8 Ways Scandinavia Impressed Us This Year

Scandinavia was consistently inspiring in 2011.

After looking back on a year of Shelter posts, we realized that our obsession with Scandinavia was embarrassingly obvious.

This year saw a steady stream of sustainable innovation, progressive thought, and great design coming out of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and their not-officially-Scandinavian-but-Scandinavian-in-our-hearts cousins, Finland and Iceland.

Here’s a list of eight things that set our hearts a-flutter about Scandinavia this year.

They know how to strike the perfect balance between indoors and outdoors. Rooms at the Juvet Landscape Hotel nurture a relationship with nature, while remaining minimalist and sophisticated.


They can pull off a girly microbrewery. The Mikkeller pub in Copenhagen underwent a feminine design transformation at the hands of Femmes Regionales. The result was delightful.

They make rest stops not so scary. Norway’s government-sponsored a National Tourist Routes program engaging architects like Margrete Friis and Peter Zumthor to design lookouts, concession stands, restrooms, picnic tables, and other sustainable rest stops along scenic country roads.

They champion post-secular worship and design. Helsinki’s Chapel of Silence provides a place for urbanites to meditate in silence, without religious affiliation. It’s also gorgeous.

They design treehouses that look like UFOs. Sweden’s Treehotel consists of five eco-hotel campsites designed by leading Scandinavian architects in the woods of northern Sweden.

They give their factory workers, even the fast furniture ones, five weeks of paid vacation per year. Workers at IKEA’s Sweden plant also get paid $19 per hour, and the whole country offers free healthcare, elderly pensions, and a host of other social goodies. Compare that to workers in IKEA’s Danville, Virginia, plant, who get paid $8 an hour and are often forced to work overtime at the risk of being fired.

They can look perfectly at home in a house with white floors. A peek inside designer Tine Kjeldsen’s home in Denmark reveals the perfect combination of exposed wood, raw metal, plush plum upholstery, and flawless white floors.

Their idea of luxury involves cycling, yurts, and designer hot tubs. As it should. Activities and design at Southern Norway’s eco-friendly Canvas Hotel celebrate their motto: “You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing.”

Image: Leong Him Woh

Jessica Marati

Jessica Marati currently resides in New York City and covers travel and sustainability for EcoSalon. Catch her weekly column, Behind the Label.