We continue to hear and read about ‘hygge’ everywhere. And now that the seasons are changing, temperatures are dropping and winter is nearing, ‘hygge’ momentum is growing once again.
Before we dive to the meat of the topic, let’s get the pronunciation down first – it is a Danish term roughly pronounced as /hyoo-guh/.
Hard to pronounce, hard to explicitly define (mostly because there’s no direct English translation), but ‘cozy’ comes close. The official definition of hygge is seen as:
a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)
In essence, it reflects the Danish lifestyle of creating a warm, safe, comfortable space and atmosphere where you can enjoy life with people close to your heart. Achieving hygge is as much true in the space you live in as spending time with people you love.
Hygge is a lifestyle that illuminates the Danish soul, maybe that’s why they are some of the happiest people in the world!
Photo source: VisitDenmark | Hygge on the streets during Christmastime.
Hygge was originally an old Norwegian word meaning ‘well-being’. In the 18th century, it appeared in Danish writing and the Danes have embraced it ever since. As an all encompassing terminology about mindset or lifestyle, it can be applied in all aspects and manner of life to attain that overall happy feeling.
The home is an essential element of hygge and this is fully embodied in Danish decor. It is simple, pure and serene. And the best news is, you don’t need to go to Denmark to feel this – you can recreate this hygge lifestyle at home.
Here are 12 really doable ways to transform your space (and life) with hygge:
1. Work with a neutral/warm color palette
Hygge is all about that comfy, relaxing feeling that comes with simple and serene earthy or neutral color tones – no embellishments and nothing loud. Anyone can recreate this easy palette; it’s a subtle mix of cohesive and harmonious tonal shades. Take a cue from Japandi-inspired interiors.
To achieve hygge’s color style, go with soft white, beige, natural woods or shades of grey. The combination of these neutral styles will be able to cozy up any room and make it inviting.
P.S. Notice the simplicity of colors and the absence of clutter
P.P.S. Perhaps this is where the saying ‘less is more’ fits very well – less of the clutter and stresses in life and more of that relaxing and calm atmosphere
2. Let there be natural light
Hygge thrives on warm, softness, that means natural, ambient glow. The more natural light you can get into your space, the better. It is easier on your eyes and lights up the space without making it glaring.
While it might be challenging for many apartments or spaces to get an endless supply of natural light, there are still a couple of creative ways that this can be achieved.
Try hanging some mirrors across the windows, it will reflect the light that hits it creating the illusion of more. Another is hanging crystals near the light to create prisms and soft, colorful rainbows around.
P.S. That extra vitamin D will also improve your mood, enhancing those hygge feelings
3. Create a hygge nook
When you’ve had a particularly difficult day, what’s better than having that comfortable, cozy little spot at home where you can just cuddle up, read a book and forget everything else? One of the best parts of a hygge home is being able to spend lazy afternoons in a space that’s yours.
If there is an awkward architectural shape or corner in your home that you’re not sure what to do with, put a comfortable armchair or convert it into a bay-window with a reading-bench type seat with hidden storage for your books. Throw in pillows, blankets and a small side table for your coffee or hot cocoa and transform it into your new favorite spot.
P.S. Wear a pair of big, fluffy slippers during winter to up that hygge feel.
4. Light up those candles
Candles are essential – and the easiest way – to achieving that hygge experience. The warm glow and ambience created by candles is hard to replace, so once the sun sets, light up some candles to keep that glow going all night long.
It’ll be perfect for creating that welcoming and inviting atmosphere to relax in and socialize. Apparently, the Danes are the biggest consumers of candles in Europe.
“Candlelight is a key component and they’re everywhere: from the windowsill of my kids’ daycare to shops, banks,” Helen Russell, best-selling author of The Year of Living Danishly — Uncovering The Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country told Romper. “Hygge is so crucial to living Danishly that I once saw a camper van driving along the motorway with lit candles in the windows. This is probably illegal, but Vikings don’t tend to be too hung up on health and safety.”
P.S. Candles might give you ‘instant hygge’ but always use and handle candles with caution. Only use a few, or electronic or flickering ones to avoid fire hazards.
Photo source: Romper
5. Put up warm, soft lighting
If you’re not a fan of candles, you can always add some soft lights to illuminate those warm, neutral hues you have. Adding the right lighting can immediately transform a place and your mood and get that hygge effect. Best thing about it is you don’t need additional space to make this happen and it’ll work no matter the size of your home.
The simplest way to do this is hang some warm string lights above your bed or that cozy reading nook we talked about earlier. Another option is to go for decorative pendant lights but make sure to maintain that cohesive design.
P.S. Never go for ultra-white LEDs or white bulbs, go for softer, warmer hues
P.P.S. Recreate this design in different areas of your space, even those that are mostly overlooked. This way, you’ll be spreading that hygge effect all throughout and consequently, also bringing that cozy, happy feeling along.
6. Get nostalgic
Hygge is as much about the look as the feelings it evokes. Focus on elements of nostalgia in your decor like your favorite artworks, treasured memories, frames of your friends and loved ones and others that gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
Remember the decluttering method taught by world-renowned organizing consultant, Marie Kondo – to only keep things that ‘spark joy’ for you? Well, much of hygge is like that. But let’s not be too limiting because hygge also allows you to keep one too many blankets and pillows for that extra layer of coziness.
This Danish lifestyle is about culturing an environment of happiness so eat that slice of cake or mess up those pillows on the couch for that extra comfort and homey-ness.
P.S. With hygge, it doesn’t have to be about perfection but more sentimentality and meaning. Embrace the vintage and the old, repurpose them to add character
7. Layer up with warm, soft textures
If there’s another thing that can’t be missing in any hygge space, it’s layers upon layers of blankets, throws, pillows, rugs and all things soft and comfy. If a chunky knit duvet or comforter is too warm, you can always swap it for more breathable layers that’ll better suit the season and your preference.
As you embrace the ‘spark joy’ philosophy in trying to achieve that hygge way of living, be careful of your space looking too minimalist to be warm and inviting.
Therefore, on top of going blanket crazy, incorporate other materials and patterns to add texture and interest to your space. Without veering away from that neutral palette, you can introduce warmth through materials or designs that use leather, wood or wool.
P.S. Beyond the blankets, rugs, pillows in your bedroom or living room, you can switch to fluffy towels and soft bath mats in your bathroom to get that hygge feeling from head to toe after a refreshing shower
Photo Source: RealEstate (Australia). Very generous amount of fluffiness in this warm living space that’s made even cozier with that wood burning stove design for a fireplace on a backdrop of natural wood.
8. Inject some natural elements
Most hygge looks may work best for winter time but this one works all year long. And there are choices aplenty.
Embracing the outdoors by having indoor plants has a soothing effect – it can boost your mood and purify your air. Not only does it fit well with that warm, neutral theme you’ve got going but plants work no matter how big or small your space is. It gives great aesthetic pleasure and can make a room feel finished.
If you’ve got a free corner in your room or table top, just put a plant in! You’ll see that area transform and immediately become more welcoming and happy to look at.
P.S. If you’re wary of taking care of living plants because you think you don’t have a green thumb, there are several beginner-friendly indoor plants to start with. Or if not, get a vase and place some pampas grass and dried foliage and you’ll be set!
9. Bake some sweet treats
Going beyond appearances, hygge is that cozy and happy feeling you get as a space ‘embraces’ you. It’s a concept teaching us to appreciate the little things in life, whatever makes you feel happy and alive. One way to achieve that is through the joy of ‘fika’ – often translated to ‘a coffee and cake break’ – mostly making time with family and friends over a cuppa and simple conversations.
On top of that, filling your home with the smell of freshly baked cookies, pies, cakes and pastries have that instant hygge effect. That feeling of comfort and nostalgia that immediately fills you up.
P.S. It’s about the experience and time spent together so don’t fret so much about how they look or taste. (Oh and don’t worry about the calories! Hygge encourages us to live a little and take a break from the pressure and constantly worrying about the idea of healthy living.)
10. Have a hot drink
Complete those tasty goodies and sweets with a hot drink. As you get all cozy by the fire or under the blankets, one hand on a good book another with a cup of hot chocolate, what more can you ask for?
There are a lot of hygge photos showing a hot drink (usually hot cocoa) and blankets and it’s easy to imagine why that setting translates to hygge. This is something you can do alone or with others. A cup of hot chocolate can instantly warm you up inside and keep you relaxed.
P.S. It doesn’t always have to be hot chocolate. You have coffee with friends, or hot tea while resting on the patio or balcony or your little reading nook (up it by serving that tea on a china set!)
11. Put down your phone
How can you achieve those hygge feelings of relaxation and comfort if you’re constantly glued to your phone and obsessing over the latest updates on social media? Maybe the first step towards that hygge lifestyle is to put down your phone.
Hygge is a feeling and a way of life. The decor and design choices are meant to enhance those happy and warm feelings, but it will not be enough. The activities you choose to engage in also lend to (or separate you from) that hygge lifestyle.
There are many ways to savor the coziness of your home. You can enjoy some peaceful alone time listening to quiet music, reading a book or watching your favorite movie. But a big part of hygge is connecting with friends and family in a relaxed environment.
P.S. Perhaps nothing will relax you more than the conversations and laughter over a hearty meal with those dear to your heart.
12. Extend this to your outdoor space
Transform your outdoor space, even just a narrow balcony, to bring out that hygge feeling. Bring a pot of flowers, a cushioned seat, add a blanket and a warm cup of hot chocolate or coffee, a good book and that’s it.
If you have friends over, you can add in a small coffee table for all those sweet treats and drinks; then just sit, laugh and enjoy an evening under the stars. It might seem more fitting to cozy up around a brazier during winter time but having a picnic or barbecue at your backyard is hygge enough.
P.S. The point is to spend that time with friends and family (or even alone) at a spot outside your apartment that still makes you feel equally comfortable and at home
P.P.S Make sure to use weather-friendly blankets and covers.
Photo source: That Scandinavian Feeling | Cozy outdoor balcony that spells hygge with the blankets, cushions, candles, rugs and plants.
Hygge is a lifestyle. Design and physical elements in your home nudge you towards that direction but in the end, the peaceful, happy mindset and the relaxed, comfy feeling really embody the concept of hygge.