The Living Room at Ulriksdal Palace

In 1923, the newlywed Crown Prince Gustaf (VI) Adolf and Louise Mountbatten moved into Ulriksdal Palace. What they asked for as a wedding present changed Swedish design history.

Quite simply, they wanted a living room. To understand just how revolutionary this was, we have to put it in perspective with other royal environments at the time. There were plenty of ornate drawing rooms and salons, but no informal living rooms.

Eight thousand Stockholmers raised SEK 50,000 for their wedding present, which was commissioned from the young architect and cabinetmaker Carl Malmsten.

Gustaf Adolf's first wife – Crown Princess Margareta, who died in 1920 – was a recognised artist and, like the Crown Prince, was involved in the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design. At the time of her death, she had already begun decorating Ulriksdal. The beautiful proportions of the Living Room – which had previously been a gloomy knight's hall – are her work. She threw out the suits of armour, lowered the ceiling, had the walls plastered in white and installed a fireplace.

Comfortable design

The room also has a number of English influences. Both Margaret and Louise came from England, and they brought with them a new, more relaxed approach to home life at the Swedish Court. Cosiness was important: an open fire, an afternoon cup of tea, and wicker chairs in the garden. The Crown Prince loved wicker chairs, and rattan was incorporated into certain pieces of furniture – a typically English detail.

Malmsten's royal living room features comfortable armchairs, desks, bookshelves, a beautiful grand piano, a ticking clock and cosy sofas. The open fireplace is a focal point to gather around in the evenings, and a seating area next to the windows facing Edsviken Bay is the perfect spot to drink a cup of coffee and enjoy the early morning sun.

The Bernadottes' interest in art

Gustaf Adolf's interest in crafts grew. With time he became one of the world's leading experts on ceramics, and his collection of Asian crafts became a cornerstone of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. In Sweden, his interest contributed towards a golden age for Swedish ceramics. Gustaf Adolf bought ceramics from young, undiscovered potters, and his sophisticated taste was far ahead of its time. Part of his Nordic ceramics collection is now at Ulriksdal Palace, as is part of his extensive collection of prints.

The industrial designer Sigvard Bernadotte also had his study at the palace, and his desk, pencil sharpener, typewriter and other tools can be found here. Sigvard created many breathtakingly beautiful silver objects, as well as timeless Swedish homeware classics such as the Margrethe bowl.

The Living Room can be seen on guided tours of the palace during the summer and the yearly Autumn market.

Top image: The Living Room at Ulriksdal Palace. Photo: Alexis Daflos/Royalpalaces.se

Carl Malmsten, Märta Måås-Fjetterström, Carl Milles, Prince Eugen, Bruno Liljefors, Carl Eldh and Nils Kreuger. What do these leading Swedish craftspeople and artists have in common? Works by all of them can be found in the large Living Room at Ulriksdal Palace. The Living Room at Ulriksdal combines the very best of the 1920s – the stylistic era known as Swedish Grace. Photo: Sanna Argus Tirén

The Crown Prince Couple lived at Ulriksdal during the spring and autumn. Image from the Bernadotte Library's photo archive: 'HM King Gustav VI Adolf with HM Queen Louise, Ulriksdal 1938', stamped 'Nordic Rotogravure Telegraphic Image'.

Carl Malmsten created a living room that went down in design history. As well as the furniture created by Malmsten, there are also works by Sweden's leading artists and craftspeople of the 1920s. Photo: Kate Gabor

The 'Ulriksdal' rug was created by Märta Måås-Fjetterström. Photo: Sanna Argus Tirén

Sweden's most harmonious 1920s interior can be visited on guided tours during the summer months. Photo: Kate Gabor

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