Danish Decorating Trends

December 7, 2010

Lots of people ask me now that I live in northern Europe what I consider in style here in the world of interiors. It’s hard to point to a few looks and say this or that is the norm just as it is impossible to pinpoint true American style these days. Fact is, Europe is a big place with tons of cultures and influence making each country quite unique but on the flip side, Europe is much more diversified than ever before (a topic that some are uncomfortable discussing and for good reason, the fear of homogenization). I think that fear is something most of us who grew up in 1980s America where we watched borders slowly fade can relate to… Exciting at first, but today many of us long for the days when travel from one state to the next was exciting — it meant being exposed to all new stores and restaurants, even chain stores were different, and that was pretty darn cool when I was a kid.

Danish Decorating Trends

I guess that is why so many of us cling to handmade and flock to small shops even if it means paying more — and why we support local restaurants — we are trying to hold on to that feeling of uniqueness that we remember from our childhood. My observation entirely  but what do YOU think?

Danish Decorating Trends

Truth is, those living outside of Europe have long admired it for maintaining its uniqueness, from country to country… and that it maintains a special old world charm. However, as you watch the Travel Channel and see show hosts wander from city to city, you can’t help but notice recurring store signage. Borders here are fading in some ways too. I think the difference though is that countries are not so quick to allow products in from other countries unless their is a real demand or interest but also because you are dealing with different governments and languages, it just takes longer to negotiate deals and import/export goods. It’s not as easy to set up shop in another country.

Also, new brands from “outside” are not so easily adopted with a smile. And yet it is exciting to see the good stuff leak over the borders to Germany, I can’t deny this, especially since Germany doesn’t have a strong identifiable “style” post WWII like the Danes, French or the Italians maintained throughout the years. Oh yes, once they did, in fact their design and art movements spawned many other movements worldwide, just look at the Bauhaus and it’s influence. However, since the second world war, function trumped beauty in many respects because so much was destroyed here and people were forced to build quickly to recover part of their life that was lost. But lately the tide is changing and younger Germans are starting to move and shake things. Functional products are looking really good to me and the overall future of German design (interiors, handmade arts & crafts, decorating) feels bright once more. Outside influence is definitely helping, as I see more and more Danish design here (and some Dutch) which excites me as these are two of my favorite places when it comes to design that I personally relate to.

Danish Decorating Trends

Given that Germany and Denmark share a border to the north, it’s natural that Danish design would start to creep over and influence the modern German home especially here in the north. You can see this in many shops and some cafes in Hamburg, the influence is there for certain. Pick up any good German decorating magazine and you’ll see some of the hallmarks of Scandinavian design being highlighted more and more, particularly the Swedish and Danish stuff. Scandinavian design is very easy to classify but also to like and I’m guessing Danish goods appeal to Germans because the design is not only practical for everyday use and the lines are clean for the most part, but there is a rustic, natural feel to it that Germans as a whole like and can identify with as they are a culture very close to and respectful of, nature. Germans are known for being extremely brand loyal. It takes time for them to warm up to something (or someone) but once you’ve won them over you have a customer/friend for life. This is especially true of northern Germans, and since I’ve been visiting here for the past 11 years and now live and work here as well, I have an outsider’s opinion based on the changes I’ve witnessed over the years when it comes to design in this country. This tells me that Danish companies who win over the hearts of people here will gain a loyal market that will stay in place for a long, long time.

Danish Decorating Trends

If you are curious to see some examples of current Danish designers who are making some of today’s top trends come to life, just flip through the e-pages of a TineK Home catalog, check out House Doctor, Ferm Living, Normann Copenhagen, HAY, Noa Noa (fashion brand but still), DAY, Greengate, Rice, Madam Stolz, and you’ll definitely find many beautiful things that are very clean, some colorful and quirky, others more streamlined and modern with a neutral palette.

Danish Decorating Trends

In my mind I tend to group some of the Danish styles that I’m seeing quite strongly here where I live in three key categories: Danish Pretty (Greengate, Rice), Old Meets New Danish (DAY Birger et Mikkelsen homeware, House Doctor, TineK Home, Madam Stoltz) and New Danish Modern (Normann Copenhagen, HAY). This post is more about Old Meets New Danish, as you can clearly see in the images I’ve selected. And by the way, these terms are all “Holly made” so they may or may not be how these individual companies classify themselves!

Danish Decorating Trends

Old Meets New decorating, Danish style anyway, is clean and bright (when you live in the north, white is essential!) but there are definite French, Asian and Moroccan influences in surfaces, shapes, colors and patterns. There is also an industrial edge making this style accessible to city loft dwellers in addition to those living in country homes. Think rustic pottery, straw totes with leather handles, metallic (mostly silver) surfaces, linen, jute, wool, metallic linens, rustic wood, industrial, vintage Moroccan tea trays, metal bases on tables, metal lockers, wheels on rustic wood coffee tables, etc.

Danish Decorating Trends

If you want to recreate this look in your own home, consider keeping your foundation pieces clean and fuss-free, mixing in a few statement pieces that may be painted in gray, blue or black for instance or you may choose to bring your statement pieces in using metal furniture – lockers, metal cabinets on wheels, wood tabletops with metal pipe bases… Also pay close attention to texture. This is what makes this look work. The Danes are naturals when it comes to making people feel at home, I felt very accepted and at home in Copenhagen earlier this year when I was there to work on my book. They are also effortlessly stylish, which I admire so much.

Danish Decorating Trends

This style is a well-edited look appearing to be effortless, but in reality it is very well thought out. If you are trying to recreate the look use some of the images in this post as your inspiration. No matter where you live, no doubt you can find objects in your local neighborhood that can be used to create this look if you don’t have access to the companies that I’ve mentioned above.

If you like the photos that appear in this post, they are from the Danish brand Madam Stolz, run by husband wife duo Pernille and Peter Stoltz since 1995 who live and work on the island of Bornholm in Denmark. They also run a delightful shop during the summer in Svaneke that I would love to visit as it appears as though everything they stock I would consider owning! If you are interested in Madam Stoltz products, please visit their website to see their online catalog or contact them directly to find a sales rep nearest to you.

(images: madam stoltz)


  • Reply Agnes December 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    As a Dane living in Copenhagen and with a great interest in Germany and its culture and art I really enjoyed your post describing Danish influence in Germany – so interesting to hear about this from another point of view! And i totally agree with you that the two countries in being so close geographically and culturally influence each other both ways. I find it especially interesting to hear about your observations of current Danish influences in Germany! As for German influences in Denmark, they are more noticeable in recent years and I think the relationship between the two countries are getting much better than it has ever been since WWII – so we can gradually share the many things we have in common, be inspired from each other and have the relationship which our joint history and geographical closeness should call for.

    • Reply decor8 December 7, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      @Agnes – Thank you for your comment, it is interesting to hear your perspective and I agree, the relationship is definitely much better and I am so grateful to be living here to witness these changes in person, it’s inspiring to me as an American married to a German from Hannover, that’s for sure!

  • Reply Anna of {Green Gable} December 7, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you for the tips on how (and where) to decorate with Danish style. I’ve always loved the simplicity and neutral colors of Danish design. But I love color, too, so it’s always a toss up on which way to go, designwise. I suppose I can have an “eclectic” look with a bit of both!

  • Reply Eleanor December 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks so much to the great link – I love all Scandinavian design.

    Living here in Germany, I’ve found my taste for all things ‘mid-century’ has met with a lukewarm reception. Most of my German friends (but not all) say the items I have just remind them of something from their ‘Omas’ house (exactly!) Perhaps because that time isn’t as romanticized as it is in American culture.

    I see the Danish/Scandinavian influence here more in the ‘Modern Organic’ aesthetic – sleek lines, blond wood, white. etc. but all more contemporary.

    • Reply decor8 December 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm

      @Eleanor – Hi! I am familiar with your company, thanks for stopping by. :) You are in the south, in Bavaria, right? I think down there the overall contemporary themes are much more common. Here to, until more recently when the Danish influence in the form of rustic/industrial/organic started moving in. I can’t wait to see more!

  • Reply knack December 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    holly, I totally love this post, and your thoughts. I agree with your idea on why people are clinging to the handmade and find your comments about “borders” so very true and thought provoking.

    I love all of the photos you selected and the fact that you note that a good combination of wood , glass , metal is the perfect trio!

    have a great day!


  • Reply laura trevey December 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    That wooden table on rollers is to die for!!

  • Reply Ylva December 7, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I very much enjoyed reading this post. I have a great admiration for Danish style (which led me start my own shop with just Danish interior products)

    I think Danish style differs from Swedish style quite a bit even though we are also neighbours. For me it is all about daring a little bit more and going the whole way. Swedish style is also good but more held back in a way.

    Anyway I would like to add a few really interesting companies to your list:
    Rie Elise Larsen, Rosenberg Cph, Bungalow and minimega. Really cool stuff and all very stylish in their own way in my opinion :)


  • Reply juliette December 7, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    I agree with both you and Eleanor. A lot of my friends here in Germany call the Danish mid-century modern look too “Spießig”, but I do see the trend growing. I really enjoyed our road trip around Scandinavia this summer, especially seeing and learning more about the Finnish and Estonian design world.

    I would love to see Germany become less polar in it’s general design sense (ultra modern or ‘contemporary’ or ‘landhaus’) and become more diversified. I do see this happening, even since we moved here nearly 4yrs ago, but I’d like to see it accelerate! =)

  • Reply visualingual December 7, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks so much for your thought-provoking insights! I’ve moved around quite a bit over the years and currently live in Cincinnati. I find that I’m able to handle living here [and even be happy here, for the most part] precisely because I have so much easy access to culture and inspiration elsewhere. So, in that sense, I’m free to live anywhere. In another sense, the fact that I do live here rather than somewhere else isn’t all that significant.

    When I travel, I always long to find differences so that I truly feel like I’m experiencing a unique place. That’s a lot of what makes a trip worth taking, but those differences definitely seem to be disappearing to some extent.

  • Reply Susan Serra, CKD December 7, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    From a young child being brought up in the US by immigrant Danish parents with mid century mod in my home, at its height, through countless visits to family in Denmark over the years, and having collections of Scandinavian art and design in my home now, Scandinavian design is in my bones.

    This is such a pleasure to read. You’re right…there is an effortless quality to the design philosophy, a connection to nature and to texture. This is a fantastic reference piece and one I will return to for inspiration over time. Thank you!

    You must plan a trip to Bornholm. It is a wonderful place with a strong arts culture.

  • Reply Traveling Mama December 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Holly, you know this post goes straight to my heart! As a newcomer to Denmark, I have had a BLAST exploring Danish design. It has been so much fun to see our new friends’ homes and see how they incorporate Danish design into their homes and also how they live. I feel like I am learning so much every day! So many of the shops we’ve been visiting (and featuring each week on our blog) are small and the focus is on providing customers with something unique and personal… I continually tell shop owners that the Danes seem to have been blessed with an eye for design. They appear to do it all so effortlessly! My recent favorite has been Fisk because it is a charity shop that partners with designers to create an amazing shop! Just recently they did a fashion show with a local design school and the designs were fantastic! Here is a link if you are interested in seeing it:

  • Reply Mags December 7, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I think the comments about mid-century modernisms different associations in Europe comapred to North America are very true. Around 2 million homes were destroyed in Great Britain, and rationing after WW2 meant a lot of 1950s design was utilitarian. It tended towards form following function and modernist lines. As a child of the 70s, I grew up with a lot of post-war design still around and saw it fall from favour due to its associations with austerity.

    It’s interesting that we’ve seen – in the UK – a return to 1950s modernism and patterns in the last decade which has snowballed in the last few years. I think it’s in part a nostalgia for simplicity and apparent non-cosummerism* – for the soft edges and texture of mid-century modern over ostentation.

    *it’s still consuming things, but not so obviously!

  • Reply janis - pinecone camp December 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    This is one of the most interesting posts I’ve read in awhile. Thanks! It’s hard to nail down a “Canadian” style – most people think log cabins and Hudson’s Bay blankets (I adore those blankets). Mid-century Danish design has been my long time favourite, though my husband and I mix it up with new, antique and travel finds. I think I have to read this post again, and share it.
    Have a good day!

  • Reply The Dandelion Chronicles December 7, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    I never realised how influential Danish design was/is in Germany. Interesting, but I also agree on the comment about the relationship improving between D and DK.

    My experience of Danish homes and style is that we are gradually giong into quite opposite directions – one leading to a more minimalistic and rustic decor with white walls and few colours in all the items, and one that goes more towards an Asian, especially Indian and Morrocan, inspired decor. Even wall paper are starting to creep back in, and not only the bold ones covering just one wall.

    But then again, we are one of the countries, if not THE country that shops the most in IKEA, so I guess its so and so with the “small shops” and individualism.. :)

  • Reply Petra December 7, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks for this interesting post. I’m originally from the south of Germany where the style is quite different from the one in the north, so it was interesting to read about the Danish influences.
    But I very much agree with what you said about borders disappearing. When I started travelling on my own 15 years ago, things were very different, fashion, food, etc. For a while everything was becoming increasingly similar, as much as different languages and systems allowed. But I had the impression that in the last years there is a trend towards greater individuality again, or whatever you want to call it. Once the same chain restaurants and stores had made it everywhere, little independent places started opening up. Now we can have both :o)

  • Reply sandra lund December 7, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Such an interesting post to read for a Dane. I love the new styles in Danish design, and I’m happy that it’s taking in influences from far away places like Morocco to warm everything up :-)

  • Reply Mariela December 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks, for all the great tips. I love scandinavian design.

  • Reply jaana December 7, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    This was a very interesting post to read for a Scandinavian. I see it so that we all have been influenced by our northern, eastern, western and southern neighbors for centuries and this will continue on and on….

    Germany is in the Central Europe, darling :)

    • Reply decor8 December 7, 2010 at 9:33 pm

      @Janna – Well it’s northern to me, that’s for sure. It definitely feels it in these temps! :)

  • Reply Coco December 7, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Nice post Holly! Living in the Netherlands i see a lot of Danish products here too. Its really booming here and I love it!
    About the borders… I visited the United States four times and two of them on a road trip. The first road trip was through California and it was great. I found every city very different and having its own vibe… Its more than ten years ago that I went there but I can still imagine me walking in San Francisco. Of course Los Angeles, Sacramento and the Yosemite park were also on the list. It was a diverse road trip! The second one was through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. And all four where sooo different from California ;) well of course they were, but i’m only trying to say it was just such a different experience. For a vacation I would love to go back to the southern states, there were many old buildings from the civil war and the old plantage houses looked so great and so ‘foreign’.
    The other vacations were to Boston and one to Miami. Diversity is definitely still there in the USA ;)

    • Reply decor8 December 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm

      @Coco – That is very true, there is still tons of local culture in America thanks to the younger generation preserving it and working so hard to even bring parts of it back. What I mean, however, are the chains – stores, restaurants, etc. not necessarily the vibe, accents, local customs, landscape. That still remains quite regional more or less in America, though the south is a lot more diverse that it was when I grew up there.

  • Reply Candy December 7, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Great blog! It really got me thinking about what I admire so much in modern European design shown in the blogs I love – yours being one, and its possible influences from an American perspective. It seems to me that Europeans tend to live in apartments more than most Americans, excepting those of us in big cities like NYC or Chicago. You tend to have, um, less what I call froo froo, and respect functionality with clean lines. Many American magazines feature vignette decorating; eg – random stuff on random tables taking up space, etc. Ikea, which is relatively new to the US, is one of the few places I get to see European design at all here in the US. Also, we Americans seem to still be in love with heaviness, which is great if you have the room, say, a larger home over 4,000 sq feet, but not so cool in smaller homes, which is more typical. I’m not a designer or decorator, but that’s my humble opinion.

  • Reply Kathryn December 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    What a great post, Holly! I am just beginning to dip my style toes into Danish design and have fallen head over heels with it! This will be a wonderful start point to check out all these resources you mention, thanks for those links! My husband has a 12 week sabbatical next year and I’m begging him to let us ‘live’ in Denmark for half of it (and spend the other six weeks in Japan where we have family). Wouldn’t that be fantastic?! Imagine all that inspiration!

  • Reply Melissa Jaine December 8, 2010 at 1:43 am

    Hi Holly – wonderful post, thank you. I’ll be sure to read it again several times. :) I, like many, have always loved Scandinavian look & design. Recently I’m really drawn to a rustic look, accented with pretty items, like colourful flowers or fabrics, which I hadn’t connected with being Scandinavian but it I think it is. I believe my being taken with this look may have started with your BYW course and Leslie’s idea of putting flowers in tin cans. They are all over my house now!

  • Reply Rose December 8, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Hi there

    Being a South African way down at the southern tip of the globe, I had the pleasure of visiting Finland last year. What a pleasure for me to experience first hand the interior culture of the Northern hemisphere. I loved reading this article and the related comments. It is like getting into a bubble and being transported into your interior spaces effortlessly. Yours is the one blog I read through each day and now I am beginning to venture into your associated sites as well. It is hugely inspirational and already i have referred some of my interiors associates to your site. At the moment I am developing a blog for our South African market which should be a wonderful read for those in the northern hemisphere to experience the riches of our interiors and cultural influences on interiors here. Keep up the stunning work. Love the images.

  • Reply Jacque Nodell December 8, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you for the inspiring post, Holly! My boyfriend is moving to Denmark (Billund) this winter and since I can’t go right away with him, posts like this keep me excited about getting there myself!

  • Reply Duchy December 9, 2010 at 2:11 am

    This post makes me miss Denmark so much! Thanks so much for the great links to keep up with the Danish design world.

  • Reply Quatre December 9, 2010 at 4:15 am

    Thanks for sharing this, and your insights especially.

    I think a lot of the time when friends and family try to go for this style, they end up being deceived by the light-hearted and airy feeling that it has, and end up not orchestrating the arrangement and layout as much as is needed.. so I was very glad to see you mentioned the high degree of precision and thought that has to go into making something seem “effortless” :)

  • Reply Anne Marie December 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I don’t have the time to go into details, but I LOVED reading this post! It had me nodding…

    … that said, I would also have loved to read something about norwegian designers too even if they don’t have such a strong position in the design market yet… They doo have some good and “typical” Scandinavian designers.

    Wishing you a wonderful Thursday!

  • Reply PAWLING | print studio December 9, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    really interesting discussion, holly! love your interpretation of Danish styles =)

  • Reply Rivkah December 9, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Being the daughter of Danish immigrants living in the US, I grew up with old style Danish decoration in the home of my greatgrandparents, and midcentury Danish modern in my parent’s home, and I like both; bold colors and lots of whites and bold lines, and try to mix them in my own home. I love the long wooden shelf in your kitchen with the clamp lights. Great idea and so clean looking, as well as being very effective for storage and decoration. To be be free of cabinets, especially uppers, is a dream I have!

  • Reply kalanicut December 10, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Holly, I just adore all your posts on Danish design. After having lived there and learned the language it is such a special place in my heart. It was such an inspiring place to live in so many ways, but esp. in design. It’s so nice to have a great resource to keep me “Danish inspired!” Now if your posts could just deliver some Danish pastries to nibble on while they are being read. ;)

    Happy Holidays!

  • Reply Amelia Rodriguez September 5, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Always interesting to see some excellent designs from other countries and how they grow. Thanks for the great post!

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