Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Visit with Swedish Designer Lars Bolander

In an elegant manor house, leafy green painted furniture accents a neutral color bedroom. (Interiors photos courtesy of Scandinavian Design, showroom photos by B.B)
I thought that after the lights and sparkle of the holidays, a look at Swedish style would offer a clean tonic. At the same time a new book, Scandinavian Design by Lars Bolander with Heather Smith MacIsaac, came to my attention.

I knew the Lars Bolander name because the designer had a store on Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, not far from our apartment on Jane Street. Since then we have moved, and Lars has moved too; his showroom is now located in the Fine Arts Building on East 59th Street.
His book covers Scandinavia which includes Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, the styles of which are all inspired by the natural world and the climate of the region. I myself am personally drawn to Swedish design, and in particular Gustavian Style. Gustav III was king of Sweden from 1771 until his death by assassination at age 42 in 1792.

The king was a benefactor of the arts and literature, and traveled widely. At the French palace of Versailles, he was taken with the sophisticated, graceful style of Louis XV and Louis XVI. He edited French decorating for his own Swedish court so that the pleasing furniture curves remained but in place of ritzy gold French gilt were creamy whites and dreamy greys to reflect the Swedish light. Gustavian style beautifully combines elegance with simplicity.

A sunlit room with leggy furniture on a bare floor is enlivened by sky blue on the wall.

Blue, white, green, wood, light.
This to me is Swedish style, and it also describes our apartment, so I thought it would be fun to meet Lars Bolander. Luckily he was in town because the designer now lives with his wife in Florida.
In his bright showroom I found a cheerful array of furniture and accessories,

chairs designs by the dozen,

and this wonderful wood and iron rack.

Lars Bolander grew up on the east coast of Sweden and was educated as an architect. He lived and worked as an interior designer in London and Paris, and came to the United States in 1982 when he opened a store in East Hampton. Now home base is West Palm Beach, "which has wonderful light and easy living," he tells me, "though if you're in Palm Beach too long you get kind of dull so you have to come up to New York and get some inspiration!"
Here we are:

Lars describes Swedish design further as "light colors on walls, painted furniture, little floral print fabrics or stripes or checks in cotton or linen, and wood floors." He is known as a pioneer of Swedish style but when he is working for decorating clients, he likes to "mix it up with just about anything including Russian or Chinese furniture and contemporary art. Paintings and books are very important and give a place a cozy feeling. I like it when you can move things around." And though a pale palette is a Scandinavian hallmark, more intense tones may soon be coming into the work of this Swedish icon who reports that, "We went to India last summer and I got into strong color." Whatever the chosen hue, the designer espouses the Swedish attitude of a comfortable and casual approach, and "the feeling that nothing is overdone."


Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

What a gentleman and amazing designer. I just loved this book and am so glad I live near his shop in WPB to take in his inspirations.

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi Jane,
Great to hear from you, hope you are well.

John J. Tackett said...

I have enjoyed visiting all three of the three Lars Bolander shops over the years as I am a great admirer of Gustavian furnishings. (I also collect the next stylistic movement, Swedish Empire). Lars Bolander has done much to promote the beauty of Swedish neoclassicism and his contributions are notable. __ The Devoted Classicist

Ella said...

It's fascinating to read about a Swedish king and this Swedish designer on your blog. There is a Company that started in my town that is influenced in some of their furnitures by the Gustavian style. I like some of it very much. If you want, take a look at their homepage

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi John, Sounds like you are a loyal fan!
Hi Ella, To you in Sweden, hope I got it all right.

designerman said...

lovely rooms and post!

Bart Boehlert said...

Thanks Richard, I thought you would like this Swedish style!

Kathy said...

What a wonderful post! Picture #5 makes me smile....Have a great weekend...k

Swedish Dekor said...

What an awesome article! Thanks for sharing with such a admirable designer, and awesome design tips! We love them! Lars Bolander is an icon in the Swedish Design World, and we love what he has done! Thanks so much! For more Swedish Design ideas check out Swedish Dekor at

Unknown said...

Stunning. I love anything Gustavian. So classic. So beautiful.Modern Sophisticate