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Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland, Hälsingegårdar, was inscribed on UNESCO´s World Heritage List in 2012. In the picture the farm Jon-Lars in Alfta, Hälsingland.
Photo credit: Håkan Vargas S/

Politics Shaped the House

Employers, unions and politicians came together to give people time and money to spend their holidays in summer homes

It all began in an entirely different spirit. In the early 1900s society was changing, with new opportunities to increase people’s living standards. In Germany and France, affordable cars for ordinary people were being constructed – the VW Beetle and Citroën CV2 – and in Sweden, employers, unions and politicians came together to give people time and money to spend their holidays in summer homes. In classical Protestant spirit, the idea was that the new statutory holidays should be used for something beneficial – activities out in the fresh air was the refrain of the time.

The Swedish model was a consensus between state, industry and unions which provided the foundations for what is today a deeply ingrained love of one’s own hideaway in the countryside.

The idea immediately became popular and companies built their own holiday villages for their employees. These were small, cute houses, in many ways a modern take on the old red painted croft – the traditional home of tenant farmers and soldiers. The buildings were of relatively simple standard. Towards the middle of the century it became highly fashionable to build one’s own summer home.

But then something happened which is extremely important for our understanding of the current situation. We discovered that people didn’t need to build right next door to each other.

In many ways we suddenly wanted to be back living the crofter’s life, in that separation and solitude became a goal above all others. This idea lives on today, perhaps even more strongly than before. The expression “secluded location” (enskilt läge in Swedish) is something that gives rise to special feelings for the majority of Swedes.