Colour: the new white

A new appreciation of colour is helping to redefine Scandinavian design, with white, grey and black supplemented by bold colours. It’s all about individual expression, as the new Volvo XC40 proves.


A new dimension in colour

Scandinavian design, so long associated with a monochrome palette, is changing. Colour, you could say, is the new white. This is the new wave of Scandinavian colour – a trend towards the use of brighter tones and unexpected shades.

Stockholm’s Note Design Studio, a multi-disciplinary design agency, is using colour in a more adventurous way than ever. A look at its recent interior design work reveals a wealth of warm pinks, cool greens and sharp yellow accents. And Note’s work for the Design Bar at the 2017 Stockholm Furniture Fair (pictured below) features floor coverings, walls, tables and chairs in variations of deep, saturated orange and red – about as far from bleached wood and white walls as you can get.

Susanna Wåhlin, interior architect at Note, says that strong colours have become increasingly important to the studio’s work. “We recently started designing an interior using a grey palette with just a few colourful pieces of furniture as accents. But after a while it felt like we weren’t using all the tools in the toolbox,” she recalls. “So we introduced colour to the bigger surfaces, the walls and the ceiling. It added another dimension to the space.”

“Colour brings another dimension to a space. It’s an endless source of inspiration”


Interior architect, Note Design Studio

The power of contrast

The Volvo XC40 is a car that reflects the progressive nature of contemporary Scandinavian design, and its increasingly bold use of colour. Exterior paint finishes include Fusion Red, a strong colour that enhances the car’s youthful character, and Denim Blue, a deep blue inspired by worn jeans. There’s also Amazon Blue, a subtle yet distinctive colour inspired by the classic Volvo model of the same name. When combined with the crisp lines and sharp details of the XC40 it creates a fresh, contemporary character.

“Contrast was one of our big influences,” says Erik Åleby, Colour & Materials Designer at Volvo Cars. And the XC40 uses this concept to great effect. R-Design models come with a roof and door mirrors in Black Stone, which contrasts with body colours such as Crystal White, Bright Silver and Bursting Blue. And Momentum models are available with a roof and door mirrors in Ice White, to contrast body colours such as Maple Brown and Osmium Grey.

A colourful expression

“We wanted to create something new,” says Erik. “Something expressive. And we took inspiration from all over – mostly from non-automotive sources such as art, architecture, fashion and modern culture.

“Personally, I’m really interested in what Scandinavian furniture brands such as Hay and Swedese are doing with colour – the way that they combine clean design with a very focused use of colour is an inspiration.”

The careful, considered way that colour is applied in Scandinavian design is what makes it so effective, says Erik. And one of the most striking applications of colour for the XC40 is in the cabin, where R-Design models are available with floor carpet and door inserts in Lava – a rich, deep orange that contrasts with the black door, seat and dashboard materials for a dramatic look. “It’s a really strong, simple graphic that gives you a nice surprise when you open the door,” says Erik.

With these colour combinations, both inside and outside, the new XC40 offers a new take on the concept of colour – one that’s modern and distinctly Scandinavian. “There is so much colour around us,” says Susanna Wåhlin. “Sometimes it’s worth stopping to take a good look. Then you realise how colourful the world that we are living in is. It’s an endless source of inspiration.”