Open any interiors magazine in recent years, and Gustavian design is prevalent, exceedingly prevalent. You may be impressed with the similarity to French country and curtailed French neoclassical design. And there is a reason for this.
Gustavian furnishings were brought to Sweden in the 1780s by his Highness, King Gustav III, following a visit to the Palace of Versailles. He was so taken and magnified by the beauty that he decided to create his own “Palace of the North.” Gustav was a lifelong patron of the arts, founder of the Swedish Academy and commissioner of the Royal Opera House. The King has since become inextricably linked to the Scandinavian twist on this classical design and is the namesake of this particular sort of furniture.
Provincial Gustavian, or Swedish country style, was popularised by the artist Carl Larsson (1853-1919) as it was used in the backdrop of many of his paintings. It was simpler, much more pared down and spare than the earlier versions. Larsson’s proliferation of this design in his works made this technique of decoration much more palatable to the bourgeois.
The appeal of Gustavian design is the amalgamation of French decorative, ornate style with typical Swedish restraint. It is calming and easy to live with. It does just as well in a Manhattan penthouse as it does in an English country estate. Also, it is quite seamless to arrange fixtures and fittings of this period with others from varying periods. The versatility is really one of the magical components and keys to Gustavian timelessness and immortality.
“Gustavian is of the period whereas ‘Gustavian-style’ is later, perhaps 19th century, and, while still popular, doesn’t sell for quite as much as the original pieces, which need special export licences before they can leave Sweden.”
Attribution to The Financial Times, The Swedish Furniture, I Heart Shabby Chic Blogspot, Carla Aston Design