If there could be anything more Swedish than Volvos, it might be the red Swedish summerhouse. When travelling in the countryside, the sheer number of red houses can be disorientating.
Swedish summer houses come mainly in three styles:
Old farmhouses, ideally a couple of hundred years old, are distinguished by their timbered construction, which may or may not be hidden beneath an exterior of vertical wooden siding.
New farmhouses are usually less than 100 years old, and often they look identical to old farmhouses with the vertical wooden siding.
'Sport' cottages are less homey than the farmhouses. These structures are spartan and are intended merely as a base camp for healthy outdoor activities. These cottages are the relics of a robust, health-conscious ideal first espoused when labourers began to receive vacation time. The idea was that the workers shouldn't just fritter away their precious vacation by lying about.
The Distinctive Red Colour
The colouring agent in the paint is rust. 'True' falu-red1 paint is supposed to be a blend of rust, oil, and some other fairly harmless natural things. You could drink it and it wouldn't kill you, although it might not be wise to test this fact.
The primary benefits of the red paint are its low cost and low maintenance. There's a saying which says that you'll need to scrape the house each time if you paint it every five years, but not if you paint it every ten. Mmmm...
The Nordic Perspective
The large number of red summerhouses in Sweden is a phenomenon unique to that country. Immediately upon crossing the border to Norway, all manner of houses in blue, yellow and white can be seen. Neither is this red-house effect noticeable in Denmark or in Iceland.