Timelessly On-Trend: 10 Hallmarks of Gustavian Furniture

The Gustavian furniture style originated in Sweden in the late 1700s but it’s a style that's still sought after and widely reproduced today. In large part due to its simplicity and clean, classic lines that can fit in with almost any decorating style.

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Kenneth Berg

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Photo By: Marian Parsons

Multifunctional Design

Most Gustavian pieces were painted in a pale gray, but it’s rare to find a piece wearing its original paint, since the majority of pieces have been repainted multiple times throughout their life. This beautiful dresser/desk combination owned by antiques expert and designer Loi Thai is wearing a darker gray paint on the exterior with an unexpected minty-green interior.

Curvy Clocks

This staple of Swedish style originated from the town of Mora where a cottage clock-making industry was started to support the poor farming community. Each family would specialize in making a different piece of the clock, which would then be sold without a case. Cases were then made or purchased locally, which explains the wide variety of body shapes and styles, along with paint colors and painted designs found among antique Mora clocks.

Storage-Rich Seating

Gustavian raw pine and painted benches often incorporate storage in the seat so the piece could serve double duty. Often long, narrow, and simple in design (although more ornate versions exist), pieces like this painted bench (owned by Vibeke Svenningsen) are perfect to use in modern foyers, mudrooms and dining rooms.

Chic Chairs

Gustavian-style chairs borrow many design elements from French furniture but the straight, fluted legs and the no-nonsense squared-off back are hallmarks of the less-fussy Swedish style. Original Gustavian chairs are very expensive, but the good news is that there are a lot of great reproductions available today.

Secretary With Hutch

18th century Swedish craftsmen economized by using local pine instead of more expensive woods being used throughout Europe. For this reason, many Gustavian-era pieces are made of pine like this beautiful 19th century secretary bureau.

Handsome Hutches

Space-saving hutches hold dishes, linens and dry goods. They were (and still are) a common fixture in Swedish country homes. To replicate the look of this antique hutch painted by Vibeke Svenningsen, coat a wood hutch in a pale gray paint with a matte or flat finish. Lightly distress the edges to expose areas of raw wood, giving the painted finish a look of day-to-day wear.

Chests

Dressers are one of the most versatile pieces of furniture to use in a home. They're a perfect fit for just about any room and can hold everything from clothes and linens to silverware and office supplies. Gustavian dressers, like this one owned and styled by Loi Thai, typically have clean, neoclassical lines with tapered, fluted legs. Fluting or a subtle carved design along the sides and top are another common Gustavian design element, making these pieces feel both modern and traditional.

Corner Cabinets

Furniture pieces used in the Gustavian era often had to fit in smaller spaces, so angular and rounded corner cabinets were a smart design to make efficient use of limited space. Here, an antique pine corner hutch takes up little floor space but provides plenty of storage.

Sofas + Daybeds

Adaptability in furniture is a prized quality in Sweden so multifunctional pieces are common. Daybeds, which could serve as both sofa and bed, are popular for this reason. Gustavian pieces traditionally have an exposed wood frame with symmetrical designs and clean lines. Rosettes, tapered legs and fluting are also common design elements.

Reproductions: Know Before You Buy

Furniture crafted during the Gustavian era (1770s to early 1800s) is hard to find except through shops and online marketplaces that specialize in well-documentd period furniture. It's such a beautiful and timeless style, though, that reproductions have been made through the centuries and is still being created today. If an original piece is desired, be sure to purchase from a reputable dealer and watch out for misleading phrases like "Gustavian-style" instead of "Gustavian era or period".

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