~ 1910-1920: National Romanticism

General on National Romanticism

In the 1910s, the previously prevalent Art Nouveau style was replaced by a new architectural style known as National Romanticism. Gradually, the soft forms of Art Nouveau, which by now are considered artificial, are being replaced by "genuine and honest" architecture based on older Swedish building traditions. National Romanticism emerges as a nationalist branch of Romanticism and appears in most countries from the late 19th century, especially in art, literature and music. In Europe, the unstable political situation culminates with the First World War of 1914-1918 and most European countries develop their own national romantic style. National Romanticism is based on a romantic passion for the authentic, safe and familiar indigenous building culture. In Sweden, the emphasis is on the home town, with the Old Town, Visby and the Vasa Castle seen as inspiration, while older medieval buildings and details are copied. The style is also inspired by German, Danish and English trends. Examples from this period include the founding of the Skansen and the National Museum in Stockholm.

Following the outbreak of war, Sweden is marked by unemployment and a shortage of building materials. Housing construction is stalling and the housing shortage is growing. The buildings constructed have large apartments of high standard and are built by builders or housing associations. Residential development of detached homes, on the other hand, is becoming attractive as owners can grow their own produce thus alleviating the food crisis. However, this is unattainable for most people. The housing construction that does take place is done through the owner-occupier family home movement, non-profit associations and real estate companies. The houses are partially prefabricated and marketed through advertisements and residential catalogues.

The stylistic expression of façades

The National Romantic style is characterised by predominantly heavy, closed façades of brick or plaster with high steep tiled roofs, to tie in with the castles of the Vasa period. The bare brick is machine-made and fired to look like old hand-made bricks. To enhance the archaic expression, decorative anchor plates are often placed on the façades. Other decorations include carved stone figures, tile decorations, wavy bands or painted fields in muted colours. The façades are usually fitted with angular bay windows sitting on decorative stone bases and balconies with natural stone or wrought iron railings. The houses stand on a natural stone foundations, often made of roughly cut natural stone. Entrance doors are often conspicuously small and surrounded by a substantial amount of carved stone. The windows have small muntin, imitating the medieval technique of lead inlay. They are painted white or brown and have different sizes and are placed irregularly on the façades. The National Romantic stairwells feature imaginative and playful motifs, such as vines, knights and goblins in muted bluish-purple, blue-green colours.

The detached homes of this period are roughly divided into three types: a vernacular-inspired wooden architecture with steep tiled roofs, plastered houses with panelled upper floors in tar-brown or fawn-red painted wood, and houses with heavy brick façades, patterned brickwork details and balconies with wrought-iron railings. The windows are usually small and smaller than in the past to create an old-fashioned impression and are often fitted with shutters. The paler red colour is popular on wooden façades, as is a tar oil that gives a brownish black or dark brown colour. Plastered houses are often light ochre or greyish-white.

Villa Mullberget on Djurgården in Stockholm. Year of construction 1909.

The National Romantic Residence

In the 1910s, architects and artists began to take an interest in home furnishings, practical and beautiful housing for all classes. The 1917 home exhibition at Liljevalchs in Stockholm is of great importance and shows how also small homes can be decorated in a pleasant way with inexpensive furniture.

Technological developments continue, with electric lighting becoming standard in the city and larger villas. Central heating, water closets and bathrooms in larger apartments and villas contribute to a whole new standard of housing. Electric cookers and vacuum cleaners are the new technological achievements of the decade.

In the posher homes, the Romantic view of history, inspired by the Viking Age and the Middle Ages, dominates the décor. This is particularly evident in the ceilings of painted wood panelling, whitewashed walls, rough wooden floors and rustic fixed seating in deep window alcoves and stairwells. Oak and mahogany are used in joinery, but a cheaper alternative is dark stained pine. Although central heating often is fitted, it is complemented by masonry heaters. In large homes, fireplaces are also being built to recall the communal atmosphere of the past around an open fire.

The walls are adorned with hand-woven textiles in bright colours, often with Old Norse motifs, and hand-forged crowns are common on the ceilings. When it comes to everyday goods, the style does not catch on in the same way as the Art Nouveau style did. 

Window from the 1910s

The medieval models of National Romanticism are clearly reflected in the windows. To imitate small archaic stained-glass openings, the windows are fitted with small muntin. It is the outer pane that is small and has an S-shaped profile. Despite the close muntin the windows let in a lot of light due to the intricate joinery in the mullion, transom and arch. The window is designed with two or three louvres with a straight top and inward and coupled arcs. Windows in houses often open outwards Windows are closed with an espagnolette. The joinery is made of carefully selected resinous wood painted with linseed oil paint, for the first time in an urban environment with a white colour. They can also be painted brown and plastered façades have an off-white shade.

In addition to the aforementioned window, arched windows are also used for decorative purposes. These usually have middle and/or transverse mullion. Small diamond-shaped windows also appear on houses.

Entrance doors from the 1910s

The doors of the National Romanticism should be perceived as small and placed asymmetrically, often recessed and hidden. It is common for an arched window to be placed above the door to provide light to the stairwell. The door is a solid oak double or single door that has been clear lacquered or varnished to show the authenticity of the material. The diamond shape is a common relief pattern on the door leaf but there are also detailed works inspired by nature. The door usually has a small cut glass opening and the door handle is rustic, artistically designed. The handles are designed in brass, bronze or hammered iron and can have decorations from both the animal and plant kingdoms. 

Stairwell from the 1910s

In the National Romantic stairwells, the romanticised view of history is manifested in the overwhelming decorations. It is common to see completely smooth surfaces painted with imaginative, playful motifs, such as vines, knights and goblins, in muted bluish-purple, blue-green colours, which provide a musky impression. The paintings are done by artists or professional painters, but are not signed. There are also dark stained panels and glossy stucco lustro on the walls. The ceiling paintings are often duller because the lime paint was painted on dry plaster, the technique is called al secco. The painting includes the ceiling lighting in the motif.

Floors and stairs are usually made of native marble from Kolmården or limestone. It is usually laid on the floor in a grid pattern. The stairwells have leaded windows like in previous decades, but clear glass is becoming more prevalent as the courtyard is cleared of outdoor toilets.

Handrails are more elaborate in stairwells and can be made of sturdier wood or brass. For the upper floors, the handrails are made of round wood or bowl-shaped wood. The stair railing usually has wooden balusters with turned balusters.

Corner posts usually have grooves and a round top. Large apartments have double doors for the owners and single doors for the servants. Very substantial apartments have a separate stairwell for the servants. The door leaves are made of oak with decorative hinges, and can be stained in dark tones, painted in imitation wood or top-coated. Skirting and plinths have the same design as in the apartments. The doorbell and letterbox have soft shapes in brass, bronze or hammered iron. At the beginning of the decade, the door handle is fitted on a long plate with a heavy handle, while towards the end it is separated with a separate key plate.

The lift shaft is placed in the stair spindle and designed with a transparent wire mesh and lift doors with tight decorations. The walls of the lift basket are covered with wooden panels, sometimes painted with vein paint.

National Romantic stairwell lighting often consists of hanging wrought-iron lanterns with coloured rye glass. Glass domes can be polished and either suspended or mounted directly to the ceiling with a brass or wrought iron base.

Lamps and lighting from the 1910s

In Stockholm, only about 20% of the population has electric lighting in 1910. But in the slightly recessed doorway of apartment buildings, there is often an electric lantern made of wrought iron and glass. A luminaire made of for example copper plate with yellow pressed glass is fitted on the villa façade. The house numbers can be illuminated too, either in the window above the entrance door, or as a lantern in copper plate on the façade.

In lavish interiors, fixed ceiling luminaires with bare bulbs can be mounted in the corners of the room and integrated into the interior.

The wiring is surface mounted and made of twisted textile cords attached to porcelain insulators in the ceiling and walls. The switches and sockets are surface-mounted and usually mounted on wooden plates.Bakelite is patented in 1908 and quickly becomes popular in electrical products because of its heat resistance and good insulating properties, combined with the fact that it is cheaper than porcelain. As for switches, porcelain and Bakelite coexisted for many years and were equally popular in the first decades of the 20th century. 

In the 1910s, it becomes common to antique paint the brass to give the lamps an older look.Before the introduction of tungsten filament lamps in the 1910s, clear glass shades were most common in ceiling and wall lamps. The glass is ground in patterns to refract the light and to prevent glare to some extent. The most common pattern is a grid pattern and it often has a cut star at the bottom of the glass.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, blown and bubbly glass, known as crocodile glass, also became popular. Before the introduction of the more powerful tungsten filament lamps in the 1910s century, opaline glass was used only in open screens where light was to be directed, such as in the opaline shoemaker screen. With more powerful bulbs came the need to diffuse light without glare, which is best done with opal white glass.

Wallpapers from the 1910s

During the First World War, the wallpaper fashion changes. From 1915, small patterned wallpaper with small flower clusters became widespread and radiate a sense of cosiness. Large-scale art deco patterns are launched with strong black outlines and bright colours, preferably with bird elements. Dark tapestries continue to be popular in the lavish upstairs dining room, and wallpapers that mimic shimmering silk fabrics in bright colours are chosen for the lounge. Bright wallpaper with flowers are used in the bedrooms.

Joinery from the 1910s

During the 1910s, joineries often used price lists as a basis for their joinery work. The skirting are slightly simpler compared to previous decades. They are commonly around 1 cm wide. It is now also becoming popular to have uniform linings with the same profiles on both sides. Beadboard is popular in the kitchen and dining area. Floor plinths are often relatively high but with simple profiling. Usual height is 14-17 cm with some simple rounding at the top or some small notches on the upper third. 

Stucco from the 1910s

In apartments in the city, ceilings are painted white and where wall and ceiling meet, a soft plastered hollow core with simple stucco mouldings is becoming more common. The white ceiling paint is pulled down a bit on the wall. There are also wooden ceilings that are varnished to imitate medieval woodwork in the true spirit of National Romanticism. In detached homes, it is common to cover ceilings in paper and white-glue roofs with a simple cornice. 

Doors of the 1900s and 1910s

As in previous decades, the dwellings are equipped with paired doors to the living rooms and single doors to the other rooms. A new feature, however, is the sliding door, which creates large connected rooms and meets the demand for more light and air in the rooms. The inserts of the doors vary in both number and placement. One popular version, however, is the one with six inserts and straight equal mirrors. The doors are usually painted in an off-white colour, but for the dining room they are often oak or vein-painted. The doors are surrounded by skirting with pedestals, designed according to the ideals of the Art Nouveau style. Usually through soft relatively simple shapes such as an undulating S-shape or three parallel lines. During the National Romanticism of the 1910s, there are also equilateral linings with the same profiles on both sides.

There are often different types of door handles. On the one hand, the older cone-shaped door handles remain, while new ones are designed with soft brass shapes. There are also handles of nickel-plated steel. The handles are often placed on a long plate with curved shapes typical of the period. 

Fireplaces from the 1910s

As part of the National Romantic ideal, fireplaces are bricked in larger homes. As homes are now usually heated by central heating, masonry heaters are no longer needed, so a cosy fireplace is now addedinstead. The fireplace is a reminder of the old days when people gathered around the open fire. Fireplaces are often placed in the middle of the wall in a spacious hallway or in a corner position in a living room. The fireplace is designed with a mantelpiece, either plastered or clad in marble.

Because of the wartime fuel shortages, central heating is supplemented in some cases with masonry heater in more basic rooms. National Romantic masonry heaters are can have both round and flat design with simple floral scrolls on parts of the stove. There are also single-coloured ovens in pale green or blue with tiles in relief. Box-shaped masonry heater with a tapered top are a novelty. 

Kitchens from the 1910s

In workers' housing, the kitchen were you gather for cooking, socialising and sleeping. It is not uncommon for the whole family to live in the room, including a lodger. Here, people gather around the wood-burning stove, or the masonry heater with its heating cabinet, and around the room there may be a cupboard or open shelves for utensils.

Life in lavish apartments and villas is different. Here, the kitchen is a clean workplace with its own exit so that the kitchen staff, servants and sometimes even the children of the household do not use the entrance. The owners does not set foot in the kitchen and in order not to be disturbed by all the rattle and noise, the kitchen is always placed towards the courtyard, or to the north, as far away from the better rooms as possible. A service corridor leads from the kitchen to the dining room. The servery includes tall, beautifully built-in cabinets with base cabinets for larger utensils, drawers for cutlery and overhead cabinets for crockery, glasses and terrines. There may also be a small work area for storage and a small sink area.

Inside the kitchen, however, pots and tools are on open shelves or hooks. Food and condiments are placed in a pantry, often made of beadboard, which faces the outside wall with either a window or a vent, which is a way of keeping the space cold. In the kitchen, or in a nearby room, there is also an icebox to which the iceman regularly delivers ice blocks.

Food is prepared on a low counter and workbench with a lower cabinet and a top made of Carrara marble. The marble is an excellent base for handling food and after dinner, utensils and crockery are washed in a basin on the bench, which may explain its low height. Along the sink is a splash guard which, like the top, could be made of marble or zinc. Around 1910 it may also be made from of opal glass. If the bench is only used as a workbench, it is often wooden, or possibly oiled. There is a sink in the kitchen but this is only used as a drain. The sink might be surrounded by a zinc sheet or enamelled cast iron.

The kitchen is equipped with a high wall cabinet that opens with a key. The heart of the kitchen is the wood-burning stove, which from the early 20th century gradually is being replaced by the gas stove. Tiles with bevelled edges without joints are fitted around the stove, and where a particularly elaborate effect is sought, the tiles can also be fitted with borders and pilasters. (The gap was sealed with chalk, pigment and water and later with white tile grout.) The kitchen has a lower status than most other rooms, and while the reception rooms are fitted with fine woodwork, the kitchen must be easy to wipe and keep clean. The walls can be plastered, but it is particularly popular to cover them and the ceiling in beadboard. Some even choose to put up wallpaper. However, the woodwork is painted in the same colours as the rest of the home.

In the 19th century, kitchen cabinets were often painted zinc green or in some other intense "folk" colour such as blue and red. The cabinets are opened with simple cabinet knobs and a locking mechanism fitted on the outside. 

Hygiene from the 1910s

Newly built apartments and detached houses are now often have their own washrooms (toilets) with a handbasins, dressing tables and bathtubs. However, it will take until the second half of the century before toilets become commonplace, as there were restrictions on connecting toilets to water drainage systems in the larger cities. Toilet needs are still usually carried out in outdoor toilets in the courtyard.

For most people, daily hygiene still consists of washing their hands and face in a jug and a wash bowl. Bathing is rarely done and when it is, then in a tub on the kitchen floor or possibly in a communal bathtub in the basement of the apartment building. If you have the money, you can also visit public bathing facilities. 

For those who do not have indoor running water, water is taken from a well in the courtyard and heated on the stove. With technological development, cleanliness and dirt will become a clear dividing line between rich and poor. 

The bathtub is free-standing cast iron with feet that might be shaped like both lion paws and bird claws. Washbasins often have a separate hot and cold water tap. They are deep and have a raised rear edge to protect against splashing water. Until the 1940s, taps often had a porcelain button with the text hot or cold. The room is decorated with ceramic tiles, limestone or marble floors. The walls are covered with beadboard or tile and the details are made of brass.

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