Inspired by the Gustavian style of the 18th century, Swedish classic interiors combine elegance and simplicity.
Classic Swedish Style
Originating from the Swedish royal palaces of the 18th century, Gustavian style is a popular classic style that combines the elegance of Versailles with the simplicity and pale colours of the North. This is what has made it so popular in recent years as it can be easily adapted to our modern environments. This style is beautiful in both city and country homes. So how can you create your own Gustavian home?
Wood has always been a major element in Scandinavian 18th century architecture and interiors. It is usually necessary for the wood to be painted in white or pale colours because the long dark winters would otherwise make the rooms far too gloomy. The beauty of painted wood panelled walls and floors is that they give the rooms a country look that mixes well with the more luxurious feel of the chandeliers and ornate mirrors. Floorboards are also often painted in white or grey or in a chequered pattern design that combines both colours.
Swedish crystal chandeliers are always popular and essential to create the luxurious feel of a classic home specially in dining rooms but they can be used in any room of the house including the kitchen over a rustic table. A safe choice is the Empire style – either basket or octagon - which was originally designed for candles, since candles are such a fixture of Scandinavian interiors. Owing to the lack of light, the traditional Swedish homes would also have candles on wall sconces. The modern designs of chandeliers, based on the originals, now allow for electric bulb fitments but they can also be used with candles.
Furniture and antiques
Swedish antiques lend a timeless look and exude a simple elegance. Inspired by the French Rococo style of the 18th century, Gustavian style (that takes its name from Gustav III of Sweden who fell in love with French furnishings and was determined to create a “Paris of the North”) incorporated many of the elements of that style but the design is much less ornate and fanciful.
The beauty of the soft patina of chipped old paint in milky and greyish tones, the wood texture and the simple graceful shapes of the designs are always
beautiful. Mora clocks (named after the town where they were first made), benches, dining chairs and tables, as well as dressers, are some of the pieces that crop up. Since Swedish antiques are normally very expensive, you may want to opt for reproductions. For example, Solgården (www. solgarden.se) is a Swedish company that specialises in producing replicas of Gustavian furniture and they have been in business since the 1990s in Saltsjöbaden, outside of Stockholm. The business was named Solgården (Sungarden) from the yellow villa where everything started. The furniture is Swedish-made and is in keeping with the old traditions. The furniture is painted by hand to get the fine and patinated Gustavian feeling. They do national and international interior assignments for private homes, offices and restaurants. Another brand, also from Sweden, is Garbo Interiors (www. garbointeriors.com) a Stockholm-based interior design company that since 2002 offers designs and manufactures their own products, both in contemporary and classic styles.
Wood burners The ceramic wood burners are a must in a traditional Swedish home. Not only are they extremely decorative, but they are also an excellent and economic source of heat.
Blue and white is a classic combination in Swedish interiors. The blue elements are introduced in fabrics, ceramics and other details on white or pale grey backgrounds. Red is also a very popular colour as an accent colour as it is reminiscent of the red summer cottages that you find all over Sweden. Red or blue are combined with white in Gingham fabrics on chairs, sofas, cushions and kitchen linens. Grey is also a popular colour and, even though some say it is not true Gustavian, it is one of the preferred colours in the modern version of this classic style.
Black is used sparingly but dramatically to contrast with the mostly white colour scheme. It can be used on furniture and not just on painted on wood but also with the use of iron items. Black also introduces a more austere look that can tone down the ‘prettiness’ of the room.
Sweden has a great and varied wallpaper tradition from the 1500s to the 1930s. Wallpaper designs from both from the Rococo period and the Gustavian period are available as companies look to reproduce antique patterns that are still found in the many manors and estately homes throughout Sweden.
Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-78) was known as the father of taxonomy as he was the first to classify species of organisms (plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, etc.). Inspired by his work, herbal pressed botanicals framed under glass with individual taxonomy cards became popular and make truly decorative work of arts to adorn the walls of a classic Swedish inspired interior.
(Above) An elegant living room by Garbo Interiors
(Previous page) 'Wilma' wallpaper by Sandberg
(Below) A wardrobe filled with layers of hemp fabric, by Garbo Interiors
(Above) A wardbrobe by Garbo Interiors
(Above right) A pair of Gustavian style chairs painted in Swedish red by Garbo Interiors (Below) Armchair by Garbo Interiors
(Above) An antique cabinet
(Above right) Kitchen project designed by Solgarden (Below) A fine Gustavian chair by Garbo Interiors
A bedroom designed by Solgarden for a US based home.