In the 1930s, warm minimalism began trending in the Nordic countries. This enduring aesthetic is now known as Scandinavian design. To really embrace the style, it helps to understand its main objective: As an antidote to prolonged winters (which average around four hours of daylight in most Scandinavian countries), interiors function as a respite from the cold, dark days and manage to straddle the elusive line of being warm and inviting yet simple and functional.
With an emphasis on simplicity and craftsmanship, it prioritizes pieces and finishes that make spaces feel bright, cozy, and welcoming with the absence of clutter. There's a real reverence for the great outdoors, which is reflected in material and color choices. Neutral hues as well as muted blues and greens are featured prominently while light wood tones and materials such as wood, glass, leather, and knit textiles work together to maximize warmth and light.
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Marrying an aesthetic — such as Scandinavian style — that is grounded in functionality with the bathroom (also known as one of the most utilitarian spaces in a home) is a no-brainer. If you gravitate toward monochrome color palettes and favor clean lines, pale wood, and materials inspired by nature, Scandi bathrooms will undoubtedly appeal to you. And bonus: It doesn't take much effort to incorporate the look. Start small by painting the walls a crisp shade of white, throw in some wood accessories, hang a planter, and clear the clutter from the countertops.
"A Scandinavian bathroom is characterized by its minimalist fundamentals and functional design that is both beautiful and practical. Utilitarianism is always top of mind when designing a Scandinavian-inspired home," says Becky Shea, founder and creative director of BS/D. "Simplifying your color choices is a great way to achieve the clean, minimalist vibe you see in Scandinavian homes. [Use] light neutral shades, such as gray or beige, [to] create a clean and bright space that feels open and airy."
Need a little inspo? Keep reading for more ways to bring the Scandi look into your personal sanctuary.
1. Stick with a neutral palette.
If Scandinavian style is known for one thing, it's minimal design and a neutral color palette — not that a well-placed pop of neon is a Nordic sin, but using unobtrusive shades, like the ones Jen from The Effortless Chic used in her guest bathroom remodel, will keep your space feeling just as serene as any spa.
2. Flood your space with plants.
Living in a region that spends half the year freezing, Scandinavians sure do love their plants. So embrace your love of greenery in style like interior designer Katie Day and hang your leafy friends from a wooden ladder above a freestanding bathtub. Select plants with interesting leaves for a unique display.
3. Balance with a hint of glam.
A space that's too stark doesn't suit anyone — striking a balance is key. And interior designer Fiona Lynch did just that in this Australian abode by infusing a little glamour. Brass wall sconces and a black floating vanity transform this bathroom into a Scandinavian-chic refuge.
4. Use dark grout.
Black and white color palettes define Scandinavian cool. But before you paint everything, there's an easier way to pull off the contrasting look: Use dark grout to offset your white tile. Ben Mathews and the team from BAM Constructions Group used black grout with white round penny tile to create a striking backsplash.
5. Work in grayscale.
To amp up the contrast, work only in black, white, and gray, as is beautifully demonstrated in this Australian bathroom by Cera Stribley. Don't forget to play with light and shadow, too.
6. Think pink.
It may seem bold, but millennial pink tile is a fun way to add a punch of color to a Nordic-inspired bathroom. Just keep the rest of the scheme simple like the bathroom in this home, which features white subway tile on the walls and patterned tile in a rosy hue on the floor. The sweet shade also happens to pair beautifully with brass fixtures.
7. Embrace simplicity.
Don't overstuff your home. Look for opportunities to pare down in each space, including the bathroom. For example, this Scandinavian design by Breathe Architecture went with an elegant floating counter instead of a bulky vanity cabinet for a sleek and minimal aesthetic.
"The overall feel of a Scandinavian bathroom is clean, modern, minimalist," says Hema Persad, founder of Sagrada Studio. "So, here are some design elements I would incorporate: Pale wood tones for the vanity and light colored slab/stone for countertop. Light veining, nothing too dark or ornate; sleek, straight lines for the bathtub; a neutral color palette (think white, cream, light oak); [and] sleek, frameless mirrors."
8. Add visual interest with wall tile installed in a herringbone pattern.
One way to keep a minimal palette interesting is by using materials in interesting ways. This Scandinavian style bathroom designed by the Australian firm The Stables may be mostly white, but the gorgeous gray tile installed in a herringbone pattern adds loads of drama and texture.
9. Play with pattern.
Integrating quirky, out of the ordinary tile placement in your bathroom is a surefire way to get the Nordic-chic look. For instance, design firm Arent & Pyke made brilliant use of a classic chevron pattern on the floor and backsplash in this stylish bath.
10. Layer functional items to add warmth.
You don't need a complete bathroom makeover in order to introduce that enviable hygge feeling to your space. Nordic designers have a longstanding tradition of using wooden stools in their interiors. Place one in an empty corner or, as Samantha Gluck did, adjacent to a toilet for a multifunctional addition that adds a dash of warmth and serves as the perfect perch for a candle or greenery.
11. Punctuate a neutral palette with black sinks.
Colorful sinks are a unique way to add personality and interest to your bathroom. In this minimalist space, a pair of a black sinks and wall-mounted faucets punctuate an otherwise neutral color scheme and add visual weight to the open vanity.
12. Welcome terrazzo.
Clean lines and classic patterns reign supreme in Scandi design as witnessed in this minimal bathroom by Hecker Guthrie. Here, gray and white speckled terrazzo and white square mosaic tile compete for center stage. Despite the use of different materials, a tonal palette keeps the look cohesive and on-brand.
13. Embrace wood slat walls.
Wood tones reference nature, and their warmth counters the inherent minimalism of Scandi design. Elevate the familiar material by employing it in creative ways. For example, the team over at Studio Life/Style lined the walls and clad the vanity in this powder room with wood slats to infuse the tiny space with spa-worthy luxury and mesmerizing dimension.
14. Consider the lighting.
If you're drawn to interiors with rattan, wicker, or cane detailing, it's easy to bring that same bohemian flair into your own bathroom. These natural materials add interest and texture while retaining an airy, open sensibility. Opt for a woven pendant light like the one in this white bathroom to add interest without visual weight.
15. Trade in your traditional towel bar for a wood ladder.
One of the hallmarks of Scandi design is marrying functionality with beauty, and in spaces where square footage is at a premium, that combination is a no-brainer. For instance, in this bathroom by Amber Interiors, a wooden ladder spruces up a blank wall, adds warmth, and provides a creative place to hang multiple towels.
16. Introduce soothing botanical prints.
Patterns that are inspired by nature and feature muted tones have long had a starring role in Scandi design, and with one look at this elegant setup, it's easy to see why. Katie LeClercq chose to clad the upper portion of the room with wallpaper flaunting a botanical motif, which provides a charming backdrop for the wall-mounted marble sink and trifold mirror. The sage green wainscoting below injects the space with a soothing and peaceful note.
17. Clad the walls with wood.
Wood is featured prominently in Scandinavian interiors as an homage to the great outdoors, where a lot of time is spent during the summer. Bring the outside into your bathroom with the help of wood wall paneling. Keep the look sophisticated like Elizabeth Roberts did with simple pieces of bathroom decor, such as a globe sconce, a round vanity mirror, and a wall-mounted faucet.
"When I think Scandinavian, I think knotty pine wood. Wood trim would enhance the hygge of a Scandi bathroom for sure!" offers Lexi Brandfon, founder and principal of Lex & Hudson.
18. Take advantage of natural light.
The secret to any beautiful Scandinavian space? Natural light and lots of it. The simple idea seems to have worked in this stunning refuge thanks to bright white walls that reflect the light that flows in through the window.
"My top recommendation is to always use natural materials and embrace natural light. Scandinavian bathrooms often feature wood, stone, and concrete. These materials create a warm and inviting atmosphere while also adding a touch of nature to the space," adds Shea.
19. Dress up the floor with a rug.
Inject color, pattern, and texture while simultaneously adding literal warmth to the floor with a bathroom rug. Place one in front of the bathroom vanity as Amber Lewis did to add a bit of coziness to your daily self-care routine.
"And the finishing touches should include layering in cozy accents, like plush towels, soft rugs, candles, and warm lighting, to create a comfortable and inviting space," Shea continues.
20. Layer farmhouse details.
Thanks to its versatility, Scandi design continues to be a popular option for those who enjoy its aesthetic but want to meld it with other styles. For example, details like shiplap wall paneling give this serene bathroom by Katie Hodges decidedly farmhouse undertones. The two styles are rooted in approachable simplicity, and they blend seamlessly.
21. Bring pastels to the forefront.
Add a lighthearted feeling to any Scandi-inspired bathroom with a spectrum of pastel hues. Chango & Co. combined peach tiles with a blueish-green stone slab for a colorful approach to traditional bathroom decor.
22. Flaunt a rustic vanity.
Opt for weathered or unfinished wood cabinetry for a dose of Scandi's earthy appeal. Resist the urge to go full cabin kitsch by keeping the walls bright white, installing marble tile floors, and selecting classic accessories like glass sconces and brass hardware, as seen in this timeless bathroom design.
23. Keep things airy with open shelving.
A no-fuss bathroom vanity idea that features open shelving is an easy way to bring Scandi style to your space. Stash unsightly items in baskets or embrace the aesthetic's less-is-more ethos to the fullest extent and leave the shelves empty, as seen in this minimalist bathroom by Chango & Co.