You've got to hand it to the Scandinavians - they know design. It is sleek without being unreasonably minimalist, and stylish yet utilitarian. It was the Nordic nations that brushed away the cobwebs of 19th-century European opulence by making furniture that was simple, fun and accessible to all.
If you want to see how their interiors appeal to the masses, just visit any Ikea store on any weekend.
Australian David Beeman, who owns Vampt Vintage Design, a furniture store with three outlets in Sydney specialising in mid-20th century Scandinavian designs, believes the appeal lies in the craftsmanship. "The underlying factor is quality. There's nothing that compares," he says.
Beeman thinks Scandinavian pieces are timeless. "Designs that have been around for 50 years are still mind-blowing," he says.
The materials are precious, too. The Brazilian rosewood and teak favoured by Scandinavian furniture makers in the 1950s and 1960s are no longer commercially available.
These days, the region's furniture is made of beech, oak and walnut harvested from sustainably managed forests.
When Beeman started Vampt 12 years ago, he was shopping for stock locally. "But we started seeing glimpses of beautiful Scandinavian furniture and ordered our first container from Denmark," he says.
Once customers saw the Nordic designs ("that it wasn't just Egg chairs") the trend really took off. Today, at least 80 per cent of the store's stock is Scandinavian furniture, "and getting more so", he says.
Among Beeman's favourite designers are Denmark's Hans Wegner, Børge Mogensen, Kofod Larsen and Kai Kristiansen; Sweden's Arne Norell and Bruno Mathsson; Norway's Rastad & Relling and Fredrik Kayser; and Finland's Alvar Aalto and Yrjo Kukkapuro. But he believes there are many Scandinavian designers yet to be discovered. "We've only scratched the surface," he says.
The look has caught on in Hong Kong, according to Susan Man and husband Paul Fung, founders of Scandinavian-designed furniture store Manks Limited. "In any society that becomes saturated in excess, there is a need to get back to the basics. Scandinavian design offers simple lines, breathing space and natural materials," Susan Man says.
"Compact living spaces cry out for less clutter, and welcome cleaner design lines to maximise whatever visual space is on offer," she adds.
Sixty-three-year-old Danish furniture company BoConcept responded to this trend by opening its first Hong Kong showroom in December 2013. Kim Moelholm, BoConcept's regional director for Asia, says the lightness and practicality of Scandinavian pieces solve some home interior challenges particular to the region.
"The designs don't take over your space, and many have functionality built in, so you gain extra storage," he says. "In a city like Hong Kong, where you have fewer square metres than [just about] anywhere in the world, that is highly relevant."
Scandinavian design, writes Nina Kozel, author of Design: The Groundbreaking Moments, refers to the design movement that emerged in the 1950s in Denmark, Sweden and Norway (as well as in Finland and Iceland). "Typical for Scandinavian design is beauty radiated through light colour, the ample use of wood, and minimalism and functionality," Kozel writes.
While the early designs "caused a sensation" as they broke from the norm, the genre soon became fashionable and remains so to this day.
The typical Scandinavian colour palette of whites (from bright white to ecru), natural light wood tones, pastels like green, blue or pink, and the occasional splash of yellow or red, seems to work well with a contemporary interior, for homes and offices alike. The style is also organised - a huge plus in any setting.
Yu-Chang Chen, founder of Hoo interior design, integrates Scandinavian design into his projects, because it feels "more human" than "boring minimalism".
"Scandinavian design is very clean, and uses natural materials. It sometimes has a dash of sharp colour," Chen says. "There is a focus on accessories, so it feels homey."
There is scope for individuality within the parameters of Scandinavian design, he says.
At a Tseung Kwan O flat that Chen designed, furniture and lighting from Nordic brands HAY, Gubi, Carl Hansen and &Tradition are featured alongside a bright yellow chair from Ikea. Touches of accent colour are few - and that's the point, Chen says. A little here and there "pops", but too much is overwhelming.
At a larger home in Pok Fu Lam, furniture and accessories from Scandinavian designers J.L. Møller and Fritz Hansen work well alongside French pieces by Ligne Roset and a French artisan lamp by Serge Mouille.
Chen sees value in investing in carefully selected designer pieces, which in this case complement a contemporary Danish theme, detailed with minimal colour choices, subtle material patterns and a variety of textures.
When it comes to designing a family home, says Chen, Scandinavian inspiration "is a good choice for its balance of comfort and aesthetic value".
The design of a Mid-Levels flat takes its cues from stylish French cafes, featuring an open-bench dining area with classic Tolix chairs. Pastel colours and walnut veneer furniture - the Scandinavian factor - give the home a comfortable feel, which is a practical consideration for a family of four.
This versatile aesthetic can also feel traditional. At another Mid-Levels apartment, the owner's collection of vintage furniture and dark walnut cabinetry is the perfect foil to the greenery of balcony plants and leafy neighbourhood views - which Susan Man says is another Scandinavian-inspired trend: bringing the outdoors in.
Helen Lindman, a Swedish lawyer-turned designer and property developer based in Hong Kong, says the simple lines of Scandinavian design mix well with other styles such as traditional Chinese.
One technique Lindman has used in her own flat and at 55 Tung, a Sheung Wan tong lau she restored, is to paint old Chinese screens white. "It makes them stand out even more as the Scandinavian design allows the more elaborate objects to 'shine'," she says.
The key, Lindman says, is not to cram too much in - overcrowding will cause your cherished items to "disappear", particularly if the space is small. But if you fall in love with a big piece, the right surroundings can make it stand out.
"Why not put a bright red Chinese wedding cabinet against a white painted wall and floorboards? That would be typical Scandinavian design," Lindman says.
Design ideas can go both ways: Scandinavians at home use a lot of Asian influences, she adds.
Shared design elements are also seen in Japanese and Scandinavian contemporary furniture and architecture: evidence indeed that function and beauty are able to cross all cultural borders.