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Swedish Homes: Norwegian Museum

The Nordic countries are clean, well-behaved, efficiently organized and relentlessly tasteful. They are known for glass, modern furniture, brightly painted folk art, domestic design and lack of pretension.

For an overview of Swedish style, set a course for the island of Djurgården in Stockholm (once the royal deer park) and see Skansen, a 75-acre outdoor museum with 150 examples of traditional architecture.

For true Swedish refinement, nothing beats the 18th-century interiors of Gustavus III (1771-1792). Drottningholm, once the royal family's summer residence, is now its year-round home. The palace was Gustavus's answer to Versailles, hedged with a northern sensibility that always veers away from French grandeur. See there the Chinese Pavilion, a miniature village akin to Marie Antoinette's Le Hameau, and a theater with elaborate backstage set-changing machinery that makes waves, wind, thunder and clouds, all still in operation. Look into no-longer-used dressing rooms which have tile stoves and hand-painted wallpaper.

Of all Sweden's interiors, the most appealing is Sundborn, 13 kilometers from the town of Falun, where the home of turn-of-the-century artist and father-of-eight Carl Larsson is a paean to idyllic domesticity. Sundborn's simplicity is very appealing today and full of ideas, from letting in light, colors, paint work, textiles, to beds, tables and bookcases--everything needed for the happy home.

Go to Svenskt Tenn for classic Swedish modern furniture and pewter, including designs by Vienna's Josef Frank who moved to Sweden and became Svenskt Tenn's chief designer.

The Oslo Museum of Applied Art, founded in 1876, was one of the first museums of its kind in Europe. Housing a permanent collection of Norwegian arts and crafts from the Middle Ages to the 20th century--tapestry, glass, faience, silver furniture, and European period interiors from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century--it also has a good gift shop and the inviting, distinctive Café Sollil_kken with the most delicious cakes in town.

The Norwegian Folk Museum shows life from the Middle Ages to the present on a 35-acre spread with 170 old buildings complete with furniture, household fittings, examples of "rose painter's" and wood carver's art, fabric, utensils and work tools, including a Lapp section.