Artem Ponomarenko

Woodwerk Founder

Scandinavian design is known and respected worldwide. But what is the reason for its success?

Let's start with the foundation, so to speak, the philosophical basis on which the entire structure of Scandinavian design is built.

The key factor that sets it apart from others is that Scandinavian design is all about simplicity in the broadest sense of the word. One of its main tenets is "LESS IS MORE." In other words, less is more, or less is better.


In our culture, there is a very apt expression on this subject: "Too much is not healthy." It is very similar to "LESS IS MORE." It's not for nothing that we share common roots with the Scandinavians.

Less unnecessary ornamentation. Less unnecessary decor. Less, in essence, design for the sake of design. In it, you won't find complex forms in decoration or furniture. You'll hardly see shiny objects, polished surfaces, and intricate decorative textures.

Why is that?

Because all of these things actually overload the nervous system. Even on a neurobiological level, when your eye "clings" to a complex object or a large number of different items, your brain has to process all this information. It has to determine what it is, figure out if it poses any threats, and what purpose this thing serves. This is an extra burden on the brain and nervous system, almost imperceptible but present daily.

You might say that your brain will eventually learn everything in your home. That's true. It will sort things out and optimize its resources. But it will still have to process unnecessary details every day.

I think no one would argue that clutter in your home adds an additional burden to your psyche. It seems to press down on you, and it's difficult to figure out why. The reason is very simple: there's a large amount of unnecessary, unsystematized information for the brain.

Furthermore, if you have many different items in your home, such as rugs on the walls, numerous shelves with open items, and cabinets with glassware, all of this constantly needs to be cleaned. Dust needs to be wiped away, and everything has to be organized. You're expending your precious physical and emotional resources on these tasks.

Everyone is familiar with the feeling of satisfaction that lasts for hours in a clean and tidy home. This is precisely the result of the temporary absence of unnecessary irritants.

So, the Scandinavian philosophy of Lagom, which forms the foundation of Scandinavian design, suggests determining and keeping only what is truly necessary around you. These are the things that will relax you, inspire you, and evoke positive memories on a daily basis.

Of course, in some places, an active and impressive design is needed. When architects design a new restaurant, hotel, or any other public place, their task is to impress the audience, evoke specific emotions, and send subliminal messages. This is indeed an art, and it should be done with quality, without overburdening the visitors.

But do you need such a design in your own home?

If your goal is to impress guests or neighbors, then maybe. However, neighbors are impressed once, while you have to live in this environment for years. Impressions were the primary concern of palaces and expensive residences in past centuries.

In this story, it's important to understand what you truly need from your home. To impress or to create comfort. These two objectives are not very compatible.

Scandinavian society, which is probably one of the most advanced in the world, logically concluded that the purpose of a home is to be a place of peace and relaxation. A place that restores your energy rather than depletes it.

Therefore, the less unnecessary clutter there is in your home, the easier it will be for you to live. Easier cleaning, easier for your mind, and easier emotionally. By the way, bright, active colors and large, colorful paintings fall into the same category.

All colors that differ from natural ones, to which our nervous system is evolutionarily adapted, evoke subconscious stress. Gold, shiny crystal, polished bright surfaces – all of these irritate the nervous system.

You might say that paintings are too much.

That's open to debate. Art truly stimulates the nervous system; it elicits specific emotions and impressions. However, what's crucial is the nature of these stimuli. If it's genuine art, it can be valuable.

For most of us, the works of real artists are inaccessible. Often, we replace them with wallpapers featuring photos or graphics, sharp floral prints on furniture surfaces, cheap reproductions, or even paintings of dubious artistic value. All of this is done merely for decoration. It's uncertain what's worse, but it's certainly no longer art.

Such things can be much better replaced with your own photographs, both small and large ones. Photos of family or from your travels. Those that evoke memories and genuine positive emotions for you. This kind of decor is far more valuable at home.

As for colors, it's essential to be very cautious. Everyone knows that the dominant color in Scandinavian design is white. There's a reason for this. White is neutral; it's like a canvas on which you paint the picture of your home. It's not trendy or untrendy because it's universal, and that's why it's long-lasting.

When it comes to our nervous system, what helps it relax are natural textures and colors. Wood, stone, anything that resembles the natural environment. However, it's better if it's not an imitation. If you see laminated particleboard in your home with a "wood-like" texture, you still subconsciously realize it's not real wood. (Veneer is somewhat different.)

Let it be pine instead of oak, for example, but let it be real! It's difficult to deceive your subconscious; it comprehends and interprets everything, even without your active participation.

We can delve into more details about colors and textures in another post; it's a broad topic. For now, I'd like to emphasize that LESS IS MORE is not obvious but, in reality, a highly effective principle for improving the quality of life, which residents of Scandinavian countries have embraced.

Therefore, for enhancing the quality of life, the first simple and accessible step for everyone is decluttering. However, not the daily or weekly kind but a comprehensive one.

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