Sunday, September 27, 2009

Memories from a summer visit to Sundborn, Sweden

This summer we drove through the Swedish province called Dalarna and we stopped by in the famous little village called Sundborn. It is famous for one reason - this is where the painter Carl Larsson had his Swedish house which he featured in his art and several books (gallery of paintings).

The village is quaint, and even the gas station is housed in some old log barns, most likely several hundred years old. Many barns in this area of Sweden are not painted with Falu red paint, despite that Falu Mine is not far away at all. Some old buildings are raised up on rocks, and many of these 'härbren' were used to store grains and other food. The rocks made it harder for food-loving animals to get into the buildings. This is also the area that has the most traditional paintings, and the mailboxes here are generally personalized and gorgeous. No standardized US Mail boxes here!
Through the village runs a small river that has a dam with a yellow, small and local power station (the most gorgeous power station I have ever seen, and below the dam is a lake. Carl Larsson owned one of the islands in the lake right opposite his house and he and his family used to have picnics out there.

The village attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year and the villagers try to keep their appearance. Gardens are well-kept and full of gorgeous plants, and old-fashioned fences ('gärdsgård') made from spruce are kept up and repaired.

An old blacksmith near the dam had an ornate sign like something out of the Lord of the Rings. The name of the building is "å-smedjan", meaning the 'River Smith'. I had never visited Sundborn before but it was strange to see places I have seen on paintings in real life, 100 years later, and they still look very much the same. I liked Carl Larsson's paintings, but I never loved them, but suddenly they came alive. None of the paintings are in Sundborn, they are too valuable, but the interior decorating style and details in their house and gardens fascinated me. It was really an inspiring visit.

Here is the gorgeous powerstation. How is that for amazing industrial architecture? It looked like it was in use too, like many water power stations around Sweden.

And here it is, Carl Larsson's home, where he and his family lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was all designed by him and his wife, both the exterior and interior desgins, and they added onto the house many times. The studio is the tall north-facing windows, and the south of the house has views out on the lake shore.

The foundation of the house is build of blocks made from iron slag, which was abundant in this area of Sweden full of iron mines and foundry's. Carl and his wife Karin designed many of their things, from furniture (like this garden table, a copy of the original), to clothes, and fabrics.

The village carpenter built the furniture to order, and much of the designs where totally against the traditions at the time - Carl and Karin wanted things to be practical, simple, and beautiful with light colors and happiness in everything. They didn't follow many rules, which must have made them stand out in the village as well as all of Sweden. They had 8 kids that they more or less let roam free, which was highly unusual at the time. To the left, two doors desgined and painted by Carl Larsson. I love how he used color, with bright contrasts and earthy hues.

The long window to the family room where Karin sewed all clothes, the children played, and books were read.

During our visit we had some of the old, but not as old as Carl Lasson, tastes of Sweden - Kopparbergs sockerdricka - literally Coppermountain's Sugar Soda - and it was so good. And no HFCS, only real beet sugar! A table in the garden was set up as a little emboidery project where anybody could sit down and start stitching.
More photos here. And here is a painting from Sundborn by Carl Larsson, showing Karin Larsson peeling rhubarb:


Olle said...

Lovely pictures which remind me of my latest visit to Sundborn. But then it was packed with tourists (and I think I could see some on one picture). Some nice details I did not see - the doors with the key decorations in striking colours.

Olle said...

Not key decorations but door decorations! Nice anyhow.

LS said...

Thanks Olle! We had tourists there too, but not too many. The tour through the house was amazing, it really gave you a different feeling for how the Larsson's lived and their view on how life should be. It was strange to see the sunroom with all the geraniums in real life, since it was painted in late 1800s and even the plants are still there. Like time travel, somehow.

LS said...

Note. We were tourists too, of course.