The History Of Gustavian Furniture
Swedish furniture comes in all shapes and sizes – and by that, I don’t mean the different widths and heights of the panels of cheap wood in an IKEA flat-pack bookcase. Design trends have evolved over the centuries in Sweden, and while many first-time home-makers may look for the simple lines and adaptability of more modern creations, more adventurous DIY enthusiasts may prefer to take inspiration from the Gustavian style of the 18th century.
Who was Gustav?
Like of the best design periods, this era is named after the ruling monarch of the time. King Gustav ascended to the throne in Sweden in 1772 and brought his tastes to the furnishings of his palace with the aim of creating the “Paris of the north”.
At first, Gustavian furniture showcased a precise blend of French and Greco-Roman ideas, but it soon evolved to become a very stylish, and very Swedish statement. There is an impressive balance between simple lines and grand flourishes. This blend means that it is the ideal style for keen interior designers to copy and adapt in their homes.
Bringing Gustavian Furniture Style To The Modern Home.
Gustav saw the best of French design ideas and used them to adapt the furniture seen in the palace. Following his lead, we can now take the best, most accessible elements of the Gustavian style and use them in modern design.
Some elements will have to be forsaken along the way somewhere, a few of us have the time, skill level or the money to invest in the more intricate wooden inlays, gilt finishes, and silk upholstery. Even so, many elements of the style can be recreated with ease in our homes.
My first experiment with Gustavian decor was to adopt a rather shabby, boring sideboard that had sat unloved in the corner of the living room. The first step in recreating this look is the color. Gustavian furniture is dominated by whites, creams and soft gray tones with what you might call a distressed look to the paintwork.
Chances are you have already worked like this in some “shabby-chic” phase so simply take the same dry brushing technique and apply a coat of white paint to the wood so that the grain comes through. From there, it is up to you how far you go with the theme.
Do you stick with the country style and keep it informal and rustic, or do you add some extra touches for a bit more class? Gilt, reflective surfaces, and clear light fixtures will brighten up the room further.
It all depends on how much work you are willing to do and how you want your furniture to look. The great thing about this style is that it is open to interpretation, and we can all end up with different pieces of furniture. Anyone can bring this style into a home.
The more avid woodworkers among you may decide to build a Gustavian model from scratch, or you may stick to a simple paint job and some new upholstery. Be warned. There are many directions to take and, once your first piece is completed, you could well be faced with that unbeatable urge to redesign the whole room.