Category Archives: design styles

midsommar dag…


It was just a week ago today I enjoyed the festivities of midsummer day at the lovely open air museum Gammelgarden in Scandia. The weather called for rain, but it was a perfect day. In this everso tranquil setting sits the only museum of its type in the United States. Gammelgarden means ‘old farm’ in Swedish and what a treat it was to explore all it had to offer.

a simplified kitchen

Being in the midst of holiday preparations has many of us using our kitchens more fully than at most other times of the year. To have clear work surfaces, organized cupboards and  ample lighting adds to the enjoyment of using this hub of the home.

This is a kitchen I recently updated with simplicity, order and light in mind. The home owner and I took our cues from Sweden and purged the clutter, expanded the white color pallet and added simple user-friendly details.




 The soffits were removed which allowed the cabinets to extend to the ceiling. New doors and drawer fronts in a Shaker style were fitted to existing frames which were then enameled. New contemporary hardware adds a streamlined feel to the space. Using subway tile is always a timeless option and quartz composite countertops offer a very durable and low maintenance option. Color is brought into the room with bright accessories from travels abroad including the Swedish light fitting above the sink.

fun details…

a cozy corner…

Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek…

swedish artist carl larsson


Carl Larsson is Sweden’s most recognized artist who depicted his idyllic life, with wife Karin and their children, in exquisite delicate watercolor paintings.

Born in Stockholm in 1853, he grew up in less than idyllic surroundings, being left by his father for his mother to rear. She worked diligently as a laundress, but earned very little. They lived in squalled conditions and he learned to work very hard as well.

At thirteen he was urged by his school teacher to apply for entry to the Stockholm Academy for Fine Arts. He was accepted, but it took some time for him to acclimate to the new, more refined surroundings.

He continued through school, became an illustrator and later moved to Paris to become an artist. He started painting in oils, but in 1882 having moved to Grez, (a Scandinavian artists’ colony) he transitioned to watercolors, which he mastered in six short months.

This is where he met Karin Bergoo and they soon married in 1883. Five years later Karin’s father gave the couple the house Lilla Hyttnas at Sanborn. This was to be the setting for many of Larsson’s paintings, capturing his life as it unfolded with his wife and their many children.

There were two major influences, whether knowingly or not, that shaped the creativity that took place within the walls of the Larsson home.

In 1891 a major exhibition of the Gustavian Style was compiled, this was in response to the look becoming popular once again in Sweden. This happened to be within the same timeframe that the drawing room at Sanborn was redecorated in the fashion it still is today. The Gustavian tenets of light, refinement and unpretentious elegance are evident.

There was also a movement taking place that had begun in England, as a rejection to the over-opulent, mass-produced, poor quality furnishings that was being churned out during the latter portion of the Victorian era.

William Morris, influenced by the writings John Ruskin, longed for a return to quality, hand-crafted, thoughtful goods that harkened back to the medieval period. This was to become known as the Arts and Crafts Movement and became popular in the US as well with the works of Gustav Stickley.

The paintings of Carl Larsson capture this desire for a hands-on, real life, where the pieces in the home are beautiful, useful and lovingly created. Karin’s weavings and embroideries add texture and personality to each room. Older pieces of furniture were often painted and then embellished with portraits or motifs to create one of a kind works of art.

The rooms were meant to be lived in, enjoyed and be a place of security and comfort to the family, something Carl Larsson experienced very little when he was a child.

The legacy the Larsson’s left at Sanborn inspire those that experience its beauty to integrate a small part into their own lives.

swedish gustavian style

The Swedish Gustavian Style is named for the young king, Gustav III who reigned over Sweden for 21 years from 1771 to 1792. The Gustavian Style had actually begun to take shape nearly a decade before this when his father was still in power, as a movement against the more ostentatious style of the baroque period. It was an amalgamation of the lighter rococo style and the more sparse neo-classic look. The Gustavian Style continued to transform and became even more clean-lined as the century progressed.

When King Gustav came to power he had been studying abroad in France. He was drawn to the Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture shapes, but reinterpreted them in soft greys and creams with less ornamentation. He also had made visits to the newly excavated site of Pompeii and Herculaneum and was taken with the Greco-Roman designs found at the sites. These locations influenced how he wanted to furnish the royal properties back in Sweden.

Another influence at the time was Jean-Francois de Neufforge, a French scholar, who had taken more than ten years to complete the Recueil elementaire d’architecture which documented a vast quantity of ornamental motifs such as laurel wreathes, garlands and medallions. Gustav found all of these elements very attractive and sought to combine them with restraint, symmetry and vision.

Another pivotal point regarding the furnishing of Sweden’s interiors was the invention of the tiled stove in 1767. This meant that larger properties now had the ability to heat each room with much more ease, as the stoves were many times more efficient than earlier versions or open fireplaces. Rooms could now be occupied through the cold winter months. This gave rise to occupants wanting to furnish these spaces more fully.

hallmarks of the swedish gustavian style include…

:: wide plank pine wood floors, scrubbed pale
:: tall windows with minimal coverings
:: linen panels painted with garlands and laurel wreathes
:: refined furnishing painted in soft greys and creams
:: tile stoves with decorative designs
:: simple furnishing fabrics in cotton or linen
:: fabric designs in checks, stripes and delicate florals
:: reflective crystal chandeliers
:: decorative brass wall sconces
:: exquisite minimal accessories
:: symmetry, balance and elegant proportion

The beautiful interiors shown are taken from these two books; just part of many I have collected over the years on Scandinavian Design.

The first interior is from Katrin Cargill’s ‘Creating the Look – Swedish Style’ with photography by Christopher Drake and the others are from “The Swedish Room’ by Lars and Ursula Sjoberg with photography by Ingalill Snitt. Both are lovely resources for anyone looking to learn more about Swedish style.

designers guild at international market square

Yesterday our local design center, International Market Square, hosted a MinneMarket on the heels of the design industries market at Highpoint in North Carolina.

Forty showrooms displayed their various lines in the light-filled atrium where eight showrooms also gave presentations of their latest fabric lines. The day began with an engaging seminar given by Annette Wildenauer that highlighted our generational diversities, from Traditionalists and Baby Boomers to Gen X and Y and the youngest group dubbed Linksters. Throughout the day we had treats to touch, see, taste and smell.

I was most drawn to the Spring 2011 fabric collection by Designers Guild called Sofienberg which, as the brochure reveals is ‘inspired by the elegance, grace and simplicity of Gustavian interiors.’

As you may know the Gustavian style is one of my favorites. You can take a peek at some of my work here if you wish.

Designers Guild was founded in 1970 by Tricia Guild and has its main fabric showrooms on the Kings Road and Marylebone High Street in London. Over the past forty years Designers Guild has grown considerably and is now available in over 60 countries with the UK still being the largest market for sales.

I have long been influenced by the fabulous color and ingenuity Tricia has brought to creating her collections. I believe that if there is one designer that is continually ahead of the curve, Tricia Guild is the one. Her masterful color juxtaposition and creativity are not only inspiring, but push one to look at color in a whole new light.

I hope you have enjoyed this pretty spring preview…and with that I will wish you a happy weekend! dawn

smart house @ goldstein museum of design

life is a process and so is creating a home with character, a connection to its environment, and the ability to bring a feeling of comfort to those that experience it…

I wrote those words for an article for Nordic Reach magazine in spring of 2005 but they came to my mind last night as I attended a presentation put on by the Goldstein Museum of Design at the University of Minnesota.

The presentation introduced us to an interactive exhibition that features design and technology to help facilitate living independently as we age into our senior years. The year 2011 marks the first year that the 70 million ‘Baby Boomers’ (born between 1946 and 1964) will reach age 65. The exhibit takes the visitor on a short guided tour of a ‘Baby Boomer’ couple who have the intention to live as long as possible in their own home, a desire of many in that generation.

What I found interesting about the exhibit was that so many of the features would also be very helpful at any point in our lives when injury, surgery and recovery occur. This unfortunate reality takes place in many of our lives and to have a home that is equipped to embrace these situations when they may take place can bring a great deal of relief and comfort.

As an interior designer, I believe our homes should be the one place we can really be at ease and relaxed; escaping the rush and public nature of the outside world. By keeping an eye to the future, as we plan our homes, this can help make our journey an easier transition as we get older.

So the next time you consider an improvement to your home, stop and think for a moment  how the change will affect you not only in the short term, but as time goes on and your situation changes…food for thought.

The exhibit is open until May 22, please click here for more details.

a happy new year…

Was life more simple 100 years ago? This was the question I pondered when I found this postcard in an antiques shop last autumn. What was life like in 1911? Here are some thoughts to mull over…


The decade leading up to 1911 was a time of great transition, from the way people lived and worked to the way they dressed and furnished thier homes.

times are changing…

The years from 1900 to 1910 changed the balance of Americans that lived on farms or in rural areas from 54% to 49%.  People were finding opportunities in the growing cities and began moving into them more and more. This can be partly attributed to the fact that there were increasing numbers of factory jobs that needed to employ workers. A result of this was that it led to a severe decline (over 50%) of  people willing to work as servants for the upper and middle classes.

Although factory work was not easy, some advances had been made to the work week and conditions. In the late 1800’s it was typical to work 6 days each week for 12 hours each day, this changed somewhat by 1911 when there was a movement towards 8 hour days and half days on Saturday. The average salary in 1910 was $574 per year and in 1912 it was $592 per year. This averaged 15 to 25 cents per hour.

new modern conveniences…

With so many upper and middle class homes carrying out at least a portion of the day to day tasks, there was a necessity to invent time saving devices. These ‘mechanical servants’  were the ‘modern conveniences’ to assist the housewife in maintaining a well run home. They were only available to those fortunate enough to have electricity however, which by 1912 was only 16% of households. It was in 1907 that the first electric washing machines and irons went on the market. The first electric vacuum cleaners were sold in 1908 and a year later the first electric toaster became available. The wealthier households made it a practice of placing a toaster in each bedroom so they could enjoy this new convenience more readily.

Telephones were fairly popular in 1911. By 1904 there were over three million telephones in the US connected by manual switchboard exchanges.  Each central exchange office employed an ‘operator’ that connected every call. Each telephone subscriber got connected to the nearest central exchange office (named after the town or street where it was located) and then got connected to the recipient via another exchange.  The phone did not ring on the other end as the ‘operator’ put the call through to the connecting exchange. In 1911, a call could only travel 2,100 miles, or the distance between New York and Denver. This was the extent of the long distance service at that time.


the kitchen…

By this time the middle class kitchen began looking somewhat like the kitchens we have come to expect. Newly built kitchens typically contained a sink, stove and icebox, often times placed in the ‘triangle floor plan’ that we associate with efficiency today.

the bathroom…

By 1911 the majority of middle class homes had running water, and most towns of 5,000 or more inhabitants had city water and sanitary sewers. Bathrooms were being added to older homes and purchased as a package to be included in new homes. The 1910 Sears catalog sold a complete bathroom set for $49.95. This included a sink, claw-foot bathtub and ‘water closet’. Built-in tubs began replacing claw-foot bathtubs in many homes as well, as this gave the bathroom a more up to date and cleaner look.

the bedroom…

The addition of central heating in many homes made the bedroom fireplace obsolete from a heating standpoint. The availability of indoor plumbing reduced the number of bedrooms containing a washstand with bowl and pitcher. Built in cupboards began replacing the typical armoire or wardrobe that up to this point had been used to store clothes. This streamlined the look of rooms a bit more.

A typical schedule for the week looked something like this…

Monday – laundry
Tuesday – iron, mend, sew
Wednesday – bake
Thursday – shop for groceries
Friday – clean
Saturday – clean, bake for Sunday dinner
Sunday – church, dinner, visit family and friends

a new era…

With the ending of the Victorian era there was a movement against the over-decoration and poorly crafted products that often filled the home in the latter 1800’s. Homes were becoming more simplified, both in architecture and home decor. This was present not only in America with the popularity of Stickley’s Mission style, but in England where William Morris was a great advocate for quality craftsmanship and the Arts and Crafts Movement. In Sweden, Carl Larsson became famous for his home that personified a handcrafted aesthetic drawing from the Gustavian period.

victorian living room…

1918 livingroom…

A typical middle class home available from Sears in 1911…

So was life more simple in 1911?

Compared to 2011 there were far fewer distractions and modes of communication. A person concerned themselves with what was happening in their own small community and the big headlines that made the local newspaper. Postcards and handwritten letters were the life line to family and friends far away. The telephone was used for very short and necessary communication. The television was yet to make it’s debut. The amount of information that any person from 1911 came in contact with was greatly less than we have today. This meant there was far less to clutter their day to day thoughts and memories.

Life was more physically active then for most of society, as many people walked or bicycled from place to place and many still were working the land. There were community dances nearly every week across much of society. Exercise as we know it was not something they felt they had to make time for in their day to day routine.

Compared to the Victorian era, 1911 was moving toward a more simple aesthetic and embraced clearing away clutter and distractions of a visual nature. This gave people an opportunity to keep their most valued (whether monetary or sentimental) possessions and free themselves of what did not contribute to their lives in a positive way.

There is a parallel to our generation now….

There is a portion of our current society that is reacting to the exesses of the latter 1900’s and believe that a more simple approach is a more meaningful one. The more things change the more they stay the same. We live one hundred years later and are approaching the simplification process  in a way that is relevant for our time.

Relatively speaking, no matter where we live our life or in what timeline, living a more simple life can be achieved. It begins with our outlook on life. What are your thoughts?

Images from Google Images, Victorian Interiors & More, Lisa’s Nostalgia Cafe’ and Sears Archives

Information sourced in part from Lisa’a Nostalgia Cafe and About the USA

the basics of scandinavian interior design style

What if there was an interior design style that personified what seems to be a growing awareness to care for our resources, to take time to smell the flowers and to nurture our close relationships… 

less is more…

Scandinavian interior design has kept this philosophy alive for many decades and it is this attitude that is becoming much more popular once again. A key element embodying these ideals is the view that “less is more“. To choose furnishings with regard to how each looks, functions and feels helps enhance the overall style of the room collectively. Without extra clutter, pieces can be seen, appreciated and bring a certain presence to the room. 

human-scale proportion…

A unique quality personifying Scandinavian furnishings is that they are generally no larger than the intended purpose of the piece. This aspect resonates with their respect for nature and resources. An over-decorated room can be burdensome, as the eye does not get to rest; hence the body has more difficulty relaxing. Choosing only items that are meaningful, beautiful, and useful creates a blend of furnishings as unique as each individual. Pulling it together may require a keen eye, but using the principals of proportion, balance and simplicity can help one achieve the look. 

make the most of light…

Another major factor of Scandinavian interior design is the desire to have as much reflectivity and natural light in the home as possible. Sunlight is so important for our health and mental attitude that by bringing it into our homes, we create a more cheerful atmosphere, recharging our senses. 

natural surfaces…

Wooden floors are often left as light as possible and walls are decorated in soft shades of cream, off white or gray. Furniture is painted in soft reflective colors, or left in a natural wood tone. 

crisp and clear…

Simple checks, stripes and gingham fabrics are indicative of the look and naive florals on light backgrounds are also popular. Colors tend to be clear in blues, reds and yellows. Window coverings are kept to a minimum, many times using traditional roller blinds and decorative swags to allow the light to come in without obstruction. Candlelight, mirrored sconces and crystal chandeliers are used to diffuse the light once the sun sets. 

well-built furnishings…

Quality craftsmanship is another idealism of Scandinavian design. Although pieces are not elaborate with decoration, the way they are made is a hands-on process. Careful thought and planning is taken when creating a living space, and the furnishings places within it. Can an item be used for more than one purpose? Can the room be rearranged for different family events, festivities or seasons? Can pieces be easily used and maintained? With these thoughts in mind, the result is one of beautiful, user-friendly, well-proportioned furnishings built to last. 

nordic influence…

Scandinavian design does however encompass several diverse styles, yet the looks intermingle with ease. The more rustic style includes rosmalning, darker colors and chunkier furniture. Often beds are built-in to keep the cold at bay and furnishings are dual purpose to save on space. Rooms are quite sparse, but made cozy with linens that are more ornate and used in a decorative fashion. This style has an affinity with cabin life and lends itself to a colder climate. 

swedish gustavian…

The refined style of the Gustavian period has an unpretentious elegance that suits a lake shore setting in a summer house style. Pieces are more delicate and lighter in color. Rooms are somewhat more formal, but never austere or uninviting. This is the style most associated to Carl Larrson.


mid-century modern…

The contemporary style has a cosmopolitan aire to it, befitting a city or more urban setting. Furniture is streamlined, often in natural wood tones. Bold fabrics and striking accessories complete this look. This style is also reffered to as Scandinavian Modern.

Scandinavian interior design beckons us to slow down, choose well and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It integrates nature, color, simplicity and comfort whilst being at the leading edge of design. What aspects of this style are your favorite?