John Lewis Harmony Small Ribbon Ceiling Light
Nobody does effortless mood lighting quite like the Scandinavians. Get the look with a few carefully chosen pieces
The Scandi interiors trend isn’t going anywhere. Based on the principles of thoughtful design, comfort and quality over quantity, cosy lighting is key to the Scandi lifestyle concept. We’ve heard a lot about hygge over the past few years – the charming one-word Norwegian/Danish description of how it feels to be snug and comfortable at home is now firmly part of our vocabulary. Our Nordic neighbours are masters at creating a relaxed, well-designed home using little more than a considered lighting scheme – enhanced by a backdrop of neutral tones, tactile materials and candlelight highlights.
Swedish art director and stylist Linda Ring says, ‘Light is the hallmark of the Nordic countries. Since we live in darkness all winter long, lighting is one of the most important features in our homes. To survive six months with little daylight, we use elegant, soft lighting to create a harmonious and cosy feeling.’
The Scandinavians’ artful use of lighting to create a restful and content feeling at home has practical origins, with long winter nights far more dramatically dark than ours in the UK. While we don’t experience such extremes of light loss (although it does feel like it at times), we can use the same principles to boost our moods at home all year round with the right combination of design-led lighting.
The goal is to create the welcoming sense of calm and celebration of home that Scandinavians have, so before you find yourself perched on a ladder, ready to install a new globe in the centre of a ceiling, consider the placement first. And stay on the side of soft and warm when choosing bulbs – nothing kills a cosy vibe quite like the blue hue of a bright white bulb
.In a contemporary Scandi-style lighting scheme, think pared-back simplicity and organic, sculptural shapes. Tones in neutral, grey, black, white and chrome work really well, plus organic, tactile materials such as bentwood, metal and glass.
Denmark-based journalist and bestselling author of The Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell, explains, ‘Danes take real pride in their homes. Experts and sociologists describe Denmark as “a design society”, where good design has been integral since the 1920s, when the government at the time decided that it was a priority, and important for wellbeing and happiness. Danes use a lot of natural materials – like wood and leather – in their homes and tend to have lots of lamps. In most of the world, lights tend to be in the middle of the room, but here we loop the cords to position them and create pools of light or new areas of hygge, or cosiness.’
Pendant lights can be especially impactful in a dining area – they’re softer than spotlights and they help to create the relaxed and inviting feeling that Scandi homes emanate so well. Use one statement design above the centre of a dining table or in reading corner, or try playing around with heights and use three (more if the space is especially large) smaller styles together. As a rule of thumb, odd numbers tend to work best when grouping anything together.
Take each room in the house and focus on what you use that space for – whether it’s reading, sleeping or cooking – then choose your lighting based on what will make it feel more comfortable. July Lin, Partner & 3D Designer, explains, ‘Low suspended lights will help to define a particular zone or space in the home. This is especially true when used above a dining table – low pendant lights will encourage people to gather together and the light can be made even more versatile by choosing a style with rise-and-fall suspension to adjust the height.’
Table lamps are the easiest ways to introduce a bit of Nordic flavour to your home as they’re so easily moveable and they’re the perfect accompaniment to wall lights and standing lamps for a layered look. That’s not to say that table lamps must be used on a side table or a sideboard – you can adjust the focus and level of the light by experimenting with unexpected placement. Choose a design where the bulb is hidden from all angles and the diffused light means the lamp will look just as effective placed low on a stool, on the floor or up on top of bookshelves.
July Lin agrees and loves the incredibly popular Harmony collection. ‘The lantern shape of the Harmony range gives a very soft and warm glow and the design would really complement a Scandi-style interior,’ she says. ‘They cast a beautiful shadow and also work very well in bedrooms because of the calm mood they create.’
Another hero piece to consider is a standing lamp for your living room as they introduce light at different levels. A standing lamp comes into its own when grouped with an armchair and a side table – suddenly a dark, unloved corner is redefined as a chic reading nook.
No Scandi home is complete without an ever-burning array of candles. Dotted around coffee tables, displayed on window sills and flickering above fireplaces, candlelight is essential when creating a homely, warm atmosphere. Mix and match – use storm lanterns, tea-light holders and traditional candlesticks to create a soft glow at different heights around a room.
‘It’s all about candles,’ Helen says. ‘Danes burn the highest number of candles per head in Europe. Candles should be plain – nothing coloured – and liberally distributed for maximum hygge.’ If you have small children around and you don’t want a real flame, get the same warm, flickering effect (and longer-lasting benefit) from an LED candle or lantern.
It’s no surprise that the year-round masters of cosy know how to crank it up a notch at the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas lighting is especially impressive in Scandinavia. Consider wooden decorations, traditional paper stars hanging in the window, wild garlands and a restrained palette of red, silver and white, illuminated by candles, fairy lights, candelabras and rows of ceramic houses, lit with tea lights or battery-operated candles. Eschew the novelty Santas for your Scandi scheme and think twinkly white (never coloured) lights, tapered candles, lots of stars and natural textures for a gentle, magical look.