It is hard to explain and even harder to pronounce, but chances are you have come across the Danish term hygge (pronounced Hue-Gah, like Cougar with an ‘H’) because it was a big trend back in 2016 (and used as a very effective sales tactic to sell lots of fluffy socks, hats and coffee table books). The origins of hygge are actually much more about a state of mind and is not something that can be bought.
There is no direct English translation of the word hygge, but its general meaning is “a state of cosiness and comfort that creates a feeling of contentment and wellbeing”. The word derives from a 16th century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning to comfort or console, which is related to the English word ‘hug’. This is how I like to define hygge, for me it is the feeling you get when you give a big hug to someone you love.
Writing this in January 2021 after the UK has been put into lockdown once again means that unfortunately hugging all your loved ones is not quite possible at the moment – so let’s explore some different ways to get the hygge feeling, focussing on your space at home.
Although hygge is something that can happen all year round – just think of those good feelings you get at Spring picnics, Summer BBQ’s and Autumn walks – it is most often more associated with winter, because this colder time of year is coupled with cosy clothing, fires and warm comfort foods. Danish winters especially are known to be long and dark, so hygge being a way of life becomes even more important.
At home elements of hygge can be introduced very easily with things you already have, and it is just about taking the time to make areas a bit more special to really appreciate it and feel the effects. Here are four different suggestions that could help:
Lighting can play a huge part in how a space feels. Bright overhead lighting is only really needed for practical purposes (i.e. in a kitchen or bathroom space) but can be too harsh in living rooms and bedrooms where you are wanting to relax. By moving table lamps and floor lamps next to sofas and beds, softer lighting is introduced – instantly making a space feel cosier. In design, we refer to floor and table lighting as ‘ambient lighting’. These pieces are used to help light up a room, but the level of ambient lighting also dictates whether a room is bright, a bit darker or more relaxed. By selecting which lights you have on and off will help create a different ambience and therefore affect the overall mood in the room.
Also being creative and using decorative lighting (e.g. fairy lights) can highlight areas in a room and add a ‘special’ element to a space. There is a reason we are drawn to Christmas tree lights – that feeling you get when a twinkling tree is lit up in a dark room – that’s hygge! Experiment with repurposing Christmas lights or moving table lamps around at home to see how it can make a space feel.
This time of year is typically cold, so layering up blankets and throws is an obvious way to feel more cosy, and curling up with a Netflix series or good book, big warm throw (and a glass of wine or two) is ideal to me. That feeling when you bring your duvet down on the sofa and put your favourite film on – that’s hygge! I would also recommend investing in a good quality wool throw for warmth and good snuggle factor – and for extra luxury, merino wool is even softer. Cotton is another natural material that is great for throws and is very practical (good for pets as it can be washed regularly). I love a thick cotton waffle design and use them a lot for dressing beds too. Fleece and acrylic are also good synthetic options that are very affordable and super cosy (although not recommended if you get too hot or live in a warmer climate, its better to have natural materials that can ‘breathe’). And always aim for one that’s big enough to completely wrap around you to really embrace the cosiness.
Throws are also a great way to introduce your design style into a scheme, using colours and patterns that you appeal to you. If you surround yourself with things you love it will only add to the hygge experience! I am drawn to muted, soft colours for throws because they work well with my own schemes at home – and the two I have shown below would pair nicely with my deep navy blue sofa but are equally neutral enough to be moved round the house, and work in most interior schemes.
Creating a space at home purely for taking some time out is a great way to feel hygge. Instead of grabbing your morning coffee and drinking it on the go – make an area that you can relax in, even just for a few minutes. If it’s at the dining table looking out into the garden, add your favourite tablecloth, a vase with fresh flowers, make a coffee in your favourite mug and have some time away from your phone, the TV and all the chores – and just savour it. It will have such a great impact on your mood. Realistically this might not be achievable every day but will be a time to really look forward to when you can.
Simply adding your favourite piece of artwork or holiday photo next to an armchair will help to create a favourite space, (along with your repurposed lamp and throw) and will encourage you to relax. Or using a lovely bubble bath and putting on your best podcast or playlist for an extra-long soak in the tub is another way to wind down – whatever space you feel most relaxed in, try and think of ways to make it even more special, to really slow down and enjoy it.
Hygge moments don’t always have to be quiet and calm either. If the sound of the kids laughing and playing is when you feel warm and fuzzy inside – make those interiors work for you by building them a den out of blankets, or an obstacle course of sofa cushions – and just be present in the moment. Create them a zone for playing and let their hygge happiness reflect back on yours!
I always think one of the most effective pieces of styling to use at home are candles. The warm glow of a lit candle not only creates instant cosiness, but also different scents have a huge impact on mood and surrounding yourself with your favourite fragrances can be a highly effective way to help achieve hygge. I like to put a candle on at the start of every workday and let the fragrance fill the rooms at home. Citrus scents will be uplifting (and has even been shown in studies to help with symptoms of depression), lavender is great for being soothing and relaxing, (perfect for the end of the day unwinding), cinnamon can help with concentration, and peppermint is ideal for when you are feeling congested and stuffy and creating a ‘fresh’ scent. I love sandalwood and eucalyptus scents, and always make sure I have a good stock of candles and essential oils. Wax melts and diffusers are also great options to add scents into rooms.
A few tips to help create the hygge feeling in your home environment, but as it’s such a personal thing, have a think about your favourite activity or part of the day at home and how you can make it even better. Chances are you already have hygge moments in your day, but if phone scrolling or news reports are getting in the way of properly absorbing it (we are all guilty of this) try to have a break from technology for a few minutes and appreciate the good things around you.
The way I picture the ultimate hygge feeling for myself is after a long dog walk on a cold winter’s day, sat snuggled up with a blanket, the fire on, my favourite playlist playing, food in the oven, glass in hand and the latest interiors mag on my lap. Never fails to work.
As experts say, it is all about “opening your heart to the special appeal of simple, cosy moments, when everything just falls into place and you feel safe, warm and happy.”
Which is so important now more than ever.