Swedish architectural history
Rural & Carpenter's Joy 1840–1900s
The houses from this period are characterized by their exquisite architectural details and carpentry work. Wooden villas, in particular, became significant, and creativity knew no bounds, often drawing inspiration from industrialism.
Initially, these houses had a classic structure, but they quickly evolved to become unique with towers and turrets. Today, we still see many houses carrying this cheerful and lavish architectural heritage.
Up until the mid-1800s, rural houses were primarily influenced by local building traditions. External influences were limited and mainly focused on facade design and coloring, with the ambition to imitate stone buildings.
In the 1840s, industrialism broke through and brought external influences with it. The design of the houses, previously characterized by symmetry, was now influenced by Swiss and Anglo-Saxon architectural ideals. Wooden villas were highly valued, and the decorative potential of wood was explored. Pattern books and standard drawings spread quickly, and sawmills began producing ready-made carpentry details. The houses of this period were marked by a clear sense of craftsmanship.
The extensive construction of railway stations, industries, hotels, and villas towards the end of the period led to a more uniform architectural style throughout the country. The rich carpentry joy is perhaps most evident in the glass verandas and facade decorations of summer villas, but extensive construction also occurred in rural areas.
Art Nouveau & National Romanticism 1900 – 1920s
Art Nouveau or "art nouveau," as the style was called in Europe, was a completely new and sensual design language based on organic forms from nature. Arched windows and doors, high-pitched roofs, and light or red color schemes are characteristics of this architectural style, which aimed to be beautiful.
In an unstable Europe, National Romanticism embraced an older Swedish history. Many countries developed their own national romantic architectural styles. In Sweden, it had a somewhat heavy and closed character but featured well-thought-out architecture. Interiors could reflect both the Viking Age and the Middle Ages, and Carl Larsson's home served as an inspiration for many.
The architecture of the early 1900s broke with the stricter design rules of the past. Art Nouveau relied on organic and fluid forms in light and airy compositions inspired by nature. Houses could have facades made of both wood and plaster, and a cohesive design was important both externally and internally.
National Romanticism drew inspiration from ancient Nordic ideas and folk culture. The houses often had a somewhat heavy and closed character and used materials such as wood and dark brick.
Despite the two styles being founded on different ideals, villas often had similar characteristics. They were usually quite large and impressive, with high ceilings. Ornamentation was often simple and stylized with geometric patterns.
Even though houses from this time could use both plaster and stone materials, they were characterized by a sense of craftsmanship and skillful carpentry.
Classicism & Garden Cities 1920–1940s
Swedish classicism in the 1920s was much simplified compared to previous classical eras. Villa construction bore traces of the Gustavian design world and stood out with its delicate simplicity, making it one of our most beautiful architectural styles, internationally known as "Swedish Grace." What the rest of the world called modernism or "international style," we referred to as functionalism.
Houses were planned for light and air with open floor plans, where the facade was subordinate to the content, and unnecessary decoration was avoided. This style developed its own aesthetics, ranging from sleek white boxes to simple, well-proportioned homes with smooth wooden paneling.
This period includes both 1920s classicism and the many small houses of the 1930s and 1940s. These houses, unlike Art Nouveau and National Romanticism, are once again small, simple, and symmetrical with sparse but careful detailing. 1920s villas often drew inspiration from the classical design and Gustavian ornamentation of the 1800s and developed a distinct Swedish character, considered a highlight in Swedish architecture.
Many of the 1930s and 1940s small houses were influenced by the aesthetics of Swedish functionalism, featuring light functionalist villas, flat or very low roofs, expressive window arrangements, and smooth surfaces that became the primary expression for residences with a social perspective. The detailing became even simpler, and open floor plans with plenty of light and air took precedence over a strict facade composition. Throughout the period, the houses are characterized by their light and slender design, especially in early garden city areas. Many of the houses were prefabricated and included self-construction in dense garden city areas.