What Is Danish Design?

Danish design bedroom

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Danish design may have a European birthplace, but this style has circulated around the world. It features simple, functional, and cozy attributes. Intertwined with the principles of hygge, a Danish concept for "quiet comfort," this approach to design offers a calming and comfortable aesthetic no matter where you live. 


Danish design is heavily influenced by the natural world. More specifically, it is influenced by how the natural world affects daily living. Denmark is a cold country, with long, dark winters and plenty of snow. Because of this, Danish designs aim to keep things light, airy, happy, and comforting. To accomplish this, Danish design emphasizes the inviting attributes of the natural world, like rich natural wood tones and soft, organic textures.

In addition, popular design movements like the Bauhaus movement in the 1920s, have shaped Danish design. Bauhaus design focuses on function over form and Danish design follows suit by keeping things streamlined, simple, and functional. Key pieces of Danish furniture, such as the egg chair and the wishbone chair, emerged in the 1950s. These classic designs emphasize ergonomics but also have become iconic style items that are still in production today, emphasizing the timelessness and functionality of Danish design for living rooms, dining rooms, and more.

Key Characteristics

Danish design is all about simplicity, functionality, and creating spaces with a welcoming, comforting feeling. From the layout of the space to the shape of a chair, this design style focuses on keeping things as pared back and comfortable as possible. Unnecessary objects are removed, leaving only the essentials. However, this aim towards functionality in no way shortcuts comfort and a lived-in feeling. In fact, keeping things simple helps create the calm spaces Danish designs are famous for. It creates space to breathe. 

Keeping along with this theme, colors in Danish design are clean and simple. White is often the dominating color, creating a clean, simple backdrop for everything else. Simple color themes are chosen, such as black and white, or gray and white. Natural wood tones are prominently featured throughout the design. For subtle pops of color, pastel tones are used. These add a softness to the space without interrupting the calm air. 

Furniture is shaped around the human body for both functionality and comfort. Wood, plastic, and linen upholstery are common. Often, simple furniture is seen with inviting throws and pillows of wool, linen, or cotton. The structure of furnishings is kept to a minimum, emphasizing the architectural form rather than any unnecessary details. Despite being simple, furnishings are always high quality. Quality over quantity is an integral belief in Danish design. Items are built to last, and their designs are made to last with them.

Because of this philosophy, Danish homes are adorned with only the essentials. Yet, these essentials are timeless, simple pieces that keep a home both functional and comfortable. Open spaces are created intentionally to add to the light, airy feeling of a room. In addition, spaces designed with this focus also easily accommodate a gathering, allowing for the free movement of chairs and people. This upholds the goal of Danish design to combine a welcoming nature with everyday functionality.

Windows are often bare or adorned with minimal, white, sheer curtains. This allows as much natural light in as possible, amplifying the airy feel of a space. Natural lighting is also very important in a country where light is scarce throughout long, dark winters.

On the subject of light, lighting plays a prominent part in Danish designs. Hanging light fixtures, natural lighting, and subtle accent lighting are used extensively to add to the warm, inviting nature of Danish designs. A typical Danish-styled home may feature large, airy windows, unique light fixtures, and a plethora of candles. In fact, the PH5 pendant light designed by Poul Henningsen in 1958 is an iconic Danish design that has been replicated many times for homes across the globe.

Though Danish design is simple and functional, it is in no way lacking warmth. Danish designs prioritize hygge design and lifestyle elements. Comforting elements such as throws and pillows, candles, fresh flowers, books, and spaces that are free and uncluttered are characteristic of these homes. An overall feeling of comfort and ease permeates Danish design. 

Danish Design vs. Scandinavian Design

Scandinavian and Danish designs are two designs from the same vein. Scandinavian design refers to the design style prevalent in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden. Therefore, Scandinavian design is an overarching style that includes elements from all of these countries. 

Danish design is a specific aspect of Scandinavian design set apart by its unique flair and culture. Though its design style is similar to its other Scandinavian neighbors, Danish designs are known for their functionality and practicality. Spaces are designed for the daily life of their occupants, from open spaces used for gathering to chairs shaped to the human body. It is known for its slightly industrial, architectural feel and simple, practical spaces.  

Style Tips

Danish design can easily be worked into any home. By focusing on the functionality of everyday life, Danish design is accessible to everyone without even needing to purchase new items. Here are a few tips for incorporating some Danish flair into your home. 

  • Start by removing clutter and unnecessary or non-functional objects. 
  • Remove window treatments or replace heavier treatments with sheer, white curtains.
  • Keep colors simple, clean, and calm. Opt for white, black, gray, or pastel tones. 
  • Use streamlined, functional, high-quality furniture. 
  • Intentionally create open spaces. 
  • Use natural light, ambient light, and accent light to warm the space.
  • Add inviting elements such as books, throws, pillows, candles, and fresh flowers.