The following decorating tips for Swedish country interiors are from my Swedish designer friend, Ida Jönsson.
We met at Chelsea College in London and shared many long days in the design studio, as well as many deep conversations over steaming mugs of black coffee.
Ida has lived in Sweden for most of her life, and she assures me that it is categorically not true that the Swedes like any color as long as it's blue. Read on for the truth of the matter :-)
Swedish Gustavian Style
The 18th-century "Gustavian" style is a Swedish interpretation
of European neo-classical decor. It goes back to King Gustav III's
"French connection": On a visit to Louis XVI's court in
Versailles in 1771, the future Swedish monarch was so impressed with his French
counterpart's cutting-edge interiors that he decided to introduce the style to Sweden.
Neoclassicism was readily adopted into Swedish architecture and interior design, but in a
simplified, no-frills way. Pared down, airy and calmly elegant, the
light-filled Gustavian style spread from the town houses of the
well-to-do to rural Swedish country homes.
Pale blues, greens and grays are typical
decorating colors of the Gustavian style.
Below is an example of Swedish Gustavian decor. The watercolor shows a "Cosy Corner"
(Lathörnet) in Carl & Karin Larsson's house,
in Sundborn. Carl Larsson painted the room in 1894 (a mere century after King
Gustav III's death):
For detailed information about Swedish Gustavian interiors, have a look at some of these books -
they all come highly recommended by Amazon customers:
Swedish Country Decorating Style Gurus: Carl & Karin Larsson
What King Gustav III did for Swedish interior design in the 18th and 19th centuries,
Carl & Karin Larsson did for Swedish country decorating in the 20th ... and it
seems their legacy is holding up beautifully in the 21st century as well.
The Larssons' timber cottage in the Dalarna countryside has inspired and
influenced Swedish decor since the late 1800s. It combines
Swedish folk art with elements of the Arts & Crafts
A lot has been written about the Larssons' innovative Scandinavian home design;
check out the book (left)
for excellent study material!
When Carl & Karin first met (at a Scandinavian artists'
colony near Paris), they were both accomplished painters.
As their little family grew (they would eventually have eight children), Karin decided to
use her skill and talent to create a highly
original family home, while Carl poured his talent into painting that home. Here's
Carl's bedroom in 1899:
The embroidered bed curtains were Karin's creation; see the original
here and one of her
woven curtain designs, "kärlekens ros" (Love's Rose)
In 1898, Carl Larsson published a book of watercolors celebrating
his home and family: Ett Hem (A Home). The luminous, colorful images
of Swedish country living struck a nerve with readers all over the world, and
became one of the most famous artists' homes ever.
Here is the Larssons' drawing room as it looks today (photo courtesy of The Carl and
Karin Larsson Family Association), followed by Carl Larsson's watercolor version of 1894:
In 1997, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London celebrated the Larssons' creative
work with an exhibition,
And Karin Larsson, Creators Of The Swedish Style. You'll find more pictures of
their Swedish interior design further down this page, as well as
For yet more, check out these publications:
In addition to the 'Gustavian' colors (gray, pale blue,
pale green), Swedish home decorating is often done in white,
cream, light pink or pale yellow. (You'll find gorgeous examples of this in Vibeke's home in next-door Norway)
Generally, people prefer chalky, powdery tints (in the tradition of old
water-based distempers and limewashes) to bright, saturated colors.
Deeper accent colors include gold, ochre,
red and green. Here is an example from
the Larssons' atelier (with Karin's handloom in the background):
Swedish country homes contain a lot of blond wood (birch, white
pine, beech, alder). It is used for furniture, floors and walls, and either left
natural, bleached, or painted in pale colors.
Swedish Interior Design & Decorating: Elements To Get The Look
1. Simplicity & Comfort
Simplicity is the order of the day in Swedish country decorating (actually,
in all Swedish homes, from farmhouse to city pad - and in Norway as well). Spaces
are kept open and light, materials are genuine and
furnishings are low-maintenance.
Furniture has mostly straight lines in Swedish
country decorating, sometimes with gently curved detail and occasionally with
Straight-backed wooden sofas are much used in Swedish houses;
with an integrated chest and loose cushions, they combine seating and storage,
and are "excellent for an afternoon nap", says Ida ... ... so it's not just the
Italians then ;-)
To keep people warm, striped rag rugs have been spread over Swedish
floors for centuries, and woollen blankets lovingly piled onto sofas. More recently,
long-pile rugs have also been used to keep the cold out.
And the ultimate showpiece ...
... would be a faience-tiled stove like the one at the top of this page
(left side of painting)! Absent affordable antiques, choose a freestanding
for an authentic Swedish interior design look.
Once spring arrives, the doors are thrown open, everyone is outside in the
sunshine as much as possible, and nature is brought into the house.
There are always fresh flowers in Swedish houses, and natural objects
(pebbles, shells and driftwood if you live near a beach) are arranged into small
compositions. (Check out Vibeke's Norwegian country home for some lovely examples!)
Karin Larsson's hand-woven and embroidered textiles set an enduring trend in Swedish
country decorating, and to this day handmade accessories & furnishings
from natural materials (wood, glass, textiles) are an important element in Swedish interior design.
Do you have a specific look in mind, or are you looking for particular
information about creating the look of Swedish houses & Scandinavian interior design?
Check out these books about various aspects of Swedish country decorating:
What is it that actually makes a style
(Rustic ideas you can use for Swedish country decorating.)
The page on Country
Style Decorating shows how to get the look of a country home while
living downtown (and not a single exposed beam in sight ;-)
Find rustic decorating ideas for a country style
Room, choose the perfect country style
or get creative with your country
Neutral Color Schemes - The
Book: Learn about neutral color palettes - they're great for Swedish country decorating.
Understand what makes neutral color schemes look their best, and what happens when you inject 'real'
color into neutral color palettes. It's FREE!!
Yet to find the information you're looking for? Type a word or phrase into the
search box below:
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