Skandinavisk: Telling the story of Scandinavia, One Fragrance at A Time

If you wander through the pretty back streets of central Copenhagen, you might just come across a secret courtyard nestled between the centuries old golden yellow buildings where bikes lie propped up against the wall and an outdoor table awaits the spring sunshine. This is where I found myself last Thursday, visiting Skandinavisk, with whom I've struck up a wonderful partnership with this year! Inside minimalist furnishings, white washed walls, a light wood pine floor and fresh coffee awaited. It felt a million miles form the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen's main shopping fair, a few hundred metres away. But this is something at which Skandinavisk is immensely skilled: transporting you to another world. Fill your senses with a Skandinavisk home or body fragrance and you'll find yourself drifting off to a fjord in Norway, the shores of the Baltic or a cosy Danish cottage with the nostalgic aroma of bread rising in the oven. I caught up with co-founder and fellow Brit Shaun Russell to learn about storytelling, fragrance, the Scandinavian passion for nature and candlelight, and life in Denmark's capital city.

I'm pretty envious of your studio, how did you find it?!
We moved in last May - it's really starting to feel like home now. It's owned by Rolf - a film photographer who has had the building for over 40 years. When we walked in, it immediately felt right. It was all white washed with a beautiful light wood floor. Having sat at my kitchen table and desk hopped for five years,  I couldn't imagine a better place to work!

If you move out, let me know and I'll move in!

Marketing & PR assistant Cecile Lind Christiansen in the Skandinavisk studio in Copenhagen

You and I share the same passion for Scandinavia - what do you feel sets this region apart?
As a Brit who's lived in Scandinavia since 2001, including six years in Sweden and more than twelve years in Denmark and working in various Nordic roles, I had unconsciously been gaining a broad depth of knowledge about this region. Then, after about ten years I had a eureka moment where I felt like I finally felt like I fully understood what made Scandinavia so different, so special and a role model for the rest of the world. There are of course differences between the Scandinavian countries, but what I find interesting are the similarities: their deep respect towards nature, finding happiness in the everyday as well as strong values of trust and equality. Scandinavians are good at making life better for everyone. It's no coincidence that the Scandinavian countries consistently come top of the world in happiness surveys: and I believe a more Scandinavian approach to life, makes life better for all. There is something deep, substantial and beneficial we can learn from them. I wanted to find a way to tell the story in a simple way.

How did you find a way to tell your story?
I was searching for a symbol or canvas, a representative element for Scandinavia and it dawned on me that I had been sitting in front of it for the past ten years: the candle. It's the candles on almost every table, the candle that my Danish wife lights at breakfast time, it's the flickering flame in every restaurant or gathering, and it's enjoyed all year round.

My daughter even enjoyed a candlelight breakfast at her nursery, it always looked so calm! 

Why do you think candles are so important to Scandinavians?
Candles are the first catalyst for hygge or mys (essentially cosiness) - they create the atmosphere. Of course, the people make the atmosphere, but candlelight softens the moment, brings people together and, I think, plays a part in their desire to seek comfort and happiness in the everyday. I think it stems back to geography: the lack of sunlight and the need for warmth in the winter months. Gathering together around a fire is something people have done for centuries - but in Scandinavia it has never gone away. The Scandinavians burn more wax than any other nations on earth, it's a very important part of everyday life! 

Complete collection

What are the key elements you use to tell your story? 
Through Skandinavisk we tell stories from Scandinavia using fragrance, design, and language.

What role does fragrance play? 
If you put fragrance into a flame, you can tell richer stories, different stories. You can transport people to a Swedish boreal forest, an island in the Baltic or a Copenhagen rose garden. Norwegian fjord land, for example, is the most fertile soil in Norway. It's full of orchards and where apples, pears, plums, cherries and all kinds of berries are harvested. By creating a fragrance that reflects this, you can take people on a journey to different places across Scandinavia.

The Escapes Collection

How would you describe the Scandinavian relationship to nature?
Scandinavia is a story of contrasts. You get vast, sparsely populated landscapes and extreme weather: short dramatic springs, endless sunlight in the summer, and almost zero sunlight with temperatures well below zero in winter. As a result, exposure to nature for Scandinavians is so significant and I think they are humbled by its dominance. I think in many other parts of the world people tend to lose the relationship with nature over time, certainly in more developed, industrial regions. Scandinavia is a large land mass extending way North well into the Arctic circle. A lot of the time it's just you and the elements in all their primitive glory, surrounded by forests, lakes, streams or the sea. I believe this has shaped the mindset of Scandinavians. They embrace nature, and they adapt to nature rather than forcing nature to adapt to them. It's something the world really needs to learn from.

How do you develop an atmospheric scent that's not related to nature?
Hygge is a good example - it's a Danish word that means a lot of different things to different people; no one really knows what it smells like it but they all know what it feels like. What's important is that we add notes that are reflective of simple, everyday pleasures - a cup of tea with a friend, baking bread, strawberries, rose petals, picking wild mint, minor everyday things that you associate with feeling good. This is how we deconstruct a fragrance.

Hygge (cosiness) scented candle

I'm a big fan of your packaging /design language - it's very distinctive. What was the thought process behind it?
I wanted to do a few things that I felt weren't currently in the scandinavian design gene. Historically Scandinavian design is pared back, monochromatic and understated and I wanted to add more colour. Colour plays an important role in the storytelling. We look for hues that are true to the region - sometimes found in nature, sometimes connected to a feeling. We don't always get it right, but I think our colour palette is quite distinctive because it reflects the chapter that it represents e.g. the dark blue sea of (HAV), the soft pink-red of the berry harvest (BÆR), the soft pastel, tranquility of RO - meaning peacefulness.

What role does the name of each product play?
Scandinavian brands usually use English to reach out to the rest of the world. We wanted to celebrate the local languages and find words that represented the stories we wanted to tell. If it's a story about the forest - and Sweden is 70% forested while Denmark is only 12% forested. - we'll use the Swedish word. If it's a story about cosiness, hygge directs itself towards the Danes and the Norwegian fjords are the ones that everyone admires and draws breath from. So sometimes the words are local - sometimes they span all languages. It's part of how we want to be authentic in everything we do. 

SKOG reflects the morning mist rising from spruce and pine needles, of woodland lily of the valley musk and aged leather - scents associated with the Swedish boreal forest.  

I also like the distinctive pattern - how does this contribute to the story?
The pattern is made up of a collection of symbols, each symbol represents a chapter. The symbols are part of the story and for each chapter, one symbol will be elevated - evergreen forests, maritime history, snowflake, happiness or love, flags, unusual symbols in the alphabet. The pattern is a graphic way of telling the story of Scandinavia.

LYKKE (Danish word for 'happiness) scented candle

How do you decide which elements from Scandinavia to elevate? 
We start by identifying an aspect of the region which we consider precious to the inhabitants and unique and exotic to the outside world, based on our experience of living here.

HAV (distant shores), launching in Feb / March

Do you have a favourite fragrance?
I have a couple of favourites - ØY (solitary island) which we're burning in the office today and is one of our best sellers. We've also just refreshed the HAV (distant shores) fragrance which is launching this spring. And ROSENHAVE a special one which was a reflection of my wife's rose garden, where she collects and grows more than 120 varieties.

Hand cream from the best selling ØY (Island Solitude) collection

Last year saw the launch of your luxurious hand and body care products, what's next for Skandinavisk?
We have a new edition of HAV (meaning 'sea') coming out in February / March in all variants: candle, diffuser, hand cream, washes and lotion, a luxuriant new body cream, and a flaxseed body scrub from Finland. It's the first time we have reinvented an existing theme while also launching it in more than ten product categories. It's a complete fragrance collection, and we're very excited about it!

Where can we get our hands on items from Skandinavisk?
The complete range is available from our online shop and is the first place for news (we ship to most European countries within one to three days). We can also be found in some of the world's leading retailers including Illums Bolighus, Selfridges, Liberty, KaDeWe, Isetan. A selection of our largest retailers can be found here.

In short:
Secret Copenhagen tip: The Carlsberg pub
Favourite neighbourhood: Frederiksberg and Vesterbro
Favourite restaurant: Granola (popular for brunch but I think it's better for supper!)
Escape: The pure tranquility of a Swedish forest (and hop into a lake to appreciate the amazing silkiness of the water!)
Key to a successful business: Persistence

Thank you so much to the Skandianvisk team for inviting me to their studio for the day!

Incidentally, I've been burning ØYwhile writing this piece, as you know, I love the idea of island solitary, and it truly smells divine!

Is there a fragrance you've got your eye on?!


// Photography: 1-3 and the final shot Niki Brantmark  / 4+ courtesy of Skandinavisk

//This post is brought to you in collaboration with Skandinaviask, for whom I am a very lucky and proud ambassador! All questions are my own and I only ever work with brands I absolutely love and think you will too! Thank you for supporting businesses that make My Scandinavian Home possible. 


  1. I love the serenity of the designs, and the studio! I imagine the scents must be of the same essence. I would say I’m going to rush out and get myself a candle or two, but on second thought, I think I will mindfully saunter myself to the nearest shop instead!

    1. Saunter is right! Hope you like the candles as much as I do!

  2. So many recognisable reflections and mirrored truths of my own about Scandinavia and the Scandinavian relationship with nature and the elements! Scents make up such a huge part of the experience of the stroll along the beach, the walk through the forest, the hike through the mountains, the shuffling through that first, crisp layer of snow in the cold, even when experiencing the weather and the light!

    Love the Skandinavisk philosophy paired with a great design. Looking forward to bringing in their scents into my home to transport me to these places of calm and reflection from the comfort of my sofa :) What a great partnership!

    1. I love your reflection on scent - absolutely spot on!

  3. I'll be in Copenhagen in May and hope I can find my way to this shop. Love Scandinavia!!

    1. Yes, you must look out for their items while you're over - Illums Bolighus is a great place to start (plus you can find so many other beautiful design pieces there too!). I hope you enjoy Copenhagen!

  4. I visited Copenhagen Summer 2017 and wish I would of known about this shop! But I will have to get some candles soon! Thank you for the great article on this company! I must go back and stay for a chunk of my life I know this. Scandinavia has won me over!

  5. So excited to find this article. These candles used to be sold in a shop in my town but they stopped carrying them and I couldn’t remember the name. Thank you!


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