Close this search box.

The History of the Red Cottage

The Great Copper Mine in Falun 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 somewhat unique!

The story of the red paint is even older, however. The red paint is mentioned in many descriptions in connection to the handling of copper at the mine in Falun. In 1573 the Swedish King Johan III, inspired by traveling in Europe, had an upgrade in mind when he in a letter instructed his Master Painter to white wash the walls of his Stockholm Palace and to paint all the roofs of the Castle red using “mine bran” from the Falun Mine. With this he transformed the old Castle into a Renaissance palace with a white marble façade (faked with white lime paint) and the roofs looking like copper when painted red by mixing the “mine bran” with linseed oil and tar.

Since the king was using red paint on his castle, it wasn’t long before the noblemen also wanted to touch up their houses with red paint. Painting one’s house in the 17th century was very exclusive and uncommon and only possible for the prosperous 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 barns on lager scale. Of course, the soldiers and crofters also wanted red houses. The red paint was now reaching common people on broader scale.

Historien om den röda stugan.

When national romanticism swept over the country in the later part of the 19th century, influential artists and authors idealized the good rural life, which highlighted the image of red cottage in the collective consciousness of the Swedish nation. Especially the artist Carl Larsson with his home called Sundborn contributed to establish the dream of the little red cottage. Now, the ball was really rolling and at the beginning of the 20th century, the “own-your-own-home movement” took shape, and grew as a political project in beginning of the 20th century, having the ambition that all Swedes were to have the possibility to own their own homes. Here the red cottage in rural setting came to symbolise the good life, which stood as a model when the new Sweden was about to be built. The Falu red paint was a perfect fit to this narrative, origin from the great copper mine in Falun, the nation’s treasure chest, resting on greater days and many of the new homes were painted red. The image of the red cottage lives in the hearts and minds to a great extent today and many still associate the red cottage as the symbol for good life. 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. The Falu red paint has managed to remain modern through the centuries and through many, many generations. A paint that has coloured an entire country and given it a distinctive national character and international identity.

Read more