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A Look At 19th and 20th Century Furniture In Sweden

Swedish 20th Century FurnitureVintage Mid-Century Daybed by Karl-Erik Ekselius for Dux

Guest Post Jason Phillips

History can teach us many things; it is full of brave deeds and constantly changing cultural views. These events have helped to shape the world as it is today. Even if
many of the socially accepted standards of today are vastly different from what was historically acceptable, you will find that many current design techniques date from a much older period in time.

Swedish furniture is recognized around the world as being stylish with minimal lines, it does not scream out ‘look at me’, but it is recognizable. This approach to furniture design reflects the designs of Scandinavia in general and has resulted in many remarkable pieces and spaces; all reflecting functionality and nature.

19th Century

This is commonly recognized as the beginning of the modernist movement. Until this time art was focused on being realistic and was a fairly restrictive affair. At the end of the 19th century the social theories of John Ruskin inspired many artists to abandon this way of thinking. Instead the idea was to focus on nature and traditional ways of creating items. It became important to see nature in every work of art or furnishing.

20th Century

The first new art movement in the 20th century is known as ‘Jugendstil’, or ‘art nouveau’. This was the movement away from the rigid concepts of the 19th century
and an embracement of the decorative style of art which is still seen today. It became part of the social status; people wanted to be seen to be different.
It is this period that saw many furniture makers turn to older designs, which emphasized nature and free flowing lines. The First World War encouraged these processes as it was a way to break out from a traditional mould and rebel against the established order. It was this return to clean lines and nature which became associated with Swedish furniture and ultimately became known as ‘the Scandinavian way of living.’

The middle of the 20th century saw many exhibitions around the world which helped to spread the word concerning the Swedish way of designing furniture. Swedish
design has stayed true to its roots; the need to be functional was exceptionally important in such an isolated part of the world, just as was the need to use natural,
local resources. The addition of beautiful clean lines came about as furniture became less about functionality and more concerned with attracting and distributing the
limited light available.

Recognizing Swedish Designs

One hundred years after the movement first started it is now easy to recognize Swedish furniture and there is at least one piece in the majority of houses around the
world. Typical designs follow these patterns:

  • Clean lines. Any design can be kept simplistic; functional and yet still aesthetically pleasing. This creates an elegant feel to any piece of furniture
    without sacrificing comfort.
  • Light. The long dark winters and limited light encouraged the use of white to reflect the limited light available. Typical designs use minimal window
    coverings, cushions with designer fabric, plenty of mirrors to reflect the light and simple lines to amplify the effect.
  • Color. White is the predominate theme in many Swedish designs; this is again in reference to the limited light available during the long winters in Sweden.White furnishings make any room feel larger and brighter; color can still be added through the accessories.
  • Wood. Much of the Swedish furniture is still made from wood. Ash, Beech and Pine are the preferred choices as these are native to Sweden. This creates a natural, warm look to any home; often complemented by a few potted plants to bring nature inside.
  • Textiles. In keeping with the principles of simplicity there are not usually many textiles used in the traditional Swedish designs. A few well placed soft furnishings can add a personal effect without deviating from the core principles of function, nature and light.

Transform your home into a royal Swedish private space. Include sleek patterns with white accents and lavish accessories, and give rooms an individual, alluring vibe.
Don’t forget about the clean lines – they’ll balance your home perfectly, and they’ll make it appear more innovative than ever before.

Swedish 20th Century FurnitureSwedish Cabinet

Swedish 20th Century Furniture

The most amazing Swedish 1950s cabinet designed by Josef Frank. Mahogany and interior of birch. Adjustable shelves. Decorated with illustrations from the book "Nordens Flora" by C. A. M. Lindman. Produced by Svensk Tenn. Vintage 1950s Josef Frank "Nordens Flora" Cabinet

Swedish 20th Century FurnitureSwedish Grace Daybed or Sofa by Eric Chambert, circa 1930

 Swedish 20th Century Furniture

Table Mirror by Uno & Östen Kristiansson for Luxus of Sweden, 1960s

Swedish Grace Wingback Chair

Kjell Blomberg Glass Vase by Gullaskruf in Sweden

Josef Frank Table Mirror in Brass by Nordiska Kompaniet in Sweden


Tropical Twist In An Norwegian Home By Nicolette Horn

Scandinavian home of Nicolette Horn Tropical Twist In An Norwegian Home By Nicolette Horn

An Island-Inspired House in Oslo... Norway Interior designer Nicolette Horn brings a bit of the Bahamas into her Scandinavian home.

"I wanted to feel lifted up when I came inside," Horn says, "and for me, that means feeling like I am in the Bahamas."

This despite the house's resolutely Scandinavian exterior, which is dark brown with deep red accents. "It's a Hansel-and-Gretel house," Horn says with a laugh.

Yet the interior is no mere replica of a Caribbean residence. Horn accents island style with Asian touches — pagodas on the dining table, lacquered furnishings in the living room — as well as with Scandinavian notes, including candlelit chandeliers, mirrors to multiply the light, and muslin-covered Gustavian-style chairs. And she has a soft spot for the breezy sensibility of summers on the east end of Long Island, which can be felt in the kick-off-your-shoes elegance of the arrangements.


Impressive History Of Fine Swedish Table Linen

Volga Linen

Volga Linen

Guest Post, Jason Phillips

Linen has been a part of humanity for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used it to dress and as cloths. Pieces of linen have been found which date back to 4,200 BC although there are not many which have survived!  Swedish linen today is made in a very similar way to those original processes. During the 1500’s tablecloths were used by the wealthy, the cloths were made from damask linen which was imported by Flanders and Holland. The cloths were ornate and decorative; it wasn’t until the 1800’s that the use of tablecloths became a common item in many homes.

Linens In The 18th Century

In 1730 a man called Stephen Bennet set up a linen factory in Sweden; the business had approximately eighty looms and produced some of the best quality damask of the period.  The factory was operated until 1845 when it, unfortunately, closed down. During this time Sweden was building a reputation for producing high quality flax and linen; this is the origins of the fine quality Swedish table linen available today.

Volga Linen

The Production Process

Men were generally responsible for the heavier work; this mainly involved the carrying and lifting of the heavy materials involved in the production process. Women and children were used to create the actual linen. This was generally split between the ones who had a high degree of manual dexterity; these were the ones who made the fine quality table linen and used one of the looms. The less able children and women dealt with the more mundane work; which was essential to ensure the production was successful.

It was the women who were usually responsible for coloring the flax. This could be a time consuming and awkward job as the majority of the dyes were not colorfast. Most of the dyes were created from natural materials such as leaves, lichens, moss and bark.

A Sound Reputation

The process of weaving fine table linen may have been complicated but its quality was becoming known in many places around Europe. There are many stories of satisfied customers. One particular example which has been told many times over the generations is in regard to a gentleman called Calle Redhe who owned one of the weaveries in Sweden. He used to personally take some of his linens to Norway and the story tells of the summer he went to Norway and met an elderly lady.

The lady knew who he was and, upon confirming his identity, immediately asked for some napkins to go with a tablecloth which she had purchased nearly sixty years before. The tablecloth had been made by Calle’s father and was produced on the same loom; something which delighted the elderly women and ensured she told everyone she knew.

Modern Productions

The high quality linen produced today in many of the factories across Sweden utilizes the same methods as were used so many years ago. The overshot weave cloth is still patterned and is made to at least the same quality standards as the original pieces. The production methods may be ancient but they have stood the test of time and many people are able to purchase elaborate, ornate pieces of linen which look and feel like they should belong to royalty.  The industry today is proud of its heritage and works hard to produce items which will also stand the test of time and inspire those in the future.

Just as you can buy something today which will match something your grandmother bought; so too will your children or even grandchildren be able to match your purchase.  As long as linen making is a part of the Swedish culture it will be possible to purchase your own piece of history!

Whether you’re hunting for table linens or bed sheets, it is important to focus on quality. The best fabrics are Egyptian cotton and silk. While it’s true that these are more expensive than polyester or cotton blends, they last longer. They’re hypo-allergenic and they have a functional purpose too. Good quality cotton traps moisture and it protects your furniture. Used in the kitchen or dining room, luxury linen fabrics prevent dust from settling and they have an appealing design too; just make sure the set chosen for your bedroom matches with the overall appeal of your room.

Picture Credits, Volga Linen Styling by Simon Kämpfer, Photography: Yuki Sugiura

Volga Linen3 Volga Linen4 Volga Linen5