For tens of thousands of homeowners in Sweden, summer means one thing: time to paint your house Falun red. Sweden.se looks at Swedish homes, both inside and out, and finds a colorful mix of old and new.
Falun red paint is still, after hundreds of years, the color of choice for Swedish summerhouses. Photo: Peter Carlsson/Johnér.
The Swedish countryside is dotted with houses and barns painted in Falun red paint (Falu Rödfärg). The pigment is actually a waste product of the now closed Falun copper mine, and first referred to in about 1570.
Pernilla Wigren, managing director of Falu Rödfärg, the company which produces the paint, says: “It was originally a status symbol used by the Swedish upper classes to copy the red bricks of their counterparts on the continent.”
After the Second World War the color fell out of favor as forward-looking Swedes eager to leave the past behind switched to less traditional shades. But now Falun red has come full circle and is again sought after by the well-off.
“It is still used today for older houses, but it is also fashionable with trendy architects who use it for modern summerhouses in the Stockholm suburbs,” Wigren says.
Hot in Chile
While about 95 per cent of the three million liters of Falun red paint produced each year stays within Sweden, a small amount is exported. Today you can see houses painted Falun red from Estonia to Canada. In Chile, there are an estimated 60 to 70 houses painted in the color.
Unusually for a company in these global times, Falu Rödfärg is not too concerned about exporting its product. The reason: there’s only a limited amount of the raw material left.
Hay, birch trees and nudity
Sweden has one of the highest rates of second-home ownership in the world, and a significant proportion of these summerhouses (sommarstugor) are painted Falun red. TV star and interior designer Simon Davies is not a fan of Swedish taste in decor and furnishings, but he does appreciate the traditional red summer cottage.
“Summerhouses are different from apartments or townhouses because Swedes blossom when the sun comes out,” he says. “Summerhouses are geared for fun and life, and the return of light.”
Davies, who is English, came to Sweden 13 years ago. He has made his name in TV shows in which he and his partner, Tomas Cederlund, bring flashes of purple and orange into Swedish homes — often to the obvious dismay of their more conservatively minded owners.
Although light colors are the norm in Swedish homes, bright colors are hip this fall. Photo: Sandra Qvist/Scanpix.
As might be expected from someone so passionate about color, Davies waxes lyrical about Falun red. “The color is tied up with the lifestyle; with wonderful birch trees, the dappled light, swimming naked in the local lake. It’s about relaxation and enjoyment, and that slightly burned smell of hay. That’s why I immediately rushed off and bought one.”
Lighting up the darkness
While exteriors stay the same, the interiors of Swedish homes continue to evolve. As anyone who has visited a branch of Ikea will know, Swedish furniture is characterized by clean lines and functionality. But now Swedes are becoming less conservative with their interiors, increasingly introducing more colors and personal touches.
Marit G Engstedt, a stylist and writer on interior design for a number of Swedish magazines and newspapers, says: “We have a base of very strict furniture and then we liven it up. The trend now is to put in personal things to show who you are — books you’ve read or things you’ve bought abroad.”
However, one thing hasn’t changed; due to Sweden's climate and northerly location, home interiors remain light and airy. “Swedes really like the light. It’s important to us because we don’t have light throughout the year,” Engstedt says. “Therefore we like light materials, colors and furnishings.”
Colors to match
Color trends change with the seasons, and right now the “in” colors in Sweden are turquoise, orange and especially yellow. “This fall we will see more aubergine, lilac and mauve,” Engstedt predicts.
She says the reason Swedes invest so much time, money and care in their homes is that they spend so much time there. “Since we have these very dark times for half of the year we spend a lot of time at home, and therefore we really want it to be nice there.”
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British journalist David Wiles is editor of Sweden Today magazine. Having just battled his way round a packed Ikea on a rainy Sunday, he has had his fill of Swedish interior design for the time being.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
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