Five interior design lessons from Finland – the happiest country in the world

Does a happy country begin with a happy home? These native designers share how to spread joy throughout your decor

Finnish interior design style tips, home in Finland
(Image credit: Martti Järvi)

The UN's World Happiness Report 2021 recently declared Finland as the happiest country in the world – for its fourth consecutive year in a row. The annual study, conducted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, explored several factors, including a country's relationship between well-being and Covid-19. They announced, last month, that the Scandinavian nation would retain the crown it has held since 2018. 

So, we can look to no better place for home decor tips than the happiest destination in the world. Here, these native designers – who make homes feel joyful every day – show you how to mirror their style, wherever you are. 

1. Invest in timeless antiques and recycled treasures 

'Finnish homes glorify the Scandinavian light and timeless style. We cherish durable father-to-son style choices and genuine natural materials,' begins Ida Pihlajaniemi, CEO and Interior Architect of idaDesign. The Helsinki-based designer continues, urging us to showcase our heirlooms and look to furniture from the past for a happy modern home of the future. 

Finnish interior design style tips, living room in Finland

(Image credit: Martti Järvi)

She continues: 'The traditional skill of making by hand is passed on to us as a blood legacy, and most homes have centuries-old furniture made by family and passed down from generation to generation. Recycled treasures are also very pleasing to Finns who are accurate about their finances – that is why we have a lot of old goods stores, flea markets, and online stores.'

Ida's words are similarly emphasized by designer couple Saana Sipilä, and Olli Sallinen of Saana ja Olli, who revealed all furniture in their 107-year old home Toukolaakso is 'totally second hand,' apart from one single 'Artek lamp.' 

'We have both been garage sale and dumpster divers our whole life; we like the things that have history and have proven to be well-made. In our mind combining items from different decades makes the interior more interesting and personal,' Saana and Olli add.  

2. Stick to a neutral color palette 

Finnish interior design style tips, minimalist bedroom in Finland

(Image credit: Martti Järvi)

Interior Designer Helena Karihtala shares it is uncommon to see 'a lot of color' in Finnish homes, as designers particularly opt for 'muted, earthy tones' and natural paint colors.

'Focus on using neutral and subtle matching shades that reflect the color spectrum of nature. Offset natural hues with smaller bursts in softer and brighter colors,' Helena adds. Ida similarly shares Helena's claim, sharing how 'as interior decorators, Finns are typically not considered the boldest in the world in the use of colors,'

'However, I would argue that over the years, we have been encouraged, and our homes show their own clear style,' Ida shares. 

3. Choose furnishings made from natural materials 

Following closely from the importance of neutral colors, Helena explores the 'Finnish bond with nature,' which is 'reflected in the natural materials such as wood, stone, linen, and wool.'  

Finnish interior design style tips, living room in Finland

(Image credit: Martti Järvi)

'Flooring is generally hardwood, and wood furniture is also common. Use light-colored wood, as in ash, birch, beech, and light oak,' says Helena. Similarly, Joanna Laajisto, designer at Studio Joanna Laajisto, reveals her nation's love for terracotta, which she suggests, is a fundamental element of Finnish design.

'It has been used in Finnish architecture for decades. It's very practical, quite economical but still warm and earthy – thus very Finnish in my opinion,' Joanna adds.

See: Neutral bedroom ideas: 27 stylish ideas for a calm and restful bedroom scheme

4. Master Minimalism

Scandi-cool style is known and loved for its minimalism, and this is not without good reason, according to Helena, who reminds us that less is more. 

Finnish interior design style tips, kitchen in Finland

(Image credit: Martti Järvi)

'The Finnish design focuses on minimalism, clean lines from architecture to furniture. We long for uncluttered spaces with minimal ornamentation, aesthetically pleasing due to its simplicity,' Helena adds. Furthermore, Olli and Saana remind us to choose 'items that are meaningful' and choose 'memories' over 'the latest trends.'

'Meanwhile, don't forget the value of empty space,' Olli and Saana add.

5. Emphasize natural light 

Finnish interior design style tips, natural light coming through door in Finland

(Image credit: Martti Järvi)

Nowhere preserves natural light quite like Finland, where homes are curated to squeeze every drop of sunlight during its notoriously dark winters. This usually leads designers to skip window dressings, as Helena shares: 

'Due to long winters, the use of natural light is considered to be important, and we usually prefer large windows. Keeping the windows bare or using light curtains helps make the space feel open and full of natural light. The walls are also almost always a shade of white making most of natural light.'

If our homes can reflect just a tiny piece of joy, and sophisticated style, from this globally celebrated country, we'll be happy indeed. 

Megan Slack

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team.

Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US whilst studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site.

Megan currently lives in London, where she relocated from her hometown in Yorkshire. In her home, she experiments with interior design trends and draws inspiration from the home decor ideas she observes in her everyday work life. Her favorite pieces include her antique typewriter and her expansive collection of houseplants. When she isn’t writing, she is browsing London’s coffee shops and bookstores to add to her ever-growing library, taking over the open shelving in her apartment.