Scandinavian Kitchen:

So What's a Scandinavian Kitchen?

With its emphasis on natural light, clean lines, and painted wood, Scandinavian style is an excellent look for a contemporary kitchen. The innate simplicity and charm of the approach creates a sympathetic background for modern living.

If you find a kitchen built around the latest appliances and fixtures a little too stark and functional, but want to avoid a full-blown rustic look, Scandinavian strikes the perfect balance between tradition and modernity.

The style originated in eighteenth century Sweden as the homespun Nordic version of classicism, copied in humble local materials. Yet while the look has character and distinction, period detailing is restrained.

The style is easy to recreate and need not be expensive. Basic ingredients include simple curtaining and upholstery in ticking and gingham, chalky cool colors featuring on the walls and woodwork and plain tiled or sanded wooden floors. If you don't wish to start from scratch, you can give existing kitchen cabinetry a facelift with a light wash of color, or replace cupboard doors with stock versions in keeping with the look. Homey touches, such as stenciled decoration and folksy artifacts, provide a cheerful lived-in look with the right feel.

Creating the Look

Walls: On the whole, the Scandinavian palette is pale and cool, but never insipid. Paint is the key finish, for walls, ceilings, woodwork, and built-ins. Surfaces are matte and soft-looking, rather than hard-edged and glossy.

Color influences are toward the cool end of the spectrum, favoring gray-greens, blue-grays and blue-greens. If your kitchen needs more warmth, a pale ocher or creamy yellow is a good option. You can paint the shell of the room in a pale version of your chosen color, and highlight woodwork or cabinets in a stronger tone, or simply paint the background white for freshness. Avoid pastels because these lack the depth and luminosity associated with Scandinavian decor.

Tiled areas are always a good idea in the kitchen, particularly behind the sink and stovetop. You can choose plain ceramic tiles in white or pale grays and blues to tone with the decor, make a graphic checkered pattern, or inset decorative or pictorial panels in a plain background.

Woodwork: The warmth of the look relies on an extensive use of wood, which is always painted and never left in an unfinished or natural state. Existing doors, wooden moldings, and architraves can be painted in a slightly stronger shade of the main color. Choose eggshell rather than gloss for a soft finish.

Wooden paneling unifies built-in elements and provides a durable, washable surface where walls are likely to be splashed or spattered, behind the main work surface and sink for example. Tongue-and-groove boarding taken two-thirds of the way up the wall provides a sense of enclosure and warmth.

Floors: Kitchen floors need to be practical, resilient and easy to clean. The classic Scandinavian style flooring consists of pale, sanded boards, bleached to a light tone. Other types of wood flooring, including hardwood strip, would work equally well, provided they are not stained dark. Tiled floors of various descriptions are also suitable. Keep the effect, light and simple.

If your kitchen also serves as a place to eat, you may wish to mark the distinction between the two areas of activity with a change in floor covering. Natural fiber carpeting in sisal, seagrass, or coir makes a sympathetic treatment for an eating area, if you can keep spills to a minimum.

Lighting: Combine discreet, serviceable modern fixtures such as recessed ceiling lights or spots for working areas with contemporary pendant fittings over the dining table. Glass or plain pleated paper shades or period style lanterns strike the right note. A simple chandelier in dull metal rather than crystal makes an attractive focal point.

Style Pointers

Walls: Partial paneling, to wainscoting or high-shelf level, is a popular way of treating walls. The wood is painted in a typical shade of blue to set the color theme for the room. The wooden tongue-and-groove boards and the plate shelf above make good display surfaces for kitchen utensils and ceramics. The wall above the paneling and the rest of the woodwork is kept a crisp white.

Accessories: Accessories spell out the roots of the look. In this case, handmade mosaic plates, painted jelly molds and a copper pan hanging on the wall are all traditional gestures towards a bygone, self-sufficient age. Hand-crafted wooden and metal models can nod in the same direction.

Windows: Window treatments are kept simple and unobtrusive - sill-length curtains or shades are most appropriate, usually in plain or checked lightweight cotton.

Floors: Well-sealed woodstrip flooring really suits the look. Stripped, bleached and varnished floorboards are also suitable. Otherwise, the smooth, clean finish of vinyl, stone or ceramic tiles is ideal.

Furniture: A combination of blue-painted cupboard doors and curtained unit fronts help to define the smartened-up rustic image. Wooden cooktops, dining table, and cane chairs conform with a general bias towards the use of natural materials. Other kitchen apparatus is conspicuous by its absence or is carefully concealed.

Furnishings: Built-in fittings: Scandinavian-style base and wall units are available from major home furnishings stores. Unit fronts should be made of wood, either with simple moldings or in tongue-and-groove paneling. The wood is usually painted in traditional blue, gray, or green colors. A subtle paint effect, such as stenciling or whitewashing, may be applied according to personal taste. Solid wood or granite countertops are traditional, but simulated wood or stone finishes on synthetic countertops are reliable substitutes.

You can revamp old units simply by replacing the doors and painting all cabinets in a suitable color. Otherwise commission a carpenter to make new doors in tongue-and-groove, or, if your units are standard, you may be able to change the door style from stock supplies. It is even less expensive to hang curtains over unit fronts, using gingham or ticking tightly gathered along a covered wire.

More on furniture: If your kitchen is large enough to include an eating area, furnish it with a plain wooden table and chairs. There are a range of contemporary and traditional styles from which to choose. Look for clean lines, natural or painted finishes, and classic proportions. Old farmhouse chairs can be painted to match the woodwork; add small touches of freehand or stenciled decoration for a pretty effect. Benches or settles are also in keeping with the look. Neat seat tie-on cushions or bolsters covered in ticking, gingham, or stripes provide comfort.

Window treatments: Let in plenty of light with flimsy, unlined curtains in checked or plain cotton. Cafe curtains, with or without matching fabric tiebacks, are suitably modest. A soft fabric valance adds a simple flourish.

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