall.
Strings of white lights aren’t just for Christmas -- known as Jul -- in Scandinavia. They’re kept up year-round and used just as regularly as any other light in the home. A drab living area or a dark corner suddenly comes alive when it’s illuminated with twinkly lights. Scandinavians hang string lights in their kitchens, above their beds, and around their living room and dining room windows. They even work their magic in the summer for outdoor parties.
As the days get shorter in winter, you might want to follow the Scandinavians’ lead and try a little light therapy. Swap out your standard light bulbs with LED daylight bulbs as soon as the clocks fall back to supplement lost hours of daylight. These bulbs mimic the wavelength of the sunshine outdoors on a bright, sunny day, which might help with your energy levels, sleep patterns, and overall mood.
If you’re heading to Copenhagen or Stockholm, you might be stunned by the sheer number of windows in most modern homes and buildings. Darkness is a huge part of life in Nordic countries for a good part of the year. It’s dark when people get up in the morning and darker still when they return home from work in the evening. When there is light during daylight hours, needless to say, the locals want to make the most of it. You’ll find walls of floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights galore. These strategically placed windows have a greenhouse effect, letting in much-needed brightness and warmth throughout the day.
Scandinavian houses are generally very well-insulated, so locals rarely use thick curtains to keep the draughts out. Instead, they often leave their windows bare. If they want a little extra privacy, they might hang white muslin or fine linen sheers that let the maximum amount of daylight in. If you have heavy, opaque drapes in your space, try replacing them with light and airy sheers or semi-sheers. Then, observe as the mood of the whole room lifts.
Scandinavian homes often feature quite a few glossy, shiny surfaces, like metal and glass -- Sweden, in particular, is famous for its production of gorgeous glassware. Even walls themselves might have a noticeably lustrous finish. These sleek surfaces throw light around the room and bounce around fire and candlelight after the sun sets.
Scandinavians love being one with nature, and to them, creating a cozy living space means bringing the outside world inside with them. You’ll often find lighting fixtures made with materials taken straight from nature, like wood or even tree branches. Lampshades might be made with natural fibers. Candles might be resting on a tray made from a slice of wood with the bark still on. This rustic vibe plus minimalist decor is the very definition of Scandi aesthetic.