The Swedish look is soothing and relaxing

Good Morning!

I have an interesting design focus to share with you today, one that may be very much to your liking. I would like to introduce, or perhaps reintroduce, you to Swedish design. For those of you who shy away from color and rejoice in the almost angelic feel that whites and creams lend to a room, this will be your cup of tea. I am introducing this lighter palette for another reason, I predict we are about to entertain some softer hues to interiors. The design world has been overdue to subdue some of the color schemes….let's see if I am correct!

Swedish design began in, where else, Sweden. Due to the dark winters and minimal daylight hours in portions of the country, maintaining brightness in homes is a must. The clean and mellow palette of layering many shades of white and cream—a quintessential Swedish look—is soothing and relaxing, to say the least. Mixed with this gentle color scheme are natural hues of beige, taupe, brown, gray and softer leafy greens like dusty sage that add some depth to the look. This is a palette steeped in contentment.

So, how do you achieve the look? When I need expert direction in color, I ask Jackie Jordan, the Director of Color Marketing at Sherwin-Williams. Her annual color forecast is always a much-anticipated treasure trove of information for trends in everything from interiors to fashion to future appliance colors. Her suggestions for Swedish interior colors (all from Sherwin Williams) include:


Marshmallow SW 7001

Creamy SW 7013

Bauhaus Buff SW 7552

Grays and Taupes

Agreeable Gray SW 7029

Amazing Gray SW 7044

Accessible Beige SW 7036

Pavillion Beige SW 7511


Ancient Marble SW 6162

Svelte Sage SW 6164

Two of Sherwin-Williams forecast palettes for 2014 call for a much softer, gentler interior that is very much about the Scandinavian (Swedish) style. The style is unpretentious yet very elegant in its own way. To break up the mellowness, add an explosion of color, such as a saturated red or purple taken directly from a ski sweater.

In addition to sharing her color choices, Jordan shared this significant detail about Swedish design: There is a Swedish term lgom (leay-goom), which translates to “not too much, not too little, just the right amount.” And I believe that describes Swedish design. Now that we have an understanding of the colors and the theory, let’s take a look at what makes a Swedish home come to life with furnishings.


Very traditional furniture is truly a defining aspect of Swedish interior design, dating back to the 18th century. The Swedish look in furniture came from King Gustav III, king of Sweden from 1772 to 1792. The furniture pieces have the influences of France, Italy and England. You’ll see straight legs and beautiful elegant lines borrowed from the Neoclassical period. Look for pieces that have simple lines such as ladder back chairs or those with sweeping curves to the back. Tables should be chosen with handsome turned legs. Furniture will have some level of distressing, meaning some dents and bings that showcase a piece’s human history. You may find a carved aspect on some pieces, perhaps on a sideboard design or a bedroom dresser.

Wealthy buyers chose pieces constructed of fine woods; those pieces are still very desirable and would be a wonderful component to any interior. The furniture of the common person, however, was made of ordinary woods and then painted. I believe the common person won out as the painted finishes on this more affordable option are what is most striking about Swedish design. These painted finishes make interiors lighter, brighter and less formal. In some cases, a waxed finish added practicality. For this column, I am staying with the classic Swedish design, but please bear in mind that there is a super sleek aspect to Swedish design that is for a later column.

Grandfather Clocks

For a truly inspired Swedish interior, a grandfather clock, known as a “Mora clock,” is a must. Mora clocks have a very interesting story. In the late 1700s, the farming community of Mora, Sweden, entered into difficult times. To make ends meet, the farmers joined forces and began making clocks to sell to wealthy people. Each farm family completed a particular task in the clock construction. At the peak of production, the townspeople made about a 1,000 clocks a year! Experts believe this cottage industry produced about 50,000 clocks over 80 years.

Now here is the interesting catch to these unique clocks: The Mora clock consisted of only the clock—they had no case. It was up to the buyer to have a case constructed, making each clock completely unique to the owner’s preferences regarding shape, paint color and adornments. Maison Décor ( HYPERLINK "" offers wonderful reproductions that are affordable and finished in just the yummiest Swedish colors. If you’re in the market for an authentic piece, visit Cupboards & Roses Swedish Antiques at


When it comes to flooring, look to planked pine flooring for a Swedish interior. Floors painted in white, soft gray or a white with an almost undetectable tint to it would be correct for this type of design. Rugs that are original to Swedish design are rag rugs. In the late 1700s, rugs were considered too precious to be placed on the floor, and were used as wall hangings during festivals. Not until the latter half of the 1800s did they find their place on the floor. Look for rugs with a cream background and softly colored stripes or an intense stripe that one might find on a ski hat or muffler.


Fabrics for upholstery, pillows and bedding in Swedish design add some interest to the room. May I suggest prints with a touch of nature, such as long slender leaves with some movement; simple silhouettes of animals with blasts of primary colors; and allover florals with curvy stylized leaves and blooms. Certainly carved Dala horses (daw-lah) might very well be incorporated into a delightful print for pillows or a cafe curtain for the kitchen. Fabrics that incorporate bright red hearts with scallops are a part of the Swedish charm as well. Or, consider stripes, straight or curved, in tight formation without much background.

These patterned fabrics are all bright and cheery ways to add that shot of color to the shy palette of the Swedish room. And of course you need to consider soft mellow solids in amethyst, aquamarine, citron semiprecious stone hues to maintain the dignity of the gentle color palette. Although the temperatures are milder than one might think (50 to 60 degrees in the summer), it’s very cold in the winter months. With temperatures in this range, soft cashmeres as well as sumptuous wools are fabrics that you might expect to see in these interiors.

Window Treatments

Window treatments might surprise you as the Swedish look prefers lighter, airier fabrics that allow the light to come through even when closed—perhaps a filmy dotted Swiss or leafy sheer fabric. Uncomplicated window treatments hung from the plainest of rings or even simply shirred on a rod are common. Another option is Roman shades, again in softer fabrics such as cream linen or muslin, that help maintain that light and clean brilliance.


I believe Swedish design is gaining influence because of the restraint it shows. I am reluctant to say sparse, but the room features a very controlled number of accessories, allowing spaces to stay open. You will not see coffee tables loaded with books or potted plants, or doodads scattered here and there. What you see are objects with purpose—items carefully chosen to complement the room’s aesthetics and openness. Artwork inspired by botanicals, landscapes of snow or the tundra; art featuring reindeer; and, of course, Swedish Folk Art paintings can add a bit of whimsy and intense hues to an interior. Needlepoint pillows with motifs of reindeer, hearts, ivy or birds (to mention a few) are common as well.

In Swedish design, lighting and light-reflecting pieces take center stage to counteract the rather dark geographic location. Lamps often feature iron, painted porcelain or copper, and you also see copper in kitchen molds on the walls. Tall narrow wooden mirrors with delicate curves are placed to take the best advantage of light. Another signature look is brilliantly polished clear or colored glass pieces that catch the light in simple shapes, like tall slender vases or a trio of charming red glass birds. A Swedish look may also include rustic ceramic pots simply left empty or filled with ivy that is perhaps growing into a topiary heart shape. You’ll see baskets constructed from natural fiber or washed in color, and Dala horses serving as bookends to add a delightful burst of color to a bookshelf.

So, there you have it—the recipe for the tranquil and elegant design known as Swedish interior.

Have a wonderful week! I will be here next week with something new to ponder!