Scandinavian Kitchens, Part 1

With its streamlined country elegance, the Scandinavian style is an ideal solution for the heart of the home. Natural finishes and understated decorations combine to create a sense of warmth and hospitality for a family 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 stove-top. 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, sea grass, 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.

Copyright 2009 Rhonda Morin, May not be reprinted.

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