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Scandinavian Folk Art Furniture Trend…Are We All About To Start Painting Our Casegoods??

Before we start, I have a confession to make: I’ve never been a big fan of painted wooden furniture. Lacquer? All day. A colored stain? Yes, please. But paint? It’s always felt like a bridge too far for my vintage-loving heart, which has always prioritized preserving and maintaining the original finish of my case goods. Paint, in my mind, was for walls and art. NOT ANYMORE.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve shared a few of our favorite upcoming trends with you. Arlyn walked us through the bright, modern successor she believes will replace the now-ubiquitous Modern Farmhouse look; Jess broke down tips to get this new moody, artful, California-inspired style in your own home. And today, I’d like to throw a third design style into the ring from FAR left field: I am wholeheartedly convinced that we are departing the English cottage era and entering a Scandinavian Folk Art Revival period. I know, I know – it sounds a little out there at first blush, but take a peek before you make up your mind!

Doin’ It the Scandinavian Way

We’re obviously going to start with a little design history…but it’ll be fun to learn about, because the history, in this case, looks like it stepped STRAIGHT OUT OF 2024. I’m sorry, nothing that is hundreds of years old has any business looking like it was plucked out of an Elle Decor spread. See for yourself – (You can click through to see more using the little arrow on the right, just above the chair, BTW.)

These shots were grabbed a few weeks ago by Ben Penreath (a design legend in his own right!) at the Open Air Museum in Copenhagen. The preserved structures that dot the property are hundreds of years old, and as you can tell, they each share a beautifully consistent design vernacular. They’re warm, charming, and collected – bright but not garish; whimsical but not twee; hand-crafted but not slapdash. This is the kind of Scandinavian style that my inner maximalist can get on board with!

There are a few hallmarks, too, that make Scandinavian folk art easy to spot: cheery, near-primary colors, often in unexpected combinations; simple, geometric adornment; nature-inspired motifs (especially flowers, leaves, or animals), sometimes painted in conjunction with a mythological or folk tale reference. It all just looks so sweet, home-y, and somehow, perfectly on trend – so let’s break down how to use it in 2024, shall we?

Tip 1: Desaturate The Palette

Make no mistake: you’re about to see a lot of colorful furniture. What you’re not going to see? A loud, overstated, or overwhelming palette. Despite being painted, these pieces aren’t stealing attention – they’re adding to each room in a harmonious, charming way. The hand-painting on these built-ins just makes them feel more finished, doesn’t it?

BRB, adding “custom-painted fridge cabinet” to my new list of requirements for my future dream home. The floral motif could lean granny in a different space, but the geometric inlays and brass hardware keep it feeling modern. On that note…

Tip 2: Bring In An Antique-Inspired Floral

Ring a bell? IT SHOULD – we saw some similar bed nooks earlier at the museum in Copenhagen! (You can scroll back up – I’ll wait.)

I was first drawn to this room because of the genius space planning, but this hand-painted floral is the cherry on top. There’s so much going on here – Curves! Stripes! Ditsy florals! Big florals! Contrasting colors! Printed wallpaper! – but it still feels calm, restful, and simple. IT’S SO COOL, GUYS.

You know what else is cool? Actual antiques! I love the cabinet that Reath Design pulled for this room – do you see how the simple yellow in the floral speaks to the ultra-modern canopy bed and antique geometric rug? (They’re playing design chess, not just checkers!)

Tip 3: Geometric Pattern? Guaranteed Win

Settle in for a surprise: this little harlequin number was painted around 1780. Nearly 250 years ago – as America was starting out – a hipster craftsperson sat down in Northern Italy and chose this bright, happy color palette. Isn’t that fun to think about? A lot of the time, I think we imagine the design of the past in neutral tones – I’m sure it’s partly influenced by the media we consume – but that’s not true at all! Historical design is MUCH more vibrant than we give it credit for. 🙂

We’re continuing our world tour with a quick stop in Kenya. Soak it all in: the painted bed frame, the striped nightstand, the woven carpet, the show-stopping canopy, the beautiful beams…and the fan in the corner. Did you even notice? I didn’t! There are only three things on the floor in this room, and I didn’t even clock one of them. (Let the serve as a testament to the power of an interesting paint job.)

Tip 4: Add A Lil’ Whimsy

Did I slander “twee” earlier? Is it too late to apologize? THIS IS TOO CUTE. I literally can’t even look at this cabinet – it’s going to give me baby fever. Please hold while I re-calibrate by reminding myself that this art art also dons the walls of Bemelman’s Bar, a venue that has bestowed on me the single most brutal hangover of my life. (I’m nauseous just thinking about it. Baby fever cured!)

Whimsy isn’t limited to childlike illustration, though. I know this armoire (from the Hotel Peter and Paul in New Orleans – check it out, the design is AWESOME) gleans its inspiration more from trompe l’oeil than folk art…but I’M MAKING THE RULES HERE, and I think it’s relevant.

This painted furniture trend is in its infancy – you’re in early – and I’m not sure how it’ll shake out and develop as it’s interpreted and re-interpreted in different homes, styles, and aesthetics. I do know that this armoire contains the cornerstones, though – a desaturated palette, a geometric line, and a dash of unexpected charm. I wouldn’t be too mad to see pieces like this sweeping the nation!

Tip 5: When In Doubt, Combine A Circle + Stripe

Alright – you’re kind of on board and you’re thinking of taking a can of paint to an aging piece of furniture…WHAT DO YOU PAINT?

If you’re feeling totally stuck, “a circle and a line” is the correct answer. Any hue, any layout, any configuration – they’re all winners. To steal a phrase from the EHD handbook – this look really IS simple and special. 🙂

Tip 6: Match Your Vibe

You know that clip of Oprah, where she’s yelling about everyone getting a car? That’s how I feel about these painted pieces – there really IS a fit for everyone. Do you want to maintain the farmhouse aesthetic you’ve grown to love? A piece like this will slide right in…

Swoon. It really brings such a nice harmony to the kitchen, doesn’t it? But maybe you’re a modern gal, who’d prefer a 21st-century interpretation, like this new, custom, 1790s-meets-1990s piece from Reath Design…

It’s the perfect piece for that space. But it’s not about shoving any old painted cabinet or armoire or dresser into your home – it’s about finding the right piece that works with your life, your taste, and your style.

Now that we’ve reviewed the case, WHAT SAY YOU? Do you buy into Scandinavian Folk Art, or is something larger at play? Have you also felt the siren song of painted furniture? Are you surprised by your reaction? Or, perhaps the most pressing question: have I finally lost my mind? Let’s chat about it all – it’ll be a welcome reprieve from my currently-fruitless, borderline-endless searches for “painted (insert item here)” on Facebook Marketplace. SEE YA DOWN THERE! xx

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: Our Modern English Tudor Living Room

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2 months ago

I don’t know what I think of this… it feels like it could be a harder trend to pull off and get the right vibe? I am excited to see what everyone else has to say!

2 months ago

I love this! And I’ve learned to trust Caitlin when it comes to early trend spotting. I remember laughing at her cabbageware post a few years ago, and lo and behold it’s everywhere now! She was also spot on with the blue and red color trend. Caitlin, how do you identify these trends? You seem to have a gift for it!

2 months ago

I’m very intrigued!! Is this something Emily may pursue with her antique blue scandi cabinet that she ordered? I could see it working well like in these pictures

2 months ago

Hey, if it doesn’t have a beautiful grain or lovely patina on its own, say if it’s pine or mango or some other cheap wood, do not feel guilty at all about cracking out the paint — you might end up with something as gorgeous as these!

2 months ago

What became of the Swedish hutch that Emily bought? That seems to fit right in with this post.

2 months ago

So, basically you’re telling me that all of the stuff my Mom has moved into the basement over the years because it was “too dated” is stuff I should be shopping through?! She has a lot of Norwegian wall art (think rosemaling). Personally, I love this style comeback! It seems heavy on vintage and lots of color. So inspiring! I guess it doesn’t hurt that it’s part of my heritage. Added bonus 🙂

2 months ago

I absolutely adore this look, but truly feel like it’s not for every house. It would be a tough sell to insert this into my 1950’s boxy ranch (I say that with mostly love in my heart).

2 months ago

This style is not for me. I’m happy for everyone it speaks to, but it’s way too busy for me. It hurts my eyes.

2 months ago

I love painted effects and as long as you don’t overdo it they can transform the boring into the unique. I have painted borders, inbuilt cupboard doors and furniture. Cabinets with hand painted details at the back of the unit look fabulous. You can customize decor when you can’t find the piece you need, distress the work to age it and it is a sustainable way to reuse old pieces and second hand finds. If hand painting isn’t something you feel confident doing then consider the wide range of decorative decals available to help. There are some beautiful examples of French and European painted furniture for inspiration in addition to the beautiful Scandinavian examples.

2 months ago

I can really get into this Scandi trend as opposed to the previous grey and cream Scandi sadness trend. But I’ve loved this look since I was visiting my sister in Maine in the 1980s. She took me to a little Swedish shop in Caribou, and they had several Carl Larsson (check him out!) prints. His paintings of interiors are gorgeous and 150 years old!

2 months ago

Fix It Friday time for empty corners (posted on Instagram):

2 months ago

I have scandi ancestry and have always decorated in a scandi country style. I wish the trend cycles would just go away and everyone could just decorate in the individual style that speaks to them—- and stick with it forever. I think the scandi country style works well in quirky old houses and apartments that have the simple patterns, folky, handmade, patina esthetic carried through the whole home like a thread with a heavy dose of restraint.

2 months ago

I’m happy to see this trend coming back because I’ve admired painted furniture pieces (not only Scandinavian) for their artistry for a long time. I’ve even painted pieces myself with Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax, although not so much with patterns (not faux aged either) but I’d like to try it. I’d be curious to see Emily try it out in her home.

2 months ago

Superb! These trends looks very impressive.

2 months ago

I love it but I haven’t seen much of it in action here in Copenhagen. The standard here is very neutral with a pop of color in art or a fabulous vintage light fixture. Very easy to find gorgeous midcentury furniture, but not so much the painted furniture. I’m going to keep an eye out to see if this makes a resurgence in our excellent flea markets because I would happily snatch it up. (Come design-hunting in Scandinavia, Team EHD!)

2 months ago

My grandmother was an artist. My grandparents lived in a tiny apartment in New York City. She painted several pieces of her furniture and I loved it. She had two ladder back chairs at their dining table and she painted the slats with little floral motifs. She also had a large metal hamper in the bathroom that she painted black and adorned with a lush floral painting. She painted metal waste baskets with flowers. Their apartment was tiny but so inviting. Not stuffy grandma but artistic, colorful grandma.
Thinking about that apartment takes me back to the 1960s and 70s. ❤️

2 months ago

I’ve been keeping an eye on this trend for a few months as well, heavily influenced by Tess Newall’s ig, which is full of handpainted murals and furniture (one of her posts is linked in the article). I LOVE how playful it is–more whimsy! More color!