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Falu Red - Sweden's Own Colour

Despite its reputation for 'natural finishes,' Sweden is a very switched on country where colour is concerned.

For starters, it's got its own colour system - a unique facet that only Germany can claim to match (with its RAL industrial design-focussed system). Affectionately called NCS ( standing for the Natural Colour System) it was developed thanks in part to Svensk Form who instigated research into a systematic way of identifying and ordering colour. The system is still used today by many designers and architects thanks to its ability to visually describe a colour.

Yet something else quite unique to Sweden is its own special colour - Falu red (or Falu rödfärg in Swedish), a colour which has been used across the country since the 1700s. It's a naturally occuring pigment which derives from copper mined from the area of Falun in the Dalarna region of Sweden. Since this discovery, the natural pigment has been used extensively as the paint adorning the classic Swedish wooden houses.

Falu red is used in this instance due to its properties as a protector of woods from the elements, prolonging its life. While its use was and still is widespread in the countryside there was some backlash to the colour in the 19th century when authorities began to restrict its use. Some believe this was due to not wanting all areas to seem 'common', as the colour had been so widespread among homes for farmers and labourers due to its relatively low cost. For, at the time, Sweden wanted to appear more affluent in the eyes of Europe so initiated a move to more use of white facades and brick work in its architecture. However, the colour soon inched back into urban use as it authorities soon realised the colour was aesthetically similar to the very bricks they were trying to use and therefore could mask an existing wooden facade and make it blend in with other brick buildings.

Some colour practitioners believe the colour was so widely used due to it being the perfect match to greens found in nature, and while this is aesthetically the case, it's more likely that economical and social factors account for its popularity.

There are a few different strains of mixes which have been used to create the Falu red paint in the past but the one we see now was standardised in the 1920s. That said, there are a few different hues which can be hit with the pigment including a particularly fetching dark red. Yet, due to its mineral component, the run of the colour spectrum is limited to the black-red-green range.

Sadly this beautiful natural paint is one which will ultimately die out - with the Falu mines gradually reaching the limits of the copper veins running through Sweden.