It’s tempting to follow decorating trends and go all in on a decor style that feels fresh, new, and exciting for your home. Like anything else though, it’s definitely possible to have too much of a good thing when it comes to a certain type of decor—especially if you are considering investing a lot of time and money into your furnishings. Take the Scandinavian aesthetic, for example, which has been a mainstay in global home design for at least the past decade or so. Scandi style has many positive aspects insofar as it’s fairly minimal, modern, and features clean designs while still feeling cozy. With furnishings that highlight natural elements like woods and leathers, and color palettes that are light and fresh, it is easy to design your home with elements of this style and not get sick of it.
Even though design inspiration drawn from Scandinavian countries seems timeless, there’s still a way to go overboard with this style. I asked a few designers what to avoid when shopping Scandi and how to achieve this look without making any design decisions you might regret in five or even ten years. Here’s what they said you may want to avoid doubling-down on.
With its handsome wood tones and often spartan color palette, Scandinavian decor can definitely skew minimalist. If you lean a little too far into this style though, leaving most of your surfaces bare and erasing all signs of your personal effects, you might find your rooms a little cold and sluggish or lacking in vivacity.
“It can be hard to follow the Scandinavian decor trend without making your home feel too plain and uninteresting,” says designer Courtney McLeod of Right Meets Left Interior Design. “Stay on trend but add a little personality with black-and-white striped accents or colorful framed textiles with lots of texture.” You only need a few key furnishings to turn things up a notch. Consider items like IKEA’s iconic Stockholm rug, as seen above, which livens up any room it’s put into with its graphic, broken line pattern.
Investing in an architectural sofa or a super stylized, sculptural chair might seem like a good idea, and sure, these pieces look great on the ‘gram. Aesthetics shouldn’t always trump comfort in your home though, and sometimes high-style pieces, even in the fairly function-forward Scandi tradition, aren’t actually that practical for lounging and really living on, particularly if you have pets and young kids.
“You might regret filling your living room with cool looking but uncomfortable furniture like high-style Scandinavian sofas and chairs,” says McLeod. “Get the best of both worlds by pairing sleek, high-style accent chairs with an extra plush sofa.”
Slat-style wall coverings
If you’re looking to bring a natural, outdoor-inspired look into your home, you might consider using light wooden slats as a wall covering or trim option. It’s a slightly edgier version of shiplap, since the texture and warmth that it can add to a space is in that same vein. If you start covering all of your surfaces with this kind of wood though, it will start to lose some of its luster and uniqueness.
“[A slat-style wall covering] can look amazing when it’s a key part of the architectural design, but if it’s overused, it can overwhelm a space very quickly,” says designer Nina Blair of NinaBDesign. “Try keeping it to one accent wall for a small but mighty impact.”
The Scandinavian aesthetic feels clean and effortless, but if everything you furnish with has the same finish, leg-style, and design sensibility, your room may start to look a little like a catalog—and not in a good way. Moreover, deciding that you like a certain style doesn’t mean you need to go out and get all new things that fit under that aesthetic’s tenets. The best interiors are often a pastiche of many different design materials, eras, and influences.
“Try mixing in various furniture styles with a couple [Scandinavian] pieces,” suggests designer Candace Griffin of Candace Mary Interiors. “Don’t be afraid to incorporate pieces that you love—for example, colorful art or heirloom furniture, even if they aren’t Scandinavian. It’s all part of your home’s story, and it can really warm up the room.”
Blonde woods are a cornerstone of the quintessential Scandinavian look, and these finishes certainly keep a room feeling light and airy. All that aside, this doesn’t mean all of your woods have to match perfectly or be on the lighter end of the wood finish spectrum.
“Scandinavian design has always been known for its generous use of blonde woods in structures, accent walls, ceilings, and furniture,” says designer Sara Beverin. “If you use the same wood color tone throughout, the design can start to fall flat.”
Beverin actually suggests mixing two different wood tones or even adding in metal accents to contrast your woods, which can bring more dimension to a space. “This will add visual interest and make your Scandinavian design feel timeless,” she says
Zero decorative accessories
Not saying to fill every corner with every tchotchke under the sun—unless maximalism is your thing—but sometimes going too sparse in the accessories and decor department can make your space feel like a staged room. “Although we love the simple and minimal aspect of Scandinavian design, sometimes scaling back too much on the accessories can be a huge no-no,” says Beverin. “Having no accessories around can make spaces feel cold and sterile.”
You don’t need to go overboard, but you shouldn’t be afraid to display some of your treasured objects, silly family photos, or even favorite books. Vases and greenery are always easy to add in, too. “Keep decorative accents minimal and practical or make sure they have an aesthetic purpose,” says Beverin.
Decorating with all the patterns
A subset of classic Scandinavian designs often incorporate bold, large scale prints by makers like Marimekko, Svenskt Tenn, and Josef Frank, to name a few. Patterned accents like these are great for making a statement and adding a playful touch to more minimalist Scandinavian decor schemes. It’s possible, however, to have too much of a good thing, at least when it comes to packing multiple patterns into a smaller space.
“There’s a move toward using bold prints, and Scandinavia produces some great ones,” says Blair. “It’s easy to go overboard though and end up with a clashing riot. Try keeping prints to a minimum or on an accent wall to avoid the room from feeling too busy.”
Balance is key for pattern mixing. If your sofa is patterned, go with solid throw pillows and vice versa. Maybe you don’t need a graphic rug if you have bold, oversized wallpaper in a room. It’s your home, so feel free to mix as you see fit, but striking a nice balance between patterns and solids will help your space look visually interesting without being too busy.