Pronounced “hue-guh,” hygge is a defining characteristic of Danish culture. One of its many meanings is, “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” It doubles as a verb and an adjective. According to hyggehouse.com, being hyggeligt, or hygge-like, “requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present—but recognize and enjoy the present.”
Danes look at their lives as an art form and hygge is the art of being aware of a good moment. It’s about slowing down and recognizing everyday moments in life that can make an ordinary day extraordinary. Google translates it as “fun,” which makes sense since Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest nations in the world. With such high levels of uncertainty and anxiety this year, we could all stand to get a bit more hygge at home. Here are ways to hygge-ify your space.
What the Heck Is Hygge?
Hygge has no direct translation to English and is used as a veritable Swiss army knife in Danish, so here are some more ways to define it. Hygge can mean the serenity of simplicity. It can also refer to connection, being with the people we love, and spending time with friends and family. In her book Hygge: Unlock the Danish Art of Coziness and Happiness, Barbara Hayden describes hygge as a “spirit of togetherness, fostering relationships with family and friends and nurturing yourself through self-care.” But as Hayden points out, it also has to do with “home decor, atmosphere, how you dress, and how you spend your leisure time.” There’s also a “hygge way of approaching food and entertainment, the holidays, and seasonal activities.”
In his book, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, author Meik Wiking says that hygge is “about an atmosphere and experience, rather than about things.” But then he turns around and says it’s also about “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things.” However you want to define it—cozy, comfy, convivial, content, calm, or conscious—hygge is more than just a concept. It’s a feeling, lifestyle, and practice. Here are some ways to bring more hygge to your home.
What’s the Danish antidote to the cold, dark winter? Candles! According to hyggehouse.com, “Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark, and sameness. The undefinable feeling of hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate, acknowledge, and break up the mundane or harsh. With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of lighting a candle and enjoying a cup of coffee could make a huge difference to one’s spirit.”
Danish people actually have candles at work, which could be why they are happier than Americans, who tend to slave under soul-sucking fluorescent lighting. We make sure our plants get the right light, why not people? Lanterns, candles, and low-wattage lamps emit the soft, diffused, indirect glow we’re going for. Wiking says to think “golden hour” or “magic hour”—the first hour before sunrise and the last hour before sunset.
Instead of just one big overhead light, add lots of little lamps. Wiking says that “you want to create small caves of light around the room.” Danish lighting architect Poul Henningsen designed the PH 5 pendant light, which has three shades to illuminate without glare. Verner Panton designed the Panton VP Globe Pendant Light, which offers an indirect glow with a shielded bulb that reflects light and color onto the discs above.
Blankets, bedding, and Belgian linen curtains make for a cozy night nest. To create your hygge haven, first of all, replace your old mattress. Bed-in-a-box brands like Casper and Nectar Sleep have made owning a mattress you can’t wait to lay on an affordable reality. Top it with soft sheets, a luxurious down comforter, and the perfect pillows, then throw on a throw for good measure. Here are some more products to ensure a good night’s rest.
One time I counted over 20 fake plants at my mom’s house, both inside and out. While there’s nothing wrong with a fake fig tree, growing up in an artificial jungle made me appreciate real, fresh flowers. They brighten up a room and make me happy anytime I look at them. This summer I grew orange and pink zinnias to dot the house with, but this winter I’ll have to hit up the flower shop for my floral fix.
As hyygehouse.com observes, “By creating simple rituals without effort (such as brewing real tea with a little china cup every evening to stopping at the flower shop every week) the Danes see both the domestic and personal life as an art form and not every drudgery to get away from. They incorporate hygge into their daily life, so it becomes a natural extension rather than a forced and stressful event.”
I’m 5’10”, so I don’t fit in most bathtubs very well. However, when I broke my foot earlier this year (fell five feet off our backyard zipline, user error), I literally couldn’t stand up to take a shower, so bathing in the tub became necessary. Even though our tub is tiny, and I have to pick whether my top half or lower half will be submerged in water, I have come to thoroughly enjoy baths. I’ve even hopped on the bath bomb train. I turn off the light, light my Artisan Direct Milky Way Lantern that came in this fall’s Causebox, and R-E-L-A-X.
Another thing I’ve finally come to appreciate during my 36th orbit is hot tea. I quit drinking booze at the beginning of the year, but my hand felt empty without a cuppa…enter hot tea. My electric kettle and I have been BFF ever since. If you’re not into tea, sipping on any warm beverage, such as hot cocoa, spiked cider, mulled wine, or a DIY PSL will warm your heart with hygge.
Nothing says cozy like sitting in front of a fire. No longer needed for cooking or to provide warmth, fireplaces are still the hearth to any home. Outdoor firepits are great for fall but come winter, indoor hibernation calls for a gas, electric, or real wood fireplace. Our house came with a wood stove that we use instead of the heater. Somehow it warms the whole house from the basement. It’s a pain in the butt to keep going; the ashes are kind of a mess; and you do have to make sure you have enough seasoned wood for the season, but the smell of wood burning that permeates the entire house makes it worth it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m about tired of my home cooking. Bring a sense of hygge into the kitchen with baked goods, fondue, stews, and grilled cheese. There is no calorie counting, but that doesn’t give you permission to be gluttonous. Remember, hygge is also about consciousness. Cook consciously and be aware of the sight, smell, and sound as well as taste when you enjoy a warm repast.
A hyggekrog is a cozy nook. Is there a secluded corner where you live that could be transformed into a cozy reading nook? Create your own hyggekrog with fluffy pillows, a soft blanket, a bookshelf, and maybe even a chaise lounger, like this one from Pottery Barn. Or, add this modular banquette set to set up a “built-in” look.