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Decorating in Swedish Style

Swedish style interiors are becoming more and more popular. It's a look that combines refined elegance with a casual aged appearance that seems to have universal appeal.

While artist Carl Larsson (1853-1919) is generally credited with popularizing the style, the Swedish look is also heavily influenced by the light and weather of Scandinavia.

Long dreary winters with early dusk and a lack of natural light necessitated rethinking interior furnishings.
Anything dark, gloomy, and heavy was out -- while anything pale, light, airy, and lustrous was in. Pale walls, floors, and furnishings reflected whatever light was available, thus cheering and lightening even the darkest days of winter.

Here are some of the elements of Swedish style.

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Pale Tones of white, cream, and light blue are staples of Swedish decor. Look for them on walls, furniture, flooring, and accessories. Hues of yellow, light pink, foggy gray, and misty green are also seen, as are deeper accents of gold and red.

Other than white, blue may be the most popular color in the Swedish palette. It evokes clear skies even in the dreary days of winter. Blues combine easily with white, cream, yellow, gold, and red.

Accents of red show up again and again in Swedish interiors. It offers a fresh look when paired with white and is also used in simple florals, checked, and striped fabrics.

Furniture exhibits a mix of straight lines with gently curving shapes in details. Legs are commonly delicate and tapered toward a narrower point at the bottom, either rounded and squared.

Beds show off simple, clean-lined wood or upholstered head and footboards. Bed canopys may be yards of white batiste flowing from a crown-shaped canopy mounted high on the wall or hanging from the ceiling. Country Swedish looks include bed nooks, trundle beds, and daybeds.

Benches are a a staple of Swedish interiors, often seen in a long narrow style with six legs and an upholstered top. Swedish style sofas feature wooden frames and turned legs, often with minimal upholstery, separate seat cushions, and pillow backs.

Blonde woods are key for for floors, cabinetry, and furniture. Birch, white pine, beech, and alder are standard and may also be bleached or painted with white or pale paints.

The painted furniture of Swedish style bring additional light to winter-darkened rooms. While furniture is often painted white or cream, other pale tones can be found on accent pieces and in hand-painted decorations and stenciling.

Carved accents are common on furniture, seen in fluted legs, scrolled table borders, and miror frames.

Natural Fabrics include linen and cotton. While these can be plain or textured, more common patterns include stripes, checks, and plaids in white and one other color.

Patterns seen in Swedish decor are often printed on a white background with one other color such as blue, red, or yellow. Florals are generally small and are placed on open fields of white. Stripes in all sizes, checks, and plaids are common -- also commonly in one color plus white.

Architectural Details include leaded glass windows, high ceilings, wall moldings, hardwood flooring, and traditional Scandanavian tile stoves.

Mirrors reflect light and add sparkle to Swedish interiors. Look for oval mirrors in lightly carved frames.

Small mirrored sconces with candles or wired for light fixtures grace walls in pairs.

Lighting is accomplished with a mix of chandeliers, wall sconces, and simple table lamps.

Motifs in Swedish decor show festoons of ribbons, wreath shapes, hearts, sheaves of wheat, and scrolling designs. The diamond, circle, and oval are also frequently seen.

Accessories should be kept simple and displayed in an uncluttered manner. Think spare, open, and light -- editing out anything that seems to jumble the look. Wreaths, china, candles, and flowers are important, as are traditional julbocks (straw goats) and rustic painted wooden horses.

Wreaths bring simple elegance to Swedish rooms. Round boxwood wreaths can be hung from ribbons in front of windows or bookshelves. Simple floral wreaths might decorate a wall, while wreath-shaped hardware can be seen on furniture and light fixtures.

Walls are most often white or are kept very pale. If embellished, the elements and designs tend to be subdued. Narrow moldings, aged stenciling, pale spattering, and open airy florals are a few of the possibilities.

Floors should be kept light -- with bleached wood, pale paints, or softly stenciled motifs. Light colored painted stripes, squares, or diamonds can also be applied to floors as long as contrast is kept to a minimum (i.e. ice blue over white). Rugs can be simply woven with stripes or open florals.

Stenciling is applied both to walls and furnishing, though in generally pale tones and with a restrained eye.

Fresh flowers bring life and light to a Swedish room. Think simple white tulips in a cream colored pitcher, a handful of yellow daisies in clear glass, or a dozen pale pink garden roses set into a blue and white vase.

Tabletop items are chosen for simplicity and restrained elegance. Floral china is pale and restricted to one color (often blue) plus white. Silver and glass add more sparkle to the table, as do tall candles in candleholders.

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