After travelling so much, and contracting a small cold, I am happily afraid of leaving my nest.
Swedish American Decor
In nesting, I am also slightly obsessed with Swedish folk art. At the Swedish American Institute last weekend I saw some amazing folk art done by one of the benefactor’s daughters. Permanent Collection at SAI– there isn’t a picture of the blue clock and trunk that the daughter did. My long sought quest for “swedish red” was also soothed by some amazing fabrics in that red-orange, dusky red.
In researching Swedish folk art, I found a site that is also preoccupied with three generation old country artifacts:
Swedish Country site
There’s something weird about having a nostalgia for another country’s era. It’s not Sweden of today, but of the late 1800s. I was talking to a guy at my cousin’s and we both had moved to Paris in the early 90s hoping to find Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald scribbling away at the Shakespeare & Co bookstore. I was so disappointed! I didn’t want to be in Paris, I wanted to be in Paris in the early 20s!
I have a great book on Swedish Style from my non-Swedish family friend, and the look is not going to work in contemporary apartment style, but I can dream. Creating The Look: Swedish Style.
The danger with Swedish stuff, in my opinion, is that it has been motif-ed into crapware in America. Namely, Amway and Fingerhut have ruined the cute stenciling and folk art! Examples: wow, can’t find any. Thank god. I was unwillingly on the Fingerhut catalog subscription and every item was “country bear” motif. I didn’t get it until I saw Swedish folk art, and realized it was deritive. OK I can jog your memory here: red-checked picnic clothes (common swedish motif of red-checked), flower stencil along the top of a wall, distressed, painted furniture in light blue or red, etc. Think; Pippi Longstocking meets Laura Ingalls Wilder. It can be too twee and awful.
On the flip side, early Swedish stuff can be very elegant. Light yellows, mustards, greys, a vibrant red accent. Simple furniture that has a slight angle to the leg, etc. it that makes it seem very old. It’s hard to communicate some of the palettes because the light in Sweden is so white and stark (wintertime at least). California light is more yellow and diffuse. I-Village article on Swedish-American decor— this article shows an interesting blend of almost all high-brow Swedish furniture, etc. which the proper term (I learned from this and other articles) is “Gustavian” after the reigning king of that period — late 18th century. See the movie Fanny & Alexander for more tips on Gustavian furniture & decor.
This article does acknowledge the economic difference in furniture design.
“Swedish antiques displayed in the entry hall include a classic Mora clock and a writing table with a faux-marble surface. “The aristocracy could afford to import marble,” Edie notes. “For everyone else, there was folk art.”
I think you can differentiate the styles as “folk art” versus early and/or late renaissance Swedish decor. There’s a huge economic gap too- the elegant stuff was French influenced and for the wealthy houses, the cheaper houses had the stenciling, etc. to make it seem like it was nicer. There’s also a freshness and usefuless to the folk art that is somewhat lacking in the more expensive decor.
OK I have to acknowledge Swedish modern, a lovely contemporary style having more in common with Japanese style than anything regionally specific, except for the choice in woods, maybe. It’s got the clean lines, the soft light woods, rounded/carved elements, thin legs, and that bright red accent once in a while. I often confuse it with Danish Modern and I’m not sure what the difference is. Malmo & Copenhagen are so close together!
The folk-art stoves are also pretty intense. The SAI collection — the millionaire put stoves in every room– is a pretty good display. They are just very ornate and show incredible craftsmanship, as well as nice color selection. In a weird confluence, Thai furniture and Swedish folk furniture are somewhat similar. The milk paint, the palette, and the decorativeness.
Bottom of the (Telegraph) Hill
There’s a neighborhood in San Francisco called Bottom of the Hill. This isn’t it. Bottom of the Hill, named after Potrero Hill, is about 3 miles south. Silly when regional people name things “hills” when there are, what, 9 significant hills in San Francisco? Potrero Hill also hosts the steepest street in San Francisco, which isn’t Lombard (2 blocks from me), but Vermont street between 20th & 22nd. My bike map has better information than the internet, which was useless for finding that fact!
Anyways, the other bottom of the hill is the northern side of Telegraph. A water sewage treatment in neat Bauhaus style lines Bay street, and you can hear Pier 23 jazz from the top of Francisco Street. The Francisco street stairs are one of my favorite- they’re wood, and curve down to a nice park in a low-income/elderly complex that is really quiet. More posh condos are near the Telegraph Hill cliffs, but this is a kind of down-home area. It’s a busy intersection at Bay and Embarcadero, and hten a series of blocks of parking garages before you reach Pier 39, the huge touristy mall.
Alcatraz feels very close at this point, and at a 15 minute ferry ride I guess it is. At night, from my roof and the top of the Francisco stairs, the light of Alcatraz swooshing around the bay makes you feel like you’re in a 1940s noir film. Cool.
Interesting link on North Beach: WikiTravel.