Swedish Furniture

The fashion for 18th century Swedish furniture was set at court and then filtered down to the homes of ordinary people. King Gustav III was inspired by the interiors of the court of Louis XVI and when returned from France to Stockholm in 1771, he brought drawings, models and objet d’art. He soon acquired gilded chairs and adorned his walls with towering gilded mirrors. The wealthy would ape the grand style of the King while the middle classes settled for a less opulent, painted style.

The gilded Louis XVI pieces you might find today are likely to have come from the public rooms of palaces and houses of the Swedish aristocracy and merchant class.  Although the pieces are very ornate, the shapes are clean: oval backed sofas and chairs and rectangular backed sofas, with reeding on the legs and carved rosettes and flourishes at the tops of the backrests.  These pieces are expensive and a couple of carvers would cost you around £2,000 while a marble topped console table would set you back £4,000.

It is quite difficult to find genuine Swedish antiques in the UK and you need to find a dealer who specializes in Swedish antiques and furniture and who, ideally, has good connections in Sweden.

In the private rooms of castles and manor houses Gustavian grey furniture was extremely popular.  The grey in question is no single colour and famously changes with the light, the palette ranges from battleship to lilac, from off-white to almost powder blue.  Although Gustavian grey furniture was first made at the end of the 18th century, excellent examples of classic designs were still being made well into the first half of the 20th century.  You should examine the pieces carefully, the more modern examples have thicker legs and less fluted, simpler carving.

Key shapes are oval, square and shield-back chairs, towering curved corner cabinets and plain painted chest of drawers.  You should beware, there are a lot of Gustavian fakes on the market.  Genuine early 1800s pieces have hammered in wooden lugs, while modern copies are built with screws.

The historical province of Dalarna, Western Svealand, is famous for its tradtional folk crafts.  Among the most collectable pieces from that region are the extravagantly hand-painted chests, chairs, tables and cabinets, made in the second half of the 18th and during the 19th century – known as Kurbits furniture.  These Swedish folk furnishings, which very rarely come onto the market in the UK, would have been produced in one the the rural, wooden homes in a village such as Leksand in Dalarna.

Kurbits creations are of exceptional quality – the pine and birch, grown in such a harsh climate, is especially dense, making these furnishings virtually indestructable.  Forms are sturdy, with turned rather than carved legs.

Kurbits pieces were often given as wedding presents and many are marked with the date of the owner’s marriage and their initials, as well as floral decoration and faux woodgrain.  As they are very scarce they are expensive and a Kurbits table and two chairs would cost you around £1,800 for the set, while a side table might cost as much as £1,500

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