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by Kate Smith

A childhood love of color turned into a college-age fascination with the interaction of colors, then into a career of color trend forecasting and product development. Today, Kate Smith, CMG, CfYH, is president and chief color maven at Sensational Color, a company that provides color knowledge and know-how to corporations primarily in the home industry. Kate is an inspirational keynote speaker and seminar leader, blending color theory and psychology into entertaining and informative talks that bring color to life.

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  • Photo Credit: Veranda, House Beautiful, House Beautiful, Layout: Sensational Color 
  • In a play on Henry Ford's famous quote, "Any color as long as it's black" it is often said that Swedes like "any color as long as its blue." But there is so much more to the colors of Sweden than just a single hue.

    The colors and airy style of Swedish decorating have been strongly influenced by two styles: 18th-century neoclassical decor known as the Gustavian style and Swedish Country Style, which was strongly influenced by Carl Larsson, Sweden's best-loved artist, and his wife, Karin, a textile designer.
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    The Gustavian style began in 1771 when the future Swedish monarch Gustav III visited French King Louis XVI at his court in Versailles. Inspired by the first phase of Neoclassicism sweeping France's design world, Gustav, returning to Sweden to ascend the throne, brought back the architecture and decorative arts that he had seen in France.

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    Neoclassicism was quickly adopted in Sweden but in a simplified, no-frills way. Pared down, airy and calmly elegant, the light-filled Gustavian style spread from the town houses of the well-to-do to rural Swedish country homes during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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    In the 20th century, Carl and Karin Larsson popularized the style when they used it to decorate their own timber cottage in the Dalarna countryside. It became known as the Swedish Country style.

  • Carl and Karin were both painters who married and raised eight children in a home decorated by Karin and captured in the paintings of Carl. Swedes loved the images of country home life and began recreating the look in their own homes. In 1898, the book Ett Hem (A Home) was published and introduced Carl Larsson's colorful images of Swedish country living to readers worldwide.
  • To recreate the look in your own home:

    1. The Gustavian style colors were predominately white, cream, gray, pale blue, and pale green. Pale pink and yellow also find their way into the palette.
    2. The deeper accent colors of green, red, gold and yellow ochre come from the Swedish Country style.
    3. Traditionally the colors were lime-washes or water-based paints so the look ranges from slightly chalky to fully saturated colors.
    4. Use blond rather than dark woods. Birch, white pine, beech, and alder are good choices.
    5. Light wood tones are also used for furniture, floors and walls, and either left natural, bleached, or painted in pale colors.
    6. Fresh flowers and natural objects are always part of the decor as are blankets, woven textiles, and rugs to take away a chill.
    7. Candles, sconces, table lamps, fireplaces and even mirrors are all placed to add warmth and light during the dark days of a long winter.
    8. Often windows are left uncovered or have fine white muslin curtains.

    The styles and colors of Sweden resonate with us today. There is a simple elegance that appeals to our need for a combination of calm surroundings and high style into the 21st century.

    - Kate
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