The Red Cottages in Sweden

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The Red Cottages in Sweden

Driving along Swedish countryside, you’ll see one cottage after another all painted in red – a bright crimson red with white trimmings on the windows. Nearly all countryside cottages and barns in Sweden are voluntarily red. The story behind the traditional red color of many of Sweden’s buildings is more interesting than it may seem. Red more about the red cottages in Sweden.

According to Wikipedia, «the pigment historically originated from mines at Falun, in the province of Dalarna, Sweden. It was a side product of calcination of copper ore. Mixed with linseed oil and rye flour, it was found to form an excellent anti-weathering paint.

The Red Cottages in Sweden
According to Wikipedia, «the pigment historically originated from mines at Falun, in the province of Dalarna, Sweden

The earliest evidence of the use of Falu red dates from the 16th century. During the 17th century, Falu red was commonly used on smaller wooden mansions, where it was intended to imitate buildings with brick facing.

Related: 10 Things I Hate and Love About Sweden

In Swedish cities and towns, wooden buildings were often painted with Falu red, until the early 19th century, when authorities began to oppose use of the paint. Increasingly many wooden buildings in urban areas had by then begun to be either painted in lighter colors such as yellow or white, or to be sided with stucco.

222 kilometers north-west of Stockholm, lies the small town called Falun. Known for its ski jumps and even hard rock at the Sabaton Open Air festival, its biggest claim to fame however comes from the copper mines and the Falu red.

In fact, one company has exclusive rights to the source of the iconic pigment that may last just a century more.  NCS S5040-Y80R may sound like a Nasa space shuttle, but it’s actually the Swedish color code for Falu red, the shade you see on thousands of buildings across the country. At one time it was also popular because it could make a building resemble European red-brick houses, which were mostly owned by wealthy tradesmen.

The Red Cottages in Sweden
In Swedish cities and towns, wooden buildings were often painted with falu red, until the early 19th century

Related: Open House Exhibition in Sweden

When the mines had extracted the ore to ground level, it had to be further burned to get rid of the sulfur and iron (oxidation), which created a cinder of red iron ocher or hematite, called rödmull (red soil). This rödmull was piled outside the mine as waste. Until someone found out a wood pole that had been sitting on the mound of rödmull showed no sign of rot or decay. This finding pushed forward the mass production of a paint based on rödmull mixed with water, rye flour and linseed oil.

Today the mine is a museum and UNESCO World Heritage site, but at one point in history, it was the largest copper mine in Europe and the economic anchor of the Swedish kingdom.

You don’t need to travel much in Sweden to realize that the majority of the houses, barns, cottages and summer houses are painted Falu red. Even in the main cities like the capital Stockholm and the second largest city Gothenburg, there are a lot of buildings in the centers painted Falu red.

Related: Swedish Village for Sale

The Red Cottages in Sweden
You don’t need to travel much in Sweden to realize that the majority of the houses, barns, cottages and summer houses are painted Falu red

Falu red has been a consistent symbol of pastoral life in Sweden and has also influenced bordering countries like Norway and Finland, and even USA, in the form of the big red barns. Today, the red paint can be bought in hardware stores across Sweden.

The paint became so popular that it was used almost on any building or structure. Probably you’ve seen the famous Swedish figure the Dala Horse. If not, you find it as no. 29 of the 55 reasons to visit Sweden.

The Red Cottages in Sweden, written by Tor Kjolberg

All images Visit Sweden, except feature image (on top) by Wikimedia commons

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