These Scandinavian Lighting Tricks Will Help You Beat the Winter Blues

published Jan 9, 2020
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Credit: Nadja Endler

Right now, there’s a good chance it’s not bright and sunny in Scandinavia. In January, for example, the sun rises in Stockholm around 8:47 a.m. and sets at 2:55 p.m., roughly six hours later. Some of the northernmost parts of the region that lie beyond the Arctic Circle are actually dark for months at a time during the winter. But that doesn’t get Scandinavians down. They’ve come up with more than their share of clever ideas for brightening their spaces during these literal dark days. And we can all use these tricks, for whatever gray winter we might have ahead, now and pretty much always.

Credit: Kim Lucian

Light candles

The first rule of Hygge 101? Candlelight is your best friend. Danes actually burn the most candles per person in all of Europe, and it’s this soft glow that helps keep Scandinavians going all winter long. Scent-wise, you can spark up something super floral or breezy to get in that midsummer headspace early. Or you can embrace the cozy with a more wintry scent. For extra ambiance, try placing candles at different heights in your room, and put a few votives on your window sills or on a shelf. And if you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, go ahead and light those logs while you’re at it. Not only will the fire add atmosphere, it’ll also create warmth. 

Credit: Miroco

Bring in something that simulates natural light

When the days get shorter in the winter, you may find it helpful to supplement the amount of light you’re getting, just as many Scandinavians do. Whether you go the route of a daylight simulating lamp like this top-rated Miroco LED Bright White Therapy Light Lamp or just swap out your bulbs from something close to daylight’s wavelength, this kind of light can help with sleep patterns, energy levels, and general mood.

Buy: Miroco LED Bright White Therapy Light Lamp, $59.99 $39.99 from Amazon

Credit: Cathy Pyle

Avoid harsh downward lights

Don’t get rid of your overhead fixtures altogether, but harsh, downcast lights can be a mood killer. It’s best to utilize your floor and table lamps this time of year, which are typically are more adjustable, at least in terms of the direction that they shine in. And if you can add a dimmer to your overheads, all the better. Searching for fixtures made out of natural materials can also improve visibility and keep the overall look of a room lighter and more Scandi-inspired.

Credit: Elissa Crowe

Decorate with a light and bright palette

Ever wonder why so many Scandi rooms start with white walls? It’s not just a coincidence. Lighter finishes can help to open up a space. Don’t be afraid to go a little paler with your furniture and floor coverings, too. If you’re worried about spots and blemishes, I hear you. But you can always treat upholstery with a stain protectant or shop for machine washable slipcovers and rugs. 

Go (slightly) glossy

Want to boost the way your walls throw light around a space? Then a slightly glossy paint finish like an eggshell or satin might be your best bet over a trendy flat or matte formula. These soft sheens will reflect light around a room, creating depth and movement in your space in the process. You can still stick to white walls and trim, and the good news is most paints with sheen are very durable, so they’re great for high traffic areas.

Make the most of mirrors

You know what else bounces natural and artificial light around a room? Mirrors. Make sure the decorative mirrors you already have are hung strategically, so they’re facing your windows and catching the rays that come in through them. If you can afford a few more mirrors and have a few prime, blank spots to put them, go for a couple more. You can add one into a gallery wall or even lean one against a wall.

Consider a skylight 

Turns out strategically placed windows can actually brighten your home up. According to Danish brand, Velux, a skylight or roof window brings in two times the amount of light as a façade window. Who knew? If construction isn’t in the cards for you right now, you could try keeping the windows in your living areas (where privacy isn’t a concern) undressed or covered with light sheers. A lot of people use this kind of breezy drapery in the summer, but it may be worth doing it now to reap the extra luminance now.