If you imagine the Louis XVI style as the It Girl of the French furniture family, then think of Gustavian as her boho chic cousin—same great bone structure, but a lot less fuss. Named for Swedish king Gustav III, who reigned from 1771 to 1792, the aesthetic mimics the neoclassical Louis XVI lines that Gustav fell in love with while visiting Versailles.
In Sweden’s cooler, more rustic northern latitudes, the look was adapted to local materials and taste. Benches, chairs, and chests of drawers boast the same classical proportions and motifs as their French counterparts—symmetrical fluted legs, garlands, and lyre backs—but here they were executed in humbler native woods like beech, birch, and pine.
To mask those materials and to lighten interiors in a country that is virtually cloaked in darkness for half the year, artisans tinted furniture in pale shades of ivory, gray, and blue using traditional milk paints. Upholstery followed suit, with sunny cotton ginghams subbing in for glossy formal silks. The results were feminine, pretty, and refreshingly easygoing—lending Gustavian pieces a stylish versatility that persists to this day.