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Why are so many houses in Sweden red and white?

 

In the idyllic countryside of Sweden, surrounded by pine forests and sparkling lakes, you can't help but notice a common thread among the charming summer houses: the distinctively 'Scandi' design of little wooden cabins with the same red paint and white details.

This iconic red colour has been used to paint Swedish summer homes for generations, becoming an integral part of the country's cultural identity. But what's the story behind it and why do they all use the same colour?

The tale of 'Falu Red' dates back to the 16th century and it was all produced in the same mine (which dates back to year 1000).

According to legend, after losing his prize goat, a shepherd boy was shocked to see it return home with its horns changed to the colour of blood....he later discovered that the goat had stained them on iron-rich rocks nearby. This same spot would become the ancient copper and iron mines of Falun.

 

 

In the 16th century, the Falun mine (now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site) was the producer of almost 2/3's of Europe's copper and it was a vital national resource, but after that hayday, reserves dwindled, so they turned towards the by product, the red paint pigment. Originally used as a protective coating for wooden structures, the paint's unique blend of iron ochre, linseed oil, and water proved exceptionally durable against Sweden's harsh climate. Not only did it shield homes from the elements, but it also gave them a look of cozy, rustic charm.

As the popularity of Falu Red paint spread, it became synonymous with Swedish rural life.

Summer houses, in particular, adopted the colour for its ability to blend seamlessly with the natural surroundings while adding a touch of warmth and character to the landscape. Its rich history and enduring appeal have made it a beloved tradition among Swedes, passed down from one generation to the next until it became considered a part of the national identity.

Today, as modernity encroaches on traditional ways of life, Falu Red remains a steadfast symbol of Sweden's architectural heritage. Its presence on summer houses across the country serves as a reminder of simpler times and the priority, for a lot of people over here, to use the traditionally good and more natural materials in (and on) the home.

So the next time you find yourself admiring the picturesque summer houses of Sweden, take a moment to appreciate the rich history behind the Falu Red paint they're painted with. It's more than just a colour – it's a symbol of tradition, resilience, and the enduring beauty of Swedish countryside living.

Read more about the history of Falu Red paint on this blog here.

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