A building made of red brick was considered the noblest building in the Middle Ages. When the Falu copper mine began to produce red house paint from its remains, people could paint their wooden houses red without being rich. Thus, this became a widespread phenomenon in the countryside. Today it is the image of the ultimate Swedish cottage or summer house. The colour in West Estonia is Swedish red (Rootsi pane).
Not many houses are painted dark red, but some are (because the iron oxide pigments used vary). Most homes are intensely light red. And they are supposed to be bright red.
The colour’s name derives from its origin. Falu red is derived from central Sweden’s 9th century Falun copper mine.
The mine is now a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it was once Europe’s largest copper mine and the Swedish kingdom’s economic backbone.
“Falu rödfärg” is made from the remains of copper mining. It is an excellent protection for wooden buildings for chemical reasons, is easy to apply and is relatively inexpensive compared to other paints. It dates back to a far-off time when alternatives were limited.
Today, the paint is not as good as it once was, having been adapted to meet environmental regulations, but it is still preferred by tradition.
The History Behind The Dark Red House Painting In Sweden
Many houses in Sweden are still painted red today because of a tradition from the 17th century. This tradition originated from the industrial production of copper and silver in central Sweden in the 15th century, which lowered the price of red paint. The most famous of these mines was the one in Falun.
But that’s not the whole story because red is not the first choice for most people when painting their house; nor does it explain why corners are traditionally white (or at least light grey/yellow).
Throughout history, commoners have imitated what nobles did, and nobles have replicated what royals did. The royals, in turn, imitated what more prominent royals did. In the 17th century, Swedish kings imitated what prevailed in France.
In 1697, for example, the Swedish royal palace Tre Kronor in central Stockholm burned down. Before the fire, the family had tried to plan a modern court to replace the old medieval castle.
The day after the fire, architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger began the slow construction of the new court, modelled after the new French royal palace.
In 1682, the Palace of Versailles was completed with facades of pink sandstone on the outer walls and red bricks in the courtyards, while the corners and window surrounds were made of grey sandstone. Tessin took Versailles as a model.
Reasons Why Many Swedish houses Are Painted Dark Red
You don’t have to travel much in Sweden to notice that most houses, barns, cottages and summer homes are painted Falu-red, and all window and door frames are white.
Imagine an open gable house painted in falu-red by a lake. Next to the house is a sauna painted falu-red. This is the graphic description of the Swedish landscape.
Like this example, many buildings in the centre of Stockholm or Gothenburg are painted falu-red! But when did this trend start?
Aside from the removal of sulphur, another reason for the time-consuming roasting of the ore was the oxidation and hence reduction of the iron content, resulting in rödmull red earth, a slag of red iron ochre or hematite.
This was deemed rubbish and was piled close to the pit. Someone noted a few hundred years ago that a wooden stake lying in the red earth waste pile for years exhibited no indications of decomposition or deterioration.
This was the beginning of the production of Falu Röd (Falun’s Red), the paint that was soon found on almost every house in the country because it was cheap and could be mixed on-site by boiling red mull and linseed oil with rye flour and water.
However, since it was cheap, the wealthy preferred to paint their houses the more expensive white or yellow. The deep red colour of Falu Röd is still widely used in Sweden and Finland and is imitated by other modern paints, although the original still has a significant market share. But people don’t mix it anymore; they buy it in big buckets like any other colour. And it is no longer cheap.