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  • Writer's pictureNoelle Martinez

Scandinavian Essence: What You Need to Know About Designing a Scandinavian Barn-Inspired Home

In recent years, Studio Boise has seen more clients coming to us with dreams of Scandinavian Barn-inspired homes: think big black gabled structures with sharp roof lines cutting against the sky. While the barn inspiration is evidence of the current trends to reattach ourselves to the land (farm to fork restaurants, modern farm houses, urban vegetable gardens), the details that make these homes pop out at us are very much rooted in Scandinavian design spawning in the early 1900's and peaking throughout the world in the 1950's. From Alvar Alto's Paimio Chair to Eero Saarinen's swooping concrete forms seen at the JFK Airport, Scandinavian design boils down to one thing: simplicity. This translates well into the simple structure of the barn. While I don't believe there are any hard rules in design, aside from physics, there are some guiding principles that put your barn-inspired home into the Scandinavian realm.

1) Keep the shape a simple box: If the shape gets too complicated with pup outs and dormers at every side, you will wander into the barns of New England or out of barn land all together.

2) Create vast areas of solid and void: Much of Scandinavian design is made to look simple by having one material butt right up to another, and you need a large expanse of those materials to emphasize the difference. With a Scandinavian Barn as a home style, it is generally more successful to avoid evenly spaced windows placed on all sides of the home exterior. Rather, leave large areas of solid siding next to large expanses of glass. Make your cuts into the sturdy barn volume few and intentional.

3) Abbreviated Overhangs: Again, not a rule, but generally a detail that creates that stark gabled silhouette against the sky is having very short or completely absent overhangs. If you do need overhangs, keep them as thin as possible to preserve that sharpness against the backdrop.

4) Color: Limit your color palette to 2 materials + windows. The current trend is to go all black with charred wood, black lap or board and batten siding. That is fine, but don't be afraid of a pop of color or a recess clad in warm wood. Scandinavian design generally has a very simple palette.

However, if you need multiple materials, change them by volume. Think legos: each block is all one color. If you want to bring in color, make the use of that color consistent. For example, all windows are red or all recesses are clad in wood. If you want to color block the entire home in primary colors, you will be straying into a more general genre of Mid-Century Modern style, but I wouldn't stop you. Color brings life.


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