The Little Known Secret About Gustavian Swedish Style



The other day, I received some nice words about my bright, sunny interiors. And make no mistake, I love color– saturated color. But I also love muted, pale, grayed-out color, creams and white.


Those pale subtle tones always make me think of Gustavian Swedish colors and furnishings. Is it possible to love both? Intense color and pale/muted?


Well, this girl does. And there’s something else that I found out. The Gustavian Swedish folks of the 18th century didn’t just love pale, pale, grays and blues, etc. They ALSO loved intense saturated colors!

I know. I was surprised too. My first hint came when I discovered this Stockholm Shocker. 


But then, as I was researching for this post which by the way, was a lot of fun, I discovered a lot more than I realized about Gustavian Swedish color palettes.


Since this is a pretty big subject, I’m going to break it up and I’m also going to be giving you a fabulous palette for the most beautiful Gustavian Swedish colors. So, stay tuned for that.

I may not run these posts concurrently, because I find that people either think it’s the same post or get bored and want to read about something else for a bit.

The Traditional Gustavian Swedish colors; the pale muted grays of every hue remind me of winter.


And well, here we are. Therefore, as part of the narrative of this post, I’m going to intersperse winter seasonal images, many taken in the Swedish countryside. You will find a correlation between the colors found in these images and the traditional Gustavian Swedish color palette. I find these pale colors so relaxing and comforting. So, prepare for a Gustavian Swedish eye-candy-spa!


But first, a brief history


This is for those of you who don’t even know what I’m talking about when I say Gustavian Swedish furnishings, colors and such. When we speak of the Gustavian style, we are referring to King Gustav III who reigned as monarch of Sweden from 1771-1792.

In addition to his royal duties, Gustav was a patron of the arts and had a keen passion for all things design, decoration and fashion.

gustav-III-alexander-roslinpainting by Alexander Roslin of King Gustav III of Sweden

Okay. okay. I know. He was an out-and-out fop. lol. Well, not completely out, if you know what I mean. ;] But after-all, it was the 18th century. I have to say that Gus had a lot of class, style and an impeccable eye for color and design! And to this day, there are Gustavian Swedish aficionados (myself included) who are incredibly grateful.


Tragically, Gustav was assassinated in 1792 and although survived the assault, died days later from an infected wound.


Before his death the foundation had been laid to build the grandest neo-classical palace in all of Europe. Gustav was really into this stuff. Sadly, his successors weren’t, so all construction stopped immediately.


Neo-Classical Palace at Haga Park

 Here’s what it was supposed to look like.


Geeez, dude had some serious cash at his disposal; not surprised some folks hated him. But alas, it was like that in France and elsewhere too. Apparently, it’s risky business being a filthy stinking rich autocratic monarch who loved to live the high life!

Wait. I need to backtrack a bit to explain how we got here. Before all of this new construction designed by architect Olaf Tempelman, Gustav had spent time in Versailles  hanging with his buddy, King Louis XVI.


While there, Gus was absolutely kvelling over the neo-classical style of architecture and design. Oh, they had just discovered Pompeii and all of that good stuff and the French were obsessed. Out with all of that curly-cue-fancy-shmancy Roccoco and on with the more sleek, streamlined lines of neo-classical furnishings! Gustav fell in love.


Back home at the royal ranch(es) (more about that in a sec) Gustav further interpreted the style. It became even more clean-lined and some pieces retained their own unique interpretations.

gustavian-swedish-dining-chairsLeksand Gustavian 19th c. Swedish dining chairs via 1st Dibs– only $20,000!

Much more Gustavian Swedish furniture coming later.

And as always, if you want the creme de la creme of Gustavian Swedish Antiques please check out my dear friend and expert in the area, Loi Thai of Tone on Tone Antiques!


Here’s Gustav hanging with his two bros. in a painting by Royal artist, Alexander Roslin, once again. Gustav would be the one in gold, I believe. Uhhhh… not very muted here, is it? Well, except for their hair! Handsome boys, they were! But please also notice the neo-classical gilded swag on that writing-table.

Alexander_Roslin_-_King_Gustav_III_of_Sweden_and_his_Brothers_-_Google_Art_Project - Cópia (2)Check out that beadwork!

Ulrica_Pasch_-_Crown_Prince_Gustav_III_of_Sweden_1756painting by Ulrika Pasch

And here’s ten-year-old Crown Prince Gustav, already looking ready to rule and wearing Pantone’s color of the year 2013– EMERALD GREEN!

Gustavian Emerald?


In addition to a fabulous wardrobe, Gustav had several residences. I mean when one loves so many styles of design, it is only natural that there would be numerous abodes to showcase them in. Right?


This is going to be as brief as I can make it, but this is the main pavilion at Haga Park designed by his Architect Olof Tempelman. I guess the main palace at Drottningholm (see below) was too overwhelming for him? Or maybe… never mind. He had lots going on, obviously. :]

Small dining room at Haga with gilded neo-classical dining chairs and Gustavian Gray walls!

king-gustav-III-homeA bedroom at Haga with gilded neo-classical fauteuils and commode. Well, the floor is the characteristic silvery gray! Love the pale weathered floor!

drottningholm+palace-145This is the main palace at Drottningholm

temple of echo haga parkTemple of Echo in Haga Park

Kina_slott_Desprez_1788The Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm

Chinese too? Yes. Chinese too! Isn’t it wonderful? Chinoiserie was all the RAGE in all of Europe in the mid to late 18th century. This was built when Gustav was a little boy.

Koppartalt_1787Värdshuset Koppartälten

Translation. Copper tent, also in Haga Park. Very interesting. This is obviously, the artist’s rendition of it. It was built and it does still exist, but frankly, I think it’s pretty ugly as it’s now painted in a neon-bright blue, not the charming far more subtle striping you see here.

Ah, there’s our Swedish Gustavian that’s familiar! This is a room from the Pavilion that Gustav built.


The style that Gustav reinvented was so popular, that it trickled down through the gentry and then to the country-side.


For the middle classes, the woods available were not so grand, so they took to painting the furniture.

The most popular colors were often pale shades of cream, gray, blue, green and ocher, that we have come  to know and love, but not always as we shall see later on. The use of pale shades is known to be a result of the long, dark winters, so as to let in as much light as possible.


48c1fcc55df70dac8e40d694a1e8da89Photo via Not Over The Hill


Masreliez House, Stockholm 2Masreliez House

This beautifully preserved home is a design by Gustav’s interior decorator Louis Masreliez. It is chock-full of neo-classical elements.


Masreliez House, Stockholm 5



This is another beautifully preserved home from the mid-18th century and then renovated in the Gustavian Swedish neo-classical style in the late 18th century.


Winter, Gärdet - Stockholm, Sweden

Winter Gärdet – Stockholm, Sweden – photo by Hans R

When we think of Gustavian Swedish, we think of the more common styles that have layers of paint and interiors with softly dappled walls. While sometimes it’s difficult to tell if a piece is Swedish or French some pieces like the traditional Gustavian Moro clock are 100% Swedish!


swedish-interiors-dining-roomSwedish Interiors


 original source unknown

gustavian-swedish-bedroomGustavian Trågsoffa, via Skona Hem

The legs are French but the chair back is what gives it away.


These last three images are more what we expect to see when we think of Gustavian Swedish Style, but hang on— much more to come and more surprises! I hope that you enjoyed this post! If you want to see more, here’s a post on Gustavian Swedish furnishings that I did a while back.

  • Michele - August 14, 2016 - 6:57 PM

    Laurel – this was wonderful reading, thank you. I love the rural “Gus” style – it’s my favorite to dream of living amongst!

    As for the painting of Gus and his brothers? I believe it is he who is standing – though the brothers resemble one another greatly – but the KING would be standing (ie: “ruling” above his seconds, in a painting of that time – that’s a certainty.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 14, 2016 - 7:40 PM

      Hi Michele,

      Thank you for the history lesson. That makes a lot of sense! And in this painting, he has a kinder face than his bro in gold; he looks arrogant. The one in red looks to be the youngest of the three.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - February 4, 2016 - 11:23 PM

    I love Gustavian style. I like the simplistic peasant style. It has the promise of something sophisticated without being too grand for us, well, peasants I suppose? The palace style is wonderful of course but most of us don’t have such grand places to display that kind of finery. Lol! I just bought a clock which is definetley not a genuine Mora. I am going to chalk paint it and wonder if I should do a little Gustavian folk art, simple, not flowery. What do you think? Should I just do the paint and leave the design out? It is reminiscent of a Mora at best, the size and shape suit my small space and I want to play up the Mora aspect as much as I can. Also suggestions for color and or designs would be appreciated. I have been reading your stuff for ever and you seem to know your stuff. Keep up the great info! Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 4, 2016 - 11:51 PM

      Hi Kate,

      Well… generally, I’m a less is more kinda gal, but it would also depend on the design. This is what I would do. I would research mora clocks on pinterest or google “swedish antique mora clocks” and see what you find. I took a stab and came up with a great page here.

      Of course, my friend Loi Thai of Tone on Tone has a wonderful pinterest account too.

      Hope that helped!ReplyCancel

  • Tone on Tone Loi Thai - January 28, 2015 - 4:19 PM

    I always learn so much when I visit. Thanks, Laurel, for all your research. I’m looking forward to the other parts. And thanks for the shout out 🙂 You are the best!!!ReplyCancel

  • Diane Stewart - January 25, 2015 - 9:53 PM

    Great history and design lesson! I love the look, but have never understood why the cool, pale colors when it was so cold and dreary outside. Why not warmer colors, more yellows to look like sunshine?ReplyCancel

    • Sarah Barton - September 5, 2016 - 1:24 AM

      Hi, you can get ‘warm’ pale colours, and ‘cool’ pale colours. The pale colours used are always the ‘warm’ based ones. I’m not sure how it works, but the paint store should be able to help you get a pale colour in a warm tone. Regards, Sarah.ReplyCancel

  • Diana Lampus - January 22, 2015 - 2:32 AM

    Love all your posts! I would love to see the rest of the master bedroom and the finished upstairs media room on the beautiful old house you are restoring. Actually the whole house… are doing such a beautiful and thoughtful job. Your talent and attention to detail is amazing. Even my 22 year old daughter has added you t o her email…she fell in love with the beautiful dining room in the house!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 24, 2015 - 1:08 AM

      Thank you again Diana. I’m so fortunate to have been able to work on such a beautiful architectural gem. The rooms aren’t quite ready for photos, but hopefully soon.ReplyCancel