Sarah Bartholome­w Chases the White-washed Gustavian Jewels of Stockholm


mission—actually, two. First, I wanted to explore and learn from palaces and manor homes that best exemplify the late-18th-century Gustavian style of architectu­re and decoration. I recognize reflection­s of this in my own work in my Nashville-based firm and online shop. Second, I wanted to spend time with my oldest daughter, Lilly, who had just turned 13. I have four children, and I craved some one-on-one time with her. And she loves design.

We spent a week in venturing out (often by ferry because the city is surrounded by water) to tour one historic property each day. You can appreciate right away that these were summer homes. You have these long days of clear

VERANDA light—it’s light we don’t have here—and the colors of the countrysid­e are magical.

And the Gustavian style, we discovered, possesses its own sunlit magic. King Gustav III, very much a cultural transforme­r during his reign, had been greatly influenced by the French neoclassic­ism he’d witnessed firsthand when he visited Versailles in 1771. So, he imported it. But what’s fascinatin­g is that even though the Swedes emulated the French, they did it with their classic restraint. Instead of gilded paneling, they used wood carving. Instead of silk damasks, they slipcovere­d in quieter cottons and linens. They whitewashe­d woods and painted with pigments that capture those northern lights—and practicall­y glow with it. The effect is moving and humble at once.

Every day brought revelation­s. I loved seeing the simple, slipcovere­d chairs in the library of the royal residence since the 1600s. I imagined the royal princess pausing to read in the sunny space. The Porcelain Room, designed to house the king’s faience collection­s, had stenciled paneling and painted brackets, all in the most beautiful Swedish blue. The pieces were gorgeous, but I found myself studying the paint; I could see the actual pigment in it. In other rooms I was captivated by the use of trompe l’oeil to create the effect of paneling—again, a Swedish simplifica­tion of French abundance.

At which was given to Gustav III’S younger brother Karl XIII, I was taken by the slipcovers with their woven stripes and checks—now I want to slipcover everything. Mid-16th-century

had small built-in beds draped with simple cottons. And

in Haga Park is a monument of the king’s aspiration­s (and a tribute to the Petit Trianon at Versailles). You tread the beautifull­y pale, weathered floors in its Hall of Mirrors and imagine how the light must have bounced and filled the space so long ago.

It was thrilling to feel the intent and touch of Gustav himself. But

a nonroyal residence designed by

architect Carl Hårleman and built in the 1740s for a wealthy mill owner, affected me the most. Part of the joy was that it was a challenge to find. Despite it being just on the outskirts of Stockholm, my hotel didn’t know of it, nor did numerous taxi drivers I questioned. Further, the property was only open on Tuesdays, so we had just one shot to see it. We took a guess, hopped a ferry, boarded a bus, and walked forever. I used my GPS like an 18th-century map. I was determined.

And we found it. We stepped in and looked right through the dining room to the water, glinting in the sun. It was perfectly symmetrica­l on two axes—another French influence. Its

tall and narrow stoves—were covered in hand-printed blue-and-white tiles. The antechambe­r had the most beautiful Chinese rice paper wallcoveri­ngs, no doubt inspired by the owner’s position as a director of the Swedish East India Trading Company. The bedchamber had checked bedcovers in a green that seems to belong solely to the Swedes. The garden was also neoclassic­ally influenced in its symmetry but not formal. It had beautiful apple trees; we pulled a few off and ate them.

This is life when you travel with your children: You look, you talk, you taste. After leaving Svindersvi­k, Lilly and I found a little cafe next door and right on the water. It was so quaint—eyelet curtains, blue-and-white plates on the wall, and just three items on the menu. We sat there in the low, late afternoon summer light and sketched a design for our own manor home on a paper napkin. We drew it together.

 ??  ?? Burch and Kime at the Hōryū-ji temple in Nara
Antique and modern Japanese swatches are reinterpre­ted into 11 fabrics and 1 wallpaper.
Burch and Kime at the Hōryū-ji temple in Nara Antique and modern Japanese swatches are reinterpre­ted into 11 fabrics and 1 wallpaper.

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