Candlelight is hygge. Dinner with friends is hygge. Good food is hygge. Bakeries are hygge.
If you haven’t heard of the Danish concept “hygge” yet, here is what it means in a nutshell: “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.”
As the days are getting shorter and gloomier, learning to embrace hygge this winter will give us not only the perfect excuse to spruce up our homes, as we will be spending more time inside, but it can also increase our overall wellbeing and happiness.
Denmark consistently takes the top spot on the United Nation’s World Happiness Report and while the 5.7 million nation’s egalitarian and fair society are partly cause for its cheerful nation, there are other aspects of Danish living that contribute to its happiness, which shouldn’t be forgotten either: Danish design, which along with hygge and impeccable homes, may contribute to the Dane’s contentment. A 2011 UCL study has found that, “when we look at things we consider to be beautiful, there is increased activity in the pleasure reward centers of the brain.” This means that, essentially, the feel-good centers within our brain are stimulated, similar to the states of love and desire.
“…the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.”
It is certainly clear that the Danes understand the importance of aesthetics, knowing that design can be used to improve the quality of people’s lives. As David Obel Rosenkvist, Brand Manager for lighting company Louis Poulsen explained to Charlotte Abrahams in her book Hygge, “Design is a national sport in Denmark. We have all been surrounded by good design since childhood, so we understand that design impacts on human life.”
Based around comfort, security and the enjoyment of simple pleasures, hygge embodies simplicity — much like Danish design itself, which is known for its effortless elegance and functionality. While a long list of rules how to live more “Danishly” isn’t exactly celebrating the spirit of hygge, for the sake of clarity here’s how to create your own haven of quiet beauty and embody hygge like a Dane in five easy steps.
1. Choose indirect, warm lighting.
We should begin by understanding the country’s pride and respect for its own design heritage. Poul Henningsen (1894-1967), or PH as he was also widely known as, was revered for his pioneering lighting that transformed the wellbeing of the Danish people. By creating lighting that would be as close to natural daylight as possible, PH developed innovative lights with layered shades that would not expose the light bulb directly.
The designs are still produced by lighting manufacturer Louis Poulsen today, so if you would like to spruce up your home and embrace hygge, begin with warm, cozy lighting and never underestimate its importance. Choose layered lights that shield the light bulb. If a PH lamp is too much of a stretch for your budget, try the KNAPPA light from IKEA, which creates a similar, cozy effect. And don’t forget candles — lots of them. We particularly love this stunning rose-gold candleholder by HAY or & Other Stories 7:e Vånigen Scented Candle, a beautiful blend of lingering wood, dark suede, dry papyrus and delicious raspberries, perfect for the colder winter months ahead.
2. Less is more.
Scandinavian design is widely known for its minimalist furniture, clean lines and muted colour palettes (think whites and cool greys). Choose more compact and nesting coffee tables for instance rather than big, chunky pieces that take up most of the space. When it comes to colour, again, less is more. Painting walls a lighter shade will instantly add a Scandi-vibe to your home, or if you crave more depth, ditch Scandi-white for Copenhagen-based KABE, a product that helps you achieve stunning concrete effects on your walls by simply taking out a paintbrush.
In the colder, winter months, stock up on new cushions with comforting, velvety fabrics (try ferm LIVING, offering an array of budget-friendly options without compromising on style) and plenty of super-soft blankets like this gorgeous Marimekko quilt to stay warm and to add a touch of coziness.
3. Bring the outside in.
Known for their active, outdoorsy lifestyles, Scandinavians bring the outside in at all costs – and not just by building minimalist, glass homes with hardwood flooring spanning throughout. For those of us where renovation simply isn’t an option, something as simple as mixing different materials such as wood and cotton, either with décor or elements in our home already, can have a similar effect.
Alternatively, adding fresh flowers to a vase or glass jar like this paper porcelain vase by HAY, or mixing up a salad using your home-grown veggies and presenting it using a beautiful new salad set such as this one by Normann Copenhagen, can bring the outside in, too. As the holiday season approaches, you could also pick up small twigs or purchase a small fir tree or wreath to decorate for Christmas, making it a fun-filled event with family and friends while drinking a warm cup of Gløgg!
4. Try “zoning.”
Contrary to popular belief, having a well designed home does not have to be filled with expensive items that break the bank – good design is about inclusivity, not exclusivity. Rather, it’s about creating a comforting, harmonious interior that works for you and your family by making living in it enjoyable and suitable for your lifestyle.
The key to achieving this is a simple concept called zoning – creating different cozy spaces within a larger room that allow for relaxation and socializing. For instance, using furniture and cozy cushions in a way that brings your family and friends closer together, like throwing some cushions on the floor as additional seating, or replacing a square dining table with an elliptical or round shape, thus encouraging an egalitarian dining space so there is no ‘head’ at the table. Low or armless chairs placed next to each other will connect you more with the people you’re sitting next to, as your arms gently touch, fostering an overall air of equality and informality.
… good design is about inclusivity, not exclusivity.
5. Cherish the past.
If you were looking for hygge inspiration that goes beyond Instagram and Pinterest, we’d recommend the Notecard Collection – The Hygge Edition by Kinfolk, a collection of beautiful photographs capturing the comforting Danish tradition of hygge that you can share with loved ones (now that’s very hyggelig).
Should you not be looking to purchase anything at all but simply wish to revamp your home in time for Christmas on a budget, try hanging up photographs of family and friends, or fill empty kitchen glass jars with pasta, sugar and flour, creating a sense of homeliness. You can also try knitting your own blanket or choosing objects that have personal meaning to you and display these on your coffee table.
In a world where detoxing and deprivation have become the norm, hygge is its polar opposite. This is a very generous way of living, encouraging us to enjoy life more and to cherish every moment we’re given with those closest to us. Hygge gently whispers in our ear to be kinder to ourselves, others and respectful of the space we live in, the people we interact with, and how we treat ourselves. Hygge turns a house into a home; a humbling concept that puts our feet firmly on the ground, reminding us what really matters in life and how it all begins in the very place we call home.
Do you change up your home decor during the winter months? How?
Images via Monica Outcalt