Monday, December 10, 2012

Baron Falkenberg at Varmlands Saby

The Chinese room at Varmlands Saby.
The Devoted Classicist admires few things more than an eighteenth century Swedish house filled with period furnishings, so the country manor of Baron Henric Falkenberg, Varmlands Saby, is a true delight.  Located in western Sweden on the shore of Lake Vanern in Varmland province, the house was completed in 1774 by master carpenter Johan Georg Reincke, probably inspired by an architectural pattern book.

The entrance to Varmlands Saby.
The house, in the baron's family since the late 19th century, is situated at the end of a long allee of trees that begins in the adjacent village.  Now comprising over 1,000 acres, the recorded history of the property dates back to a mention in a 1216 papal confirmation letter.

Baron Falkenberg in the Victorian study.
Note the sprig of mistletoe
hanging from the chandelier.
Formal reception rooms are located on the ground floor along with the baron's suite, and informal entertaining rooms and additional bedrooms are found upstairs.

The baron's goddaughter Tia Tukkonen
and friend Are John in the Victorian study.
The Victorian study at the western end of the house is a favorite of the baron.

The dining room at Varmlands Saby.

Portraits of the original owners
of Varmlands Saby hang above the
Dutch saddle armoire in the dining room.

Von Lingon porcelain is displayed
in another armoire in the dining room.
The next room is the dining room with original gray-blue and white panels accentuated within a framework of mustard colored panelling.  Dutch cupboards hold the family silver and china.

The Chinese room at
Varmlands Saby.
The Chinese room, next in line, has painted decoration inspired by Boucher's late 18th century engraving "Chinois et Chinoise pechant aubord d'un vivier."  The tradition is that visitors who want to return must say good-bye to each of the Chinese figures.

The fireplace in the formal study
at Varmlands Saby.

Another view of the formal study.
The formal study is the only room with a fireplace rather than a traditional heating stove.  The original canvas tapestry panels were found in the attic and reinstalled.

The billiards room upstairs.
The largest room in the house, the billiard room, is on the second floor.  It also serves as a portrait gallery of the baron's ancestors.

A bedroom at Varmlands Saby.
An upstairs bedroom holds a pair of caned beds separated by a typical, simple Gustavian chair.  The 1880s wallpaper, a subtle stripe-on-stripe with a floral overlay, is Swedish Jugenstil.

A giltwood frame holds a print of
Queen Desideria of Sweden.
One of the most notable features in the garden is the egg-shaped labyrinth.  Rich in symbolism, especially with references to an eagle and a serpent, this writer apologizes in advance for lack of substantial notations, but only information was found in Swedish.  As an update to the original post, I am happy to add that a message from Miguel Flores-Vianna offers additional information.  Mr. Flores-Vianna says that the maze "is called Creation, thus its egg-like shape.  It was designed by Randoll Coate, an English diplomat who, in the 1950s when posted in Buenos Aires, befriended the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges who introduced him to his love of mazes and labyrinths.  Following their meeting and subsequent friendship, Coate left the Foreign Service and became a maze designer.  Creation, planted in the 60's, was his first project.  Fernando and I did a story on Mr. Coate's work for Town and Country [magazine] around that time as well."
The labyrinth at Varmlands Saby,
planted in the 1960s to a design by Randoll Coate.
Photo: Varmlands Saby blog.
For those who read Swedish, or would be interested in seeing some historic images, there is a Varmlands Saby blog.  Unless otherwise noted, all the photos come from an article by Miguel Flores-Vianna with photos by Fernando Bengoechea in the April, 2000, issue of Elle Decor magazine.


  1. Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, Reggie. Many of the buildings in this area are all-wood, but this house is masonry.

  2. I need to go there!! BADLY!!!! I have to ask Lars Bolander what months? It is way to dark to see anything 10 months of the year!

    What a gorgeous post....Bravo; yet again!!

    I adore your blog!!!

    1. Penelope, I have been to Sweden several times in late May/early June and it is a lovely time to visit. Thank you for your comments. Your blog is delightful -- I am sure it is a true reflection of your self. I look forward to our meeting someday.

  3. I forgot to mention the brilliance of the chair as the bedside table between the beds.

    Truly. brilliant. Look.

    1. Yes, and so many of my chairs usually have books on them, too.

  4. Absolutely enchanting! It is beautiful and formal, but clearly lived in. Love the maze.

  5. There's a shelf devoted to books on Swedish houses here, and not one of them
    has ever referred to Varmlands Saby! So then this is all a delightful surprise.
    That dining room is swoon worthy, no?

    1. Toby, there is a mention in CLASSICAL SWEDISH ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIORS: 1650-1840 by Johan Cederlund, but it is possible to be overlooked. The baron's family restored it, but it is remarkably preserved, is it not?

  6. Love, love, love this one! I would move in in a minute. Thank you for posting this.

    1. I am glad you appreciate it, Cynthia. Thanks for commenting.

  7. As a devotee of the 18thC in all HER manifestations, this is sheer delight to see a home lived in as intended, with layers of collections enveloping the Souls within. There is a caption that says it all WHEN THE WEATHER GETS BAD I JUST GO TO MY FLAT IN ROME....seems the bit of Paris and Vienna is perfect in the North!

    Love the Chinoise and porcelain.

    1. The Swan, it does all seem so liveable, doesn't it? Thank-you for your comment.

  8. I never realised that Swedish furniture had such chunky feet, (or at least the two cabinets and the console table in the dining room). And more surprisingly, how much I like them. This was wonderful to read.

  9. Columnist, while the cabinets are Dutch, the dining room console is indeed Swedish. Coincidently, I have helped two different clients find a very similar piece while shopping in Stockholm, so you may be seeing those in eventually in future posts. Many thanks for commenting.

    1. I thought subsequent to writing my comment that perhaps they weren't Swedish cabinets, and your reply has proved that. I thought perhaps Portuguese, but Dutch makes sense.

  10. Devoted Readers who subscribe to Comments will want to take a look at the revised post. Thanks to a message from writer Miguel Lores-Vianna, more is revealed about the labyrinth.

  11. The article in the June, 1999, issue of Town & Country magazine includes a few photos of this project and can be read on-line on the EBSCO Host site by searching "Randoll Coate Labyrinths".

  12. Was I so busy with the holidays that I actually missed this post until now? What a treat. Few things make me weaker with desire than provincial versions of late 18th century neo-classical motifs---and if all is a bit pale and faded, so much the better. A very elegant sensibility and gentle hands at work here.

    1. D.E.D., I am often asked how I came to collect Swedish furniture. I think I appreciate it so much because of the parallels to vernacular architecture, how the high style is reinterpreted to suit the locale, the available skills & materials, and the budget. Thank you for commenting.

  13. Being part of the family I would like to point out that this is a private house and no longer open to the public. Only the labyrinth is still possible to visit during the summer.


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