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400 years of Swedish design at Stockholm's Royal Palace

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If you've ever been curious about the antecedents of the global preeminence of Swedish design, then you might consider a wander through Stockholm's Royal Palace. A repository of Swedish art from the Middle Ages to the present, the Royal Palace features excellent examples of 19th-century interior design.

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Built in an Italian Baroque style, the 608-room brick and sandstone castle is the largest palace in the world still used by a head of state. The Royal Palace took more than 60 years to complete and much of its design reflects the 17th-century pomp and circumstance of Sweden, which was then one of Europe's great powers.

Sweden has a long history of craftsmanship, which has often involved the concept of fusing ancient traditions with new innovation. According to some historians, the desire to create beauty within the home is a consequence of the long winters and one result has been the hallmarks of Swedish design: clean lines and minimal ornamentation.

Located atop the remains of a medieval castle in Gamla Stan (Old Town), the Royal Palace still serves as the official setting for the monarchy's receptions, including the annual Nobel Laureates' dinner.

Start your tour with a leisurely walk down the Western Staircase, which was once used for ceremonial entrances to the King's Apartments. This would be the moment to channel your inner Queen Christina (think Garbo hauteur). In the Hall of State, you'll find a throne made completely of silver, while the Treasury houses the national regalia, including the crown, orb, and key of Erik XIV.

Since 1973, King Carl XVI Gustaf has been Sweden's Head of State, which means that 2013 marks the King's 40th Jubilee. Aficionados of Swedish craftsmanship will appreciate the Swedish design of the Jubilee Room, which is furnished around the theme of a "Swedish summer's day."

With a stroll through the Cabinets, guests will find one of the best-preserved Rococo interiors, while in the Victoria Drawing Room, massive Viennese chandeliers hang above a large, handwoven rug. In the Don Quixote Room, Gobelins tapestries from the 18th century depict scenes from Cervantes' magnum opus. Oskar II's Study has been kept intact as a reflection of late 19th-century interior design and technical innovation, such as electric light and the telephone.

Throughout your peregrinations through the Royal Palace, it's likely that you'll be reminded anew of the age-old design maxim "Form follows function." Swedish design has long been an exemplar of the philosophy that the practical is beautiful - even in a royal palace.



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