Scandinavian vs. Mid-century Modern vs. Contemporary Design

Posted by John Moller on

When it comes to choosing furniture, there are so many options out there in the marketplace it can be difficult to decide the right types and styles of furniture for your space. If you are not certain where or how to begin, a good start may be to examine three popular types of furniture and their differences. These are: Scandinavian, Mid-Century modern, and Contemporary furniture design.

Scandinavian Furniture Design

Scandinavian design incorporates beauty, functionality, and simplicity. It came onto the scene in the 1930s and was popular in the Nordic nations of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland before its height in the 1950s. The initial designers of this type of furniture genre based their designs on functionality, durability, reliability, beauty, and comfort.

The designers drew from the beauty in nature, natural shapes, and natural materials such as leather, wood, hemp, and more to produce inspired pieces that reflect nature. Scandinavian design styles are meant to enhance the daily lives of users through the unique and functional configurations of furniture pieces and their accessories.

Considerations for Scandinavian Furniture Design

Some of the design considerations and tips to remember when employing Scandinavian design include:

  • Maintaining simplicity of design: Declutter your interior spaces and reduce the number of accessories.
  • Functionality: Enhanced livability result from Scandinavian design, which includes furniture that can also serve as storage space.
  • Natural décor: Scandinavian furniture design goes well with wood floors, walls, and accents on the furniture. Natural and Scandinavian go together for interior décor.

Mid-Century Modern Design Style

Mid-Century furniture design stems from the various modern design styles of the mid-20th century period. Generally, from about the early 1930s to the mid-1960s. Often what is referenced with mid-century is architecture and design from the mid-1950s. These designs came out of the Industrial Revolution period of the very late 1800s and encompassed the period post-World War I.

Considerations for Mid-Century Furniture Design

  • Lighting: With this design genre, table or floor lamps either have a curved, round or straight-lined contour. The majority of pieces consist of metal and the various contrasting shapes produce a bold appearance for the lighting in a space.
  • Furniture: Mid-Century Modern design features clean lines with curved, smooth angles added for accent. Sometimes wood, metal, or fiberglass creations accompany this type of design, but you will rarely see elaborate ornamentation or upholstery.

Contemporary Furniture Design

Contemporary design refers to present or current design. Contemporary is different than modern when it comes to design terminology, Modern design refers to the mid-1990s period. Contemporary designs are updated as the years pass. A design from the year 2000 that was defined then as contemporary may now be defined by some as a vintage design. Contemporary style furniture designs are in a constant process of change due to fresh ideas, materials, and resource availability.

Considerations for Contemporary Furniture Design

  • Texture: We may associate contemporary with digital screens, but don’t forget to add pillows, blankets, other furniture, and décor to enhance the texture in your living space.
  • Artisan additions: Specialized craftsmanship that includes woodworking, porcelain, and glass blowing incorporates well with contemporary furniture arrangements.
  • Technology: Smart home devices such as Google Home and Alexa from Amazon are voice-activated assistants that can be positioned at various places within a home for activation by voice command to perform functions such as dimming the lights and more. This technology meshes well with contemporary furniture design.
  • Balancing White with Off-White: A room covered in white certainly increased the brightness of the space. However, a pure white tone in a living space can give off too much of a clinical feel. In order to complement contemporary style furniture design, it is important to balance the stark white tone with lines that produce a rich texture and creamy off-whites than provide more warmth to the space.

What are the Differences?

All of the above design styles have certain similarities but also important unique differences that result from the era and cultural background from which they came. At the foundation of each of the styles is the comfort of the user. There is simplicity in each of the styles, and in other cases, applications of patterns and color which can change from one year to the next.

The surroundings within a space reflect one of the major differences between Scandinavian style and Mid-Century Modern style. With Mid-Century Modern, the interior design leans toward bold patterns, prints, and colors that exquisitely mesh with the rich teak tones often employed. The environment created with this design genre often includes open plan living and a generous amount of glass that lets in a large amount of natural light, allowing spaces to absorb the vibrant colors.

Interiors dominated by Scandinavian design furniture and other décor items, however, often comprise significantly paler, muted tones. The normal palette consists of solid white or pale walls, throws, and rugs having varying textures along with dashes of colors in places such as pale greens and yellows. The Scandinavian style can be associated with a somewhat more rustic design feel. The dark winters common in the areas in which Scandinavian style has been popularized demand the use of pale colors because of how they reflect light. The use of rugs and throws in Scandinavian design help to create a warm, cozy living environment during cold winters.

Mid-Century Modern style furniture and accessory design with its natural colors and strong lines is not the same as Contemporary furniture and accessory design. The latter consists of the current design trends at that time in history. This makes it difficult to pinpoint all the features of contemporary design. However, the Contemporary style is marked by certain qualities, including clean lines, minimalism, neutral palettes, and organic silhouettes. The aesthetics of Modern design, on the other hand, characterize warm neutral tones, crisp lines, and overall balance.

Get Scandinavian, Mid-Century Modern, and Contemporary Style Furniture

For more information about the Scandinavian, Contemporary, and Mid-Century furniture design options we offer, or to locate a dealer, or inquire about pricing, give us a call today at 612.341.3441 or email us at

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