Though Scandinavian design is often associated with minimalism, any true lover of the Nordic aesthetic will tell you that’s only half the story. Since the mid-20th century, bold prints have played a crucial role in shaping Scandinavia’s design language. Take a trip to Copenhagen or Stockholm now, and you’ll find that many of the motifs that were popular during the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s (in particular, abstract florals and geometrics) are still very much alive today.
If you want to get in on the action, there are a few standouts that we’d suggest snapping up first. Below, we’ve narrowed the most iconic Scandinavian patterns down to our top five.
Unikko by Marimekko
This print is by far the Finnish design house’s most popular, which is why it’s so hard to believe that the poppy pattern was never meant to end up in the company’s line in the first place. Designer Maija Isola created this punchy floral in 1964 in response to company founder Armi Ratia’s declaration that they would never release a flower pattern. Once a symbol of protest, Unikko is now synonymous with maximalism. The sheer scale of the print makes it the ideal base for smaller, more detailed prints. Mix and match away.
Vegetable Tree by Josef Frank
One look at Frank’s fabrics and you’d think he was a botanist. The Austria-born architect, who adopted Swedish citizenship in the 1930s, is best known for his whimsical nature scenes, which often feature wildflowers and woodland creatures. Swathed in his beloved vegetable-tree print (a variation of a larger “tree of life” theme that was ever-present in his work), this pillow will bring the outdoors in—no green thumb required.
Unisol by Verner Panton
As his contemporaries were rethinking traditional folk art and experimenting with bold florals, Danish designer Panton shifted his focus to futuristic design. Enter this optical illusion. A grid made of circles and ovals, his rhythmic Unisol print adds depth to any surface it graces and pairs well with the muted pinks and greens that are currently taking Scandinavian design by storm.
Pythagoras by Sven Markelius
Markelius’s fabrics often boasted the same structure and mathematical rigmarole as his buildings. As hexagonal block tiles and right-angle coffee tables continue to fill our Instagram feeds, the archirect’s Pythagoras print (and others like it, such as Viola Gråsten’s triangular Oomph fabric) feels more relevant now than ever. Whether used for artwork, a shower curtain, or area rug, this graphic pattern deserves a large platform.
Elefant by Estrid Ericson
Often drawing from her travels, Ericson’s Elefant print was inspired by a trip she took to the Congo. Svenskt Tenn, the prominent Swedish furniture retailer she founded in the ’20s, still uses the charming print on wallpaper, textiles, and kitchenware. We love this one for a nursery.
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