Swedish Gustavian Style & Why It’s So Relevant Today
Today I want to introduce an au courant design style to you, that is Swedish Gustavian style. I’m seeing iconic Gustavian style furniture featured more and more in popular design mags, and even whole homes dedicated to this style. So why is this style so hot right now, even hundreds of years later??
Let’s start with the who’s and the why’s of how Gustavian style came to be, and then we’ll dive into what makes Swedish Gustavian style furniture and design so relevant to us today.
King Gustav III of Sweden
So what is Swedish Gustavian Syle? I’m so glad that you asked! Swedish Gustavian style is named for King Gustav III of Sweden, a ruler who may be best known for being shot during a masked ball at the Stockholm Opera House, and dying 13 days later. In fact, Gustav’s tragic tale is the topic of an 1859 opera by Giuseppe Verdi (A Masked Ball). However, it is because of King Gustav’s contributions to the arts that his reign (1771-92) is referred to as the Swedish Enlightenment or the Gustavian Enlightenment. Interestingly, Gustav was also the first neutral head of state to recognize the United States as it warred for independence against Great Britian.
During his young life, Gustav visited Paris where he observed the French Neoclassical style. Gustav admired life in the French court (we all love Paris, don’t we?) and was particularly taken with the elegance and opulence of Versailles. When Gustav ascended to the throne, he brought many ideas and design influences back from Paris and sought to make Stockholm “the Paris of the North”.
Hallmarks of the Swedish Gustavian Interior Design Style
Just like any other design style, be it craftsmen or mid-century modern or American Federal, there are a few elements that help us quickly identify a space or a piece of furniture as distinctly Gustavian Style.
First, Swedish Gustavian style interiors often have a soft and muted color palette, primarily comprised of chalky whites, tones of grey, and soft blues. You can attribute this color palette to the long and dark winters in Sweden, where a light and bright interior would be a welcome retreat.
Elegant & Restrained – As I mentioned before, Swedish Gustavian style was partly inspired by the French Neoclassical style and shares many common elements. Many furniture items have straight, fluted style legs, often with a dentil style detail (all of Neoclassical influence). However, Gustavian style exhibits more restraint than the French Neoclassical and other styles of this era.
Iconic Furniture Items – Another key indicator is to look for iconic furniture items from this era such as the Mora clock, Swedish Gustavian Barrel Back chairs, and carved wooden settees or sofa benches (always painted).
Mora Clocks: An Icon
One of the signature icons of the Swedish Gustavian interior design style is the Mora clock, a beautiful time piece that is indigenous to the Dalarna region of Sweden and specifically to the town of Mora. The Mora clock is often one of the first pieces of Gustavian style furniture that a person may purchase, and it’s one of my particular favorites as well. In fact, I visited Sweden in 2013 and spent a week in the Dalarna region in a town just outside of Mora, and absolutely fell in love with this little corner of the world.
For now that’s enough on the Mora clock, but we may very well revisit the topic in a future blog post. And don’t be surprised if you see a future photo of my home featuring one of these.
Why is Swedish Gustavian Style So Relevant Today?
Perhaps the most important part of this post, is why are we still talking about Gustavian style decorating today? What makes it relevant when we have so many other styles and options to choose from?
In short, the bright, fresh color palette that the people of 18th century Sweden were so captivated by, is the same palette that we love today: whites and ivories, beiges, blues and greys. Have a look at the Gustavian inspired interiors from some of the top design magazines out there (such as those shown in this post). These spaces look very now, don’t they?
I also find that Gustavian style furniture and design are so easy to blend into a home. It’s an easy style to integrate because almost all of the pieces are painted, and there are many similarities to other popular design styles, from French and French Country inspired interiors, to the ubiquitous farmhouse style that we’re seeing everywhere right now. As I mentioned previously, the Gustavian style was adapted from/inspired by the French Neoclassical style, so of course we’d be able to draw parallels between the two.
When I look at Gustavian style decorating, the words that come to my mind are: fresh, clean, elegant, natural, crafted, European, cozy. These are some of the same concepts behind both French Country and Farmhouse style (though maybe not the European part). It becomes easy to see how all of these styles could work together in a home.
I hope that this has given you a good overview of a design style that is still prevalent today. I’m also including here a gallery of some current furniture pieces that are inspired by Gustavian style decorating. Of course there are many lovely and authentic Gustavian antiques available as well.
Swedish Antiques Dealers
Atlanta - A. Tyner Antiques www.swedishantiques.biz/
New York - Dienst & Dotter www.dienstanddotter.com/
Bethesda, MD - Tone on Tone www.tone-on-tone.com/
As always, leave any thoughts or feedback in the comments below!