Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Decorating With Swedish/Gustavian Sofas



Born in the second half of the eighteenth century, in the reign of King Gustav of Sweden, the pared back version of French neoclassicism has taken the decorating world by storm and shows no sign of letting up. Why is this? Because the combo of Swedish restraint and French decorative refinement gives us a style that is elegant, yet calm, making it very easy to live with.

This particular blog post puts the focus on one element of Gustavian decor.....the Swedish/Gustavian sofa. These pieces are simpler in style than their French cousins yet with fine carvings and moldings. The Swedish/Gustavian sofas were more in keeping with the Scandinavian tradition of painted furniture.

 Since the Swedish/Gustavian furniture was more affordable than the ornate pieces being made in larger Swedish cities, a Gustavian sofa would have been a mainstay in many Swedish homes. Today the sofa has become the iconic piece of Gustavian decor. There might be many shapes and styles, but they are all easily recognizable and extremely coveted.

I hope you will enjoy the blog and the images I have gathered of these truly lovely sofas. Authentic Swedish/Gustavian sofas are very expensive but who knows, you might stumble upon one someday. The hunt can be as exciting as the treasure so don't give up. There are some wonderful reproduction Gustavian sofas out there too, so if this is your desired style you are in luck.



If you open any interior magazine you are certain to find a Swedish/Gustavian sofa highlighting a room.


We have King Gustav of Sweden, who came to the throne in 1772, to thank for the sofas and settees that bear his name.

He brought French style back to Sweden where the pared down versions of their lovely sofas and settees gradually grew into what is now the extremely popular Gustavian style. In fact, the 18th century is considered the "golden age" of Swedish furniture.


These lovely sofas, sometimes called peasant or country sofas, were usually painted in shades of white, cream, blue, soft yellow, green, and grays that run from dove to blue gray. Actually the very pale gray that everyone associates with Swedish/Gustavian style was never used during the 18th century. It is the result of marketing the shabby chic style.The surfaces are were sometimes even accented with gold or red.


The color chart indicates actual Swedish/Gustavian paint colors that were most likely originally used on these sofas and settees.

After white, blue is the color most often used on Swedish/Gustavian style sofas and other furniture.


einrichtungsstil.geschenkmeer.com

An 18th century Swedish/Gustavian sofa from the Rococo period that has it's original chalky blue paint and traces of natural wood. Notice the intricately carved Rococo details on it's apron.

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I love the way a soft, cream painted Gustavian sofa looks almost sculptural when used with the right accessories.


People are tempted to repaint these antique whitewashed Swedish/Gustavian sofas and settees. Actually they are worth more in their original condition. Just clean them good and refrain from over finishing.


Unlike most Swedish furniture, Gustavian sofas have a cozy and warm feel that makes it easy for them to adapt to many different interior styles. The soft palette of chalky whites and  other muted colors gives them an old world look while feeling modern and fresh.



This style of 18th century Swedish sofa is called Trågsoffa and is from the Rococo period. This one displays that elegant Gustavian style restraint and has the beautiful fluted and tapered legs that is indicative of these Swedish pieces.

This Swedish/Gustavian Trågsoffa has intricately carved flowing curves, cabriole legs, and carved shell motif on the apron, all from the French Rococo era.

I am seriously drooling!! Look at the exceptional detail on this 18th century Gustavian Trågsoffa.

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It is rare to find a Swedish/Gustavian sofa wearing it's original paint. Most of pieces have been repainted multiple times throughout their lives.


This Gustavian sofa has original paint and spindled sides. It also has the fluted tapered legs common to these sofas.


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Another wonderful Gustavian sofa with spindled back and sides.



 via Pinterest

This Swedish dining room has some lovely pieces including two fabulous white painted Gustavian sofas. Another thing about the Gustavian style is that it works really well with gilded accessories. That touch of gold enhances the refined elegance of these pieces so the sofa looks right at home with this chandelier, candelabras, and and gilded mirrors.


Look at how beautiful this dark gray painted Gustavian sofa looks with the crystal chandelier. Mirrors, crystal wall sconces, and chandeliers seen to enhance the simple beauty of these pieces.

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This wonderful Swedish/Gustavian sofa has a patina that only comes with age.

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A Gustavian sofa with that worn, whitewashed finish that people find so attractive.


This fabulous Swedish/Gustavian sofa has graceful guilloche carving along the apron. Guilloche carving is an interlacing pattern of bands or ribbons that weave around a center button. Swedish furniture makers were fond of this French pattern.


I think one of the reasons the Gustavian sofa is extremely popular today is how easy it is to incorporate it into any decor style. Whether the interior is Old World, country, farmhouse, French, Swedish, traditional or even ultra modern, these sofas work well.

A blue painted Swedish sofa from the Gustavian Period, circa 1790, with carved sheaf of grain finials which is an emblem of the royal house of Vasa. Vasa was a royal house founded in 1523 in Sweden which ruled from 1523–1654.

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I love the rustic yet refined and formal look of this Gustavian sofa. Again notice the grain finials.


A wonderful example of green paint on a Gustavian sofa. This one has finials in the shape of urns.

These Swedish sofas are highly desirable and there are so many great images of them that this post could go on forever. However, I think this Gustavian sofa with blue and ivory striped upholstery, proudly displayed in the entrance of this home, is a perfect one to end with.



If you are going for the Swedish/Gustavian interior remember the trademark elements associated this style. The color scheme is soft and almost romantic with charming spaces full of light and elegance. Look for painted Mora clocks, the tiled stoves called kakelugn or even cocklestoves, lovely painted and distressed furniture that is simple yet refined. Linen, checks, and stripes are the go to choice for upholstery. Overall this style has a folk art elegance that is fresh and historic all at the same time. Oh, one more thing you must have.......that fabulous Swedish/Gustavian sofa!!




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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Decorating With Antique Game Tables



The use of gaming tables can be traced back as far as 17th century Europe. But it was the 18th century that saw the golden age of the game table. French salons, during the reign of Louis XV, were full of tables that were made specifically for playing cards. And by the time George II came to the throne in 1727, England was a nation addicted to gaming. Gaming became so intense with many people losing an entire fortune in a single night of card playing. This, and the number of suicides associated with gaming debts, prompted England to pass The Gaming Act of 1738 making the playing of these card games expressly prohibited by law.

This 18th century pastime prompted the creation of tables which were designed to meet the needs associated with particular games that were trendy at the time. These elegant game tables incorporated surfaces suitable for such pastimes as card games, backgammon, and chess. Backgammon became extremely popular and game tables that included a well for backgammon were commonly referred to as "tric-trac tables," from the French term given to a game that was very similar to backgammon.

The game tables were important furnishings and usually would have been left out in the centers of the salons. Delicate game tables were produced with paintings or they were veneered, and inlaid with other woods. They were additionally highlighted with elegant doré bronze. Sometimes they were folded up and used as a side table until they were needed for entertaining guests or for family games. 18th-century game tables were often sold in sets of two in order to maintain symmetry in the room.

Eventually, by the early 1800s, game tables were found in middle-class homes as well. Sadly by century's end game tables found themselves out of fashion, relics of a bygone era.

Today you can still include an old world style game table in your decor. At the end of the post you will see how!


J. Reichenegg A Game of Chess


The game room at Versailles complete with a variety of game tables.

In the 1700's when lighting was often too poor to allow for reading after dark, card playing was usually the main evening activity. It was considered a desirable social skill. Since one needed knowledge of the rules of fashionable games, gaming masters were hired to teach you how the games were played.


Since games are much more comfortable played at a table, it didn’t take long for wealthy game enthusiasts to commission game tables be built dedicated to their gaming hobbies.


At first most old world game tables were designed for two people to play chess or backgammon. They rested on two legs that were usually trestled.


A Game Of Chess by George Goodwin Kilburne


The style of old world game tables then shifted to the use of four cabriole legs. This got rid of the trestles which created more room for the players to sit with their legs under the table. Now, instead of sitting two on each side, a player had their own space and could keep their cards from being so easily seen.


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The small sunken well on each side of the game table would hold the coins won by each player.


Salons were overflowing with the well- to- do set all vying for a seat at the "tables". It wasn't long until all of Europe followed France's addiction to gaming. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pierre-Louis Dumesnil’s painting Interior with Card Players, shown here, captures the relaxed ambience of a typical evening of games.

Photo by Thomas Quine

In private houses game tables were "must have" pieces of furniture. The intricate woodwork made antique game tables attractive and functional.


A 18th century Deavid Roentgen transforming gaming table. Roentgen, a German, was Marie Antoinett's appointed cabinet maker.

The top folds over to reveal a baize covered space for playing cards. Then when flipped again there is an inlaid chessboard on the under side.When the top is removed you have two compartments fitted for backgammon.

via Pinterest

Gaming in the 18th century was a way of letting everyone know you had wealth at your disposal. Among aristocrats, gaming was an indication of status symbol. Antique game tables were the stars of the salon. Beautiful chairs were always close by ready to be pulled up to the table so the games could begin.


The Chess Game, one of the most famous paintings by Emile-Georges Weiss.

Backgammon became extremely popular as a game of leisure. In this case a portable backgammon board is used on top of the card table. Trictrac was another 18th century game, also played with a Backgammon set, that was enjoyed by many people.

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The top of this game table either lifts off or has an inventive mechanism that turns the top at a 90 degree angle over the frieze to reveal a leather or felt surface where a number of different games might be played. The frieze doubles as a storage compartment.


There were many different styles of game tables from simple to over the top designs. Or you could always just use a small side table to play games on.


However, most aristocrats of the day would have chosen more elaborate game tables with inlay and ormolu mounts.


Most old world game tables were outfitted with chess boards to accommodate the popularity of that trendy game of the day.

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Some old world game tables, designed for chess during Louis XV's reign, would have inlaid marble tops.


Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier Chess Players

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Many a game of dominoes was played on these antique game tables. The game moved from Italy to France in the early 18th Century and became a fad. By the late 18th century, France was also producing domino puzzles. The word "Domino" is French for a black and white hood worn by Christian priests in winter which is probably where the name of the game derives from.


Beautiful wood, gilt, or Meissen porcelain boxes would sit on the game table and would hold tokens or counters.


A portion of Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533) - Game of Chess

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Typically a green  material resembling felt called baize would be use to cover play areas of these antique game tables.

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Old World game table in the salon of the Chateau de Cheverny, France.


In the 18th century there was always a space somewhere in your home for a game table.


Antique game tables are seen in today's homes as well. If you are a fan, you can still decorate with them. If you are not a gamer, use one as a tea table.


Alot of people still like to use game tables. Our family enjoys playing the new Euro style board games and I hate folding card tables. I am feverishly looking for an antique game table that suits our needs.


Grand salons are not required for gaming today. There is probably a space somewhere in you home for a game table and a couple of pretty chairs. I like this intimate space at the top of the stairs.


Remember you don't have to have an inlaid, ormolu drenched game table. Just find yourself a pretty style that works for you.


Even a round one will make a great game table!



Your chess board may not be inlaid with bits of marble but you can still make it elegant by sitting it on a pretty wood, mirrored, or agate plateau.



There are many styles of tables to choose from so it will be fun to create your own gaming space by adding old world style game table. And after all fun is what gaming is all about!!




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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer


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