By remembering what would be available to you in the climate and the culture of the Scandinavian regions, you can recreate a simple and yet classic decorating scheme that involves the use of light fabrics and unfinished wood pieces. The Swedish style can be perfect for the family that doesn’t want to be too complicated or complex.
The Swedes and their nearby neighbors in Norway have long been known for a rather unique style known as ‘Scandinavian’ or Swedish and characterized by its heavy use of unfinished woods and simple but elegant lines. There are variants such as ‘Country,’ ‘Nordic,’ and ‘American’ Swedish design as well as true Scandinavian design which should really be classified as its own unique style – but all hark back to the roots of Sweden, the dark and long winters there and the ancient Viking past.
With a history ranging more than 9,000 years B.C. the Swedes were traders and pillagers long before many countries were even formed, and this allowed them access to many materials and ideas that might not have come to them naturally had they been less adventuresome.
The dark winters and early nights of Sweden are the cause for their preferences to light colors, bright lighting and light-colored unfinished woods, all of which are now combined with non-traditional elements inspired by but not from Swedish history.
The end result of these elements was the basis for the so-called ‘Swedish’ style created and popularized by Carl Larsson in the early 1900’s – this style which was based upon trends necessary to overcome the long dark winters and lack of natural light in the Swedish homeland features light, lustrous and pale colors and furnishings as well as reflective surfaces and minimal clutter.
Perhaps nothing characterizes the style as well as the use of whites, creams and light blues in various pale shades that are used on almost any surface.
Often seen on walls, flooring or furniture as well as accessories and draperies they are set off by light shades of pink, gray, yellow and gray with some darker accents of gold and red occasionally used for drama and to set off a space.
White and blue are by far the most popular colors in the Swedish style color palette however, with the feeling of clear skies and the ability to be combined with whit cream yellow gold and red to create a feeling of a sunset blue skies and white clouds are at the core of the basic color palette.
The accent colors, especially when used in modestly designed floral patterns or in striped or checked fabrics help avoid too unadorned a look and retain interest and focus where desired.
Swedish style furnishings avoid too many intricate carvings or styles relying more on a simple mix of straight and gently curved edges with delicate and often tapered bottoms which end in traditional round or squared off edges. Beds typically show off simple wood lines occasionally with upholstered headboards or footboards, and in more elaborate instances show off yards of light or white-colored fabrics in a canopy either hanging from the ceiling or from the wall. The ‘country’ and sometimes antique Swedish furniture look is often achieved by using nooks, trundle and daybeds rather than a large piece which would not have fit in smaller country Swedes homes.
Benches and stands are very common and typically have six legs with an upholstered top, rectangular or even a narrow long style is traditional. Sofas normally use light-colored wood framework with very little upholstery and often have removable seat cushions done up in the light colors and styles previously mentioned.
The woods used in floors, cabinetry and furnishings are almost always the lighter woods such as beech, birch, white pine and alder and are often ‘whitewashed’ or lightly stained with white or pale tints but never painted or stained with dark stains or colors. When furnishings are painted (normally white or cream) often accent pieces in the same color with stenciling and hand-painting are used to bring out the color and placed on nearby locations.
Simple carved accents are used on some pieces of furniture, especially on fluted legs and mirror frames and leaded glass windows, high ceilings, wall moldings and reflective mirrors and sconces are often placed on walls to increase and reflect existing light which is typically a mix of simple hanging fixtures, wall sconces and lamps.
Light, bright and airy in white blue and light colors like yellow with accents of red and gold and minimal clutter is the key to this style. Keep it simple, elegant and restrained with light colored floors and fabrics and put the detail into the simple accessories and touches not readily apparent and you’ll have a home any Swede would be pleased to call ‘their’ style!