Life in Sweden

How to get traditional Swedish style in your home

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(without visiting Ikea!)Traditional Swedish Style

Unfortunately for a lot of us the instant connection made when we think of Swedish design is world-wide home interiors giant Ikea, but there is so much more to beautiful traditional Swedish interior design than this.

Natural materials, light-reflecting mirrors, fireplaces, stylish functional furniture and cosy textiles all combine to create an elegant yet homely place to live; a look that could work just as well for your home as it does in Sweden.

For inspiration take a look at the work of architect and furniture designer Carl-Axel Acking, who created simple Swedish furniture in smooth, strong shapes, and Lars Bolander, who made the sort of practical open shelving that Swedish homes favour.

Here are the main points to consider if you want to get Swedish style in your home:

Bringing in the Light

Because it’s so dark for a large portion of the year in Sweden, people make the most of what light there is with a lot of mirrors in their home. Whilst you might not have the same problem, mirrors still make the most of your space and help a room appear larger.

Fireplaces, table lamps, candles and chandeliers are also popular; lots of glass and silver items are essential to make the home appear brighter. Any way of bringing in light and warmth and reflecting it around the room is a necessity in Sweden, but can also work beautifully for other areas of the world in dark winter months.

Stoves set into a decorative fireplace are hugely popular in Swedish homes. To get this style check antique shops for a freestanding cast-iron stove.


Nature is celebrated in Swedish homes, and as soon the sun comes out people enjoy it as much as they can. Stencilled wall patterns are inspired by nature, fresh flowers are always on show, and wood, leather and glass are popular material choices. Avoid metals and plastics if you want your home to have a Swedish vibe.


The ‘Gustavian’ colours of grey, pale green and pale blue are key to Swedish decor, alongside white, cream and light yellow. Chalky, pastel colours are more popular than brights.

To create some accents deeper colours like gold, red, and ochre are used; keeping the colours natural and earthy is key. If you want to keep to a Swedish colour palette in your home avoid anything too vivid or stark; neon orange is a definite no!


To add some decorative elements to a room against the simplicity of its furniture, fabrics often feature stripe, check or floral patterns. Walls are stencilled with patterns of intricate wreaths, ribbon, diamond, circle or heart motifs. To get this style in your own home you could try stencilling a wall of one room in earthy colours; whilst quite time consuming it is certainly effective.


The Swedish love light blonde wood, such as birch, alder, beech and white pine for their furniture and floorboards. It is left its natural colour and simply treated or white washed.

Cosy blankets and rag rugs are popular to keep rooms cosy and floor insulated. Made from cotton, wool, linen and other such natural materials, these add a splash of colour and pattern to a room whilst keeping everybody warm. Drape a mix of woollen rugs in muted tones and stripy patterns over your armchairs and sofas to get your home cosy for winter – Swedish style!

Functional Furniture

Whilst Swedish furniture is elegant and attractive in its simplicity, functionality is a key factor to. The Swedish ‘slagboard’ table is an essential; a drop leaf table that is large enough for dinner yet can be folded down to under a foot’s width. The versatility of this style table makes it ideal if you have a small home.

Furniture is made up of straight lines with the occasional curved accent, whilst complicated carved styles are avoided. Wooden sofas are very popular, which combine seating with storage when the top is lifted. Multi-purpose furniture is particularly popular in Sweden, making the most of space and avoiding clutter.


Emily Bradbury is writing on behalf of Antiques to Vintage, an innovative new site that connects antique buyers and sellers from around the world together in one place.


  1. Thomas
    November 11, 2013 at 11:24 — Reply

    If you’re going Swedish, don’t forget the plants: every Swedish home has a number of small flower pots on the windowsills: geranium, gardenia, cacti, calla, zamioculcas, hen-and-chickens, orchids… you name it. Plus, most likely, a couple of large pots on the floor with large plants like yucca, ficus, fragrant oleander, or maybe a cardamom plant.

  2. May 19, 2014 at 12:39 — Reply

    I’m a SWEDEN Freak and I*d like to get more information about the most beautiful places in SWEDEN to be seen. I*m her for the first time, enjoy it very much and would like to travel around SWEDEN mainly up to the North. Please sent me something to my email “” THX UWE

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