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Scandinavian exterior design and architecture

Martin Castilla            No comments            Apr, 19

Scandinavian design is famous. Who doesn’t know Scandinavian brands like Bang & Olufsen, Georg Jensen and persons like Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen, for example? Almost one hundred years of Scandinavian design history have left their footprints in the world of architecture and exterior design.

The beginning of the Scandinavian style

The traditional Scandinavian building style was formed by the inhabitants of the Scandinavian countries, like Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Island. The typical Scandinavian houses are well known by their wooden, red painted façade. They are perfectly adapted to the strong, Scandinavian winter and cold temperatures. The wood offers an excellent insulation and keeps the heat of an oven inside.

Nearly at the same moment when in Germany and Netherlands the Bauhaus and the De Stijl marked a new era in the architecture and design, the Finish architect Alvar Aalto and the Danish industrial designer Arne Jacobsen started to revolutionize the language of building and design style in the Scandinavian area. After 2nd World War, soon the new Scandinavian design became famous in Northern Europe. The reason can be seen in the combination of an extraordinary clear design, made of affordable materials and manufactured under new, industrial circumstances. That fitted perfectly in the change of thinking of a new generation. The spirit was leaded by social democratic ideas and the objective to make aesthetic design affordable to all people.

Today the Scandinavian style reached successfully the whole globe. Mass-produced furniture made by IKEA brought Scandinavian living style even to southern countries like Spain, and soon people began to value the positive properties not only of Scandinavian decoration and interior design, but also of Scandinavian houses.

Which properties has a Scandinavian house?

Although if we imagine the typical Scandinavian architecture as a little, red painted wooden house, we must admit that Scandinavian buildings always been a wide range of different styles, sizes and colours. Even more: the Scandinavian architecture is very similar to the New England style, which is found in the United States, especially in the East Coast. This may be the reason that the New England style now is very popular in Sweden, and vice versa popularity of Swedish houses continually increases in UK and many other countries.

The main properties of Scandinavian houses are at the same time the main benefits: They are extremely energy efficient, cheap in building costs and materials and completely made of natural wood out of local, renewable cultivation. Normally equipped with a veranda, they take maximum advantage of the available light on short winter days, but reducing transmission loss using triple-glazing as a standard. All walls are equipped with extremely advanced levels of insulation to guarantee the passive house standard. Wood is a warm material, and combined with efficient insulate materials like cellulose, sheep’s wool, cork and cotton it helps to keep the house warm. A comparable house in massive construction requires significant higher building costs as the timber frame construction.

The Scandinavian style easily can be recognized by the wooden façade with vertical or horizontal planks, painted in pastel colours like white, light yellow or light blue, or in traditional dark red, although this colour is less common outside of Sweden and Finland. The typical lattice windows and dormers in the roof area are further characteristics of Scandinavian buildings, often also called country house style in other countries.

The classic Swedish house

As we have seen, beside the great variety of Scandinavian houses that can be found all over the world, the classic one is the red painted cottage made of sustainable wood. But why the red colour? The answer can be found in the little village Falun in Sweden. 400 years a copper mine let tons of copper oxide as overburden, and it was used as pigment to paint the houses with Faluröd (Swedish red) to copy the look of rich man’s massive houses in Middle Europe. Later people found out that the copper oxide offers a perfect protection against mould and weather damages.


Scandinavian architecture and exterior design fits perfectly in todays environmental requirements to build highly efficient, sustainable houses at a reasonable price. Passive, low energy and even active houses can be realized easily applying this type of construction. Due to the short construction time, construction costs dramatically cut down in comparison with massive constructions. Even more, the special charm of a Swedish house, decorated inside and outside with accessories and furniture made of natural materials in the typical colours of Scandinavia, makes it unique in the range of houses on offer.