Can you tell your Gustavian from your French Neoclassical?  Not to worry, these days the chances are that even if you haven’t heard of Gustavian style, you’ve seen it. And like us, you probably love it.

In a nutshell, Gustavian furniture is a simplified Swedish take on the French neoclassical style.  When King Gustav III went to Versailles in 1771, he fell in love with French interior style. On his return to Stockholm, he was determined to transform it into the ‘Paris of the North’. 

He began to commission furniture of a unique style, one that bore hallmarks of the opulence of Versailles, but with an understated, and - crucial for its popularity - more accessible elegance.  French wooden beds painted in light tones such as cream, white, fawn or light grey helped to draw in light during the dark months. Thus King Gustav’s designs soon came to be known as Gustavian style.

What is Gustavian style?

Gustavian style is a more restrained interpretation of French neoclassical furniture.  Paint was used instead of gold gilding, creating the original ‘shabby chic’ distressed furniture look.  French silk for upholstered beds was replaced with linen or cotton, and wood was of more humble, locally sourced origin.  This made Gustavian style more affordable and more accessible to everyone.

Another key element was a light and neutral colour palette, some say due to the long and dark Scandinavian winters.  Furniture was painted in tones of cream, fawn or white to capture as much light as possible.

What are the characteristics of Gustavian furniture?

The main characteristic of Gustavian furniture is a pairing of elegance and practicality.  Muted colour palettes combined with wooden bed frames and a lightly distressed paint finish create an effect of pared-back luxury.  Less extravagant than its contemporary French style, the subtle elegance of Gustavian furniture makes it simple to pair with other interior styles.

Carved detailing such as fluted panels and tapered legs are also part of Gustavian furniture’s considered design. As are ‘hidden’ features such as drawers, trays, and shelves; hidden gems that serve both purpose and style.  A Gustavian armoire could hide a small ‘nail varnish drawer’ perhaps, or a Gustavian bedside table may feature a removable top tray – perfect for enjoying breakfast in bed.

How to decorate in luxury Gustavian style?

It is easy to decorate in luxury Gustavian style. With its classic silhouettes and neutral colour palette, Gustavian furniture easily pairs with a range of interior schemes, blending seamlessly with existing furniture from a spacious townhouse to a country cottage. Beautiful as stand-alone pieces, Gustavian furniture’s lack of ostentation creates space for several pieces to co-exist in a space with ease.

Why do we love Gustavian furniture?

At French Bedroom, we are huge fans of Gustavian style for its versatility and timeless look.  The classic shapes of Gustavian furniture and the fresh colour palette makes it a style that easily blends into a home. Shades of white and ivory, fawn, gray, and green pair perfectly with our existing furniture. Finally, Gustavian style is undeniably elegant, yet still cosy and inviting, thanks to the natural wood textures and lightly distressed finish.

Discover Avenue Montaigne, our complete collection of Gustavian-inspired furniture. Named after the historic street of luxury fashion in Paris between the Champs Elysee and the banks of the Seine, this collection showcases timeless elegance, considered design and practical details.

For more styling tips, learn how to style with green according to your personality, discover how to make a small bedroom look bigger, and explore how to find five minutes of silence: 5 tips from you.