The history of the red cottage

The Falun Mine has been operating since the 7th century and Falu Rödfärg has had industrial production here since 1764 – more than 250 consecutive years without interruption – which is absolutely unique! The story of the red paint is even older, however. The red paint is mentioned in many accounts of the handling of copper at Stora Kopparberget in Falun. Among other things, in a letter to the construction supervisor of the Stockholm Palace, King Johan III wrote in 1573 that he wanted to order “rust lead” or “mining flakes” to paint all of the roofs of the palace red. In fact, down in Europe, it was very popular among kings and royalty to put copper roofs on their palaces and estates. In Sweden, we built with wood and as a compromise, Johan III decided that the roofs would be painted with the copper red paint instead, in an attempt to emulate the Europeans’ copper.

rödfärg slamfärg

Since the king was painting his house with red paint, it wasn’t long before the noblemen also wanted to paint their houses with red paint. Painting one’s house in the 17th century was very exclusive and uncommon and only possible for the wealthiest people. Pigment was mixed with wood tar for both protection and colour. Once the nobility painted their houses red, of course the priests and officers also wanted to have red houses. Red log houses were signs of wealth and status. Red brick buildings on the continent were the role model.

In the 18th century, it moved on from the officers’ and priests’ estates to prosperous miners’ estates and farming estates. At the same time, it became more common for the buildings in the cities to be covered with panels and painted. The city authorities ordered street façades to be painted red before royal visits. Painting the buildings was expensive and usually only the façades facing the streets, only what could be seen, were painted and the back sides were still left unpainted.

In the 19th century, the farmers began to paint their homes and outbuildings. Of course, the soldiers and crofters also wanted red houses. National romanticism swept over the country and the paint was now beginning to reach the common man. Especially Carl Larsson with his home called Sundborn contributed to the dream of the little red cottage. Now, the ball was really rolling and at the beginning of the 20th century, the big “own-your-own-home movement” and the local heritage movement get under way and all Swedes were to have the possibility to own their own homes. There, many of the houses were painted a beautiful red. Today, the paint is still used on a large scale and used for everything from modern, architect-designed villas to public buildings, cowsheds, summer cottages and fences.

It’s absolutely unique that a product has remained modern through the ages and many, many generations. A product and a paint that has coloured an entire country and given it a distinctive national character and international identity.