Former Swedish Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson may have first publicly voiced the term folkhemmet (“the people’s home”) and Ingvar Kamprad later furnished it, but while Sweden’s beloved Carl Larsson painted it, his paintings depicted designs by his wife Karin Bergöö Larsson.

Identified as “the first designer of what would become known as Swedish Modern” by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, Karin Bergöö Larsson (1859–1928) was a mother of eight and wife to Carl Larsson. Herself a highly regarded artist, she gave up painting when she married, at the request of her husband. Taking up needles and cloth, she then turned a somewhat ugly cottage—Lilla Hyttnäs in the tiny village of Sundborn, Sweden—into a designer showcase.


It was during the 19th century that people began to create a boundary between private and public life, paving the way for today’s strict division between the two spheres. This wasn't the case for Carl Larsson, whose most famous paintings are depictions of his large family and their family home. Inspired by the Swedish countryside, Karin Larsson filled the home with handcrafted wall hangings, bed coverings, tablecloths, pillow covers and even furniture of her own design, while greatly influencing her husband’s work by encouraging him to move away from dark oils to more illuminating and light-filled watercolors.

Author Marge Thorell recently published "Karin Bergöö Larsson and the Emergence of Swedish Design," a book about the life, work and influence of Karin Larsson. Hear from the author firsthand on Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m. at the American Swedish Historical Museum, followed by a book signing.

The talk is free with museum admission and the book will be available for purchase in the Museum Shop. The museum is located at 1900 Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. For more info, call 215.389.1776 or see