Here Jeremy Broadhead, Commercial Manager at Heckmondwike, looks at the trend towards Scandinavian design in commercial flooring.
“The Scandinavian design movement originated from the Nordic countries in the early 1930s. Interest in it was heightened after the 1947 design exhibition in Milan, ‘Triennale di Milano’, which saw the early adoption of Scandinavian style for the home. In the early 1950s the trend became widely recognised and adopted in both domestic and commercial settings.
Scandinavian style represented a brave new contrast, characterised by key components – functionality and simplicity. Whilst the rest of Europe favoured opulent and ornate decor and bright colours, reflected by luxurious lifestyles of royalty and aristocracy, Nordic style was to pick the practical instead of the plush and to select function over frills. The long harsh winters in Scandinavian countries kept people indoors for many months, when space was often restricted, so there was a very real need to make homes cosy and spacious. This meant that every object had to reflect as much light and be as functional as possible.
For many years, it was a trend purely in home styling, and actually during the opulent 1980s, the style waned due to the adoption of more opulent, luxurious style. But Scandinavian design soared again in the 1990s when it was reinterpreted as designers demonstrated how every object should be treated as an individual unit, leading to bold and unique statement pieces. As the trend spread over to commercial interiors, the look combined beauty with practicality, shunning the ornate and celebrating simple elegance that was accessible to all.
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As is universally known, Scandinavian style focuses on simplicity and minimalism. Frills and unnecessary accessories are seen as a distraction. Bright colours do not feature widely.
In the last five years, it is little surprise that this trend has evolved to commercial interiors, capturing the whole look for walls, furnishings and flooring. Whereas in the past, designers may have used the carpet or wall as a blank canvas in which to showcase bright, vivid colours, now the trend is much more to use these as a back drop, choosing subtle tones of grey, white and black, with the occasional accent of colour. If you look at the palettes of modern design-led carpet manufacturers, it is easy to spot the trend towards more subtle, neutral shades, such as grey, which give the interior designer or architect the ability to carefully select a carpet shade that reflects the mood they are creating.
Cool, subtle shades in flooring have also been shown to create a calming ambience in a commercial setting. Ten years ago businesses were more likely to choose vibrant colours if they wanted to motivate or empower a workforce, now the trend is much more towards the neutral palette. When overused, some really bright colours which were thought to enhance creativity, on the contrary have been found to stimulate anxiety, counteracting any positive benefit there could have been. The cool, stylish and now familiar Scandinavian style is therefore being welcomed by employees in the workplace as one that they recognise and feel comfortable in. This is creating an atmosphere that is productive and conducive to a healthy working ambience.
The reasons for integrating Scandinavian style into commercial interiors is the same as it was for introducing it into the home. Firstly, as modern workspaces can be the place where most people spend their waking time, it is therefore essential to keep out the gloom of a long winter by introducing light. Flooring, including carpet, can be used to maximise the amount of light reflected. Natural light can be amplified in other ways too, such as generously proportioned windows.
Use of neutral colours which are serene and muted makes the office space appear bright and spacious, even on dull days. This can help to keep employees motivated during the winter months. And it can be successfully optimised by use of accent colours in carpet or rugs which inject workspaces with life and character.
Barriers and partitions are also being replaced in favour of subtle changes in flooring tone to reflect breakout areas or chill-out zones. Here zoning is used to ensure that areas of an office can be separated into a variety of ‘activity settings’ designed for specific actions such as informal meeting areas, breakout zones or quiet areas. It is proving to be much more effective in enhancing employee communication and team-working rather than walls and partitions and is completely in keeping with Scandinavian style.
What Scandinavian design does bring with it is longevity. It has enjoyed popularity for over 50 years, which suggests it is a great theme for modern office environments. The thermal and acoustic properties offered by carpet, too, are helping to enhance the trend, introducing that element of comfort and practicality for which Scandinavian style is renowned. Modern developments in fibre bonded carpet, for example, means the carpet can retain its aesthetics for longer. These carpets also offer anti-fray properties, which means they can withstand heavy duty traffic and regular cleaning, either in office or educational environments, without fibres becoming dislodged and damaging the aesthetics.
So it looks like Scandinavian style is here to stay and this means that the modern workplace will continue to reflect the clean, uncluttered minimalistic look of many modern homes. However many interior designers are cleverly making the most of the Scandinavian trend by combining it with flooring that offers practical benefits, such as great acoustics and comfort underfoot, to create a truly inspiration interior work environment.”
Heckmondwike is the UK’s leading fibre bonded carpet manufacturer. The company designs and manufactures carpets for a wide range of educational, public sector and commercial environments. The company’s Iron Duke range of fibre bonded carpet is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, having been around a similar length of time to modern-day Scandinavian style.
Heckmondwike’s sample cards are available to order via the website or by calling 01924 406161.