Global Style: Denmark
by Alexia Biggs
Each week during hardtofind Design Month, our guest style editor, Alexia Biggs, explores the design capitals of the world. This week she visits Copenhagen, and discovers the beauty in its simple, minimalist aesthetic.
Arrive in Copenhagen and you notice it must be one of the the quietest capitals in the world, a city where thousands of cyclists whir gently past and locals stroll peacefully past Renaissance castles and modern designed buildings.
It’s also one of the coolest capitals in the world. Quite simply, the place oozes style, and everywhere you look, from the sleek, modern metro stations, to the 17th-century terraces, chic cafes – and immaculately dressed diners within them – you feel as though you’ve stepped into the pages of a beautiful, glossy fashion and interiors magazine.
Design saturates most elements of Danish life, and it’s hard to find fault with anything. They get their pure, pared-back style and understated elegance right every time.
It’s a look that was born in the 1920s, embracing the modernist principles of Bauhaus design marked by simplicity, utility and beauty. Designers created thoughtful, innovative techniques to improve everything within daily life. The focus was on interiors: furniture, lighting, textiles, cutlery and dishes that are durable, reliable and simple. The Danish aesthetic also has a strong relationship with nature – the curves of a ceramic bowl mimic the curved shorefront of a lake, and natural shapes come into play with lights and seating.
Inside almost every house there are functional and elegant objects. Interiors are typically clean and minimalist: white walls and floorboards provide a structural, almost architectural backdrop to simple, utilitarian furniture. The colour palette is monochrome and muted, with perhaps a single splash of muted colour from a lamp, cushion or chair. The curtains, if indeed there are any, are white and open. And every house is full of candles – a Danish obsession embraced all through winter, which helps provide hygge (loosely translated as “cosy atmosphere”), the state to which every Danish home aspires.
Lasting from November to April, winters are long and dark, so it’s important to maximise the amount of light coming into the home. A lot of time and energy is spent on dressing interiors because Danes spend so much time indoors and entertain friends at home, so it’s also a way of showing who they are, how they live and what they believe in. And there’s a firm belief that beautiful interiors make people happy!
Even the most conservative of institutions, such as the large banks, has Louis Poulsen artichoke lights. Airport lounges are filled with pieces by Danish design maestro Arne Jacobsen, and the main shopping street, Strøget (one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe), shares the irresistible four-storey temple dedicated to design, Illums Bolighus (which offers a comprehensive selection of modern and contemporary furniture, homewares and mainly monochrome fashion and accessories), with smart, fresh design newcomers, HAY, for company. The sense of harmony extends to fashion as well; there are classic, modern clothing styles for men and women at Mads Nørgaard and contemporary silhouettes for women from Malene Birger.
The city breathes design in other areas, too, from the junk shops of Nørrebro, to the spanking new architecture of the harbour front. Wherever you dine, food is exquisitely presented: candlesticks adorn the tables, and wild flowers are effortlessly placed into vases. Wander aimlessly around any street, and you’ll still end up on an impromptu design tour.
The Copenhagen aesthetic is defined by cool, clean lines, graceful shapes, and continues to stamp its effortless chic on the world with furniture, fashion, architecture and graphic design. The world is thankful of its obsession with good design, detail and fine craftsmanship.
Get the Danish look
- Danish flight sculptural pendant light 35, from $89
- Nordic 7-arm light in black, $199.95
- Porcelain knots necklace, $55
- Viva Scandinavia ‘anytime’ ceramic teapot, $54.90
- Design House tablo table, $549.90
- Anne Black Ruth M large tile serving plate, $47.50
- Roxanne chair in European oak and Danish cord, $1,414
- Leff Amsterdam brick copper clock, $599.95
- Natural wood bead necklace, $55
- Dotty the deer print, from $55
- Dial hangers, from $35 each
- Big stripe pastel pink quilt cover, from $149
- Geo throw in mint/white, $286, made from 100% baby alpaca wool
- Bellini table/stool, $799
- Thick cross bangle in white, $59.95
- Anne Black contain drop flower vase set, $90
Alexia Biggs is a freelance stylist and interiors editor, plus an expert in scouting for all that’s new and stylish in homewares within Australia, and around the globe. She knows the best shops online and on the streets, and for the past four years has delivered the all that’s great in design in her weekly column, “The Source” in Spectrum, in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald.
Hardtofind is Australia’s leading online curated marketplace for gifts, fashion and homewares.