Home Design

The Danish Art of Coziness: Introducing Hygge to Your Home

Oct 12, 2018, 10:20 AM | Sarah Woodbury
Candles, a warm cup of tea, and knit blankets represent hygge, the Danish art of coziness

The word hygge has been so popular in the past few years, the whole concept is at risk of fading as just another fad.

However, with our culture's ever-quickening pace of life (plus the fact that it's solidly autumn, with winter fast approaching), hygge concepts are needed here now more than ever.

Hygge: Another Fad for Social Media and Businesses to Capitalize On?

If you're like a lot of homeowners, when you read the word, candles immediately come to mind. But why candles? And what's with the tea and socks in every other chic, hygge-touting Instagram post?

Hygge does involve objects like candles as agents of comfort, which is something businesses have pounced on, but it includes more than just that. In this post, we'll go over what hygge is all about and how to use the concepts in your home.

How to Pronounce Hygge (and Avoid Embarrassing Yourself)

So that you can read this post without stumbling over every mention of the word, let's talk about pronunciation.

Hygge, a Danish word, is pronounced something like "hue-guh" for Americans. Though the first sound is actually something between "hoo" and "hue," it's not really part of the American sound vocabulary. You'll probably be fine, so long as you are talking to hyggeligt (hygge-like) people.

But if you want to feel very cultured, there are a lot of videos out there that will teach you the true pronunciation of the word (crackling fireplaces and fedoras a definite plus).

The Actual Happiest Place on Earth

Danes, the people who established hygge, are famously known for being ranked the happiest people on Earth for a few years in a row. What's more, as of 2017, six of the top ten spots in the World Happiness Report rankings are held by Nordic and northern European countries (in comparison, in the same report, the US was ranked 14th and the UK 19th).

Even more surprising is the fact that Denmark and other Nordic countries are able to achieve these rankings in spite of their long, harsh, dark winters. However, it is the very nature of these winters, that helped spark the development of what has been called the reason for Danish happiness—the concept of hygge.

The Art of Coziness

Hygge comes from the Norwegian word hugga, which essentially means "to comfort."

While some would argue that it is untranslatable, into English, "cozy" is closest word we have to representing hygge. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary defines it as "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)."

To understand hygge, think of a situation that gives you a feeling of simple, charming comfort. Maybe it's curling up with your dog in a pile of blankets, donning those sweats you live in at home during the winter.

Maybe it's stopping by the flower shop after work to bring home a bundle of fragrant lavender wrapped in brown paper.

Or maybe it's the smell of that creamy soup—you know, the one you make from scratch from your great-grandmother's recipe—wafting through your home and mingling with the scent of the book you're reading.

Though there's a focus on winter in this post and in hygge in general, it also applies to summer. For warmer months, think little picnics or outdoor dinners.

These kinds of portraits start to paint a picture of what hygge means.

While most Danes will tell you that burning candles is essential to hygge, they'll also tell you that it goes further than that. It is a feeling of balance that is experienced away from technology and stress. It is enjoying the special and simple parts of life.

In addition, though you can certainly find hygge alone, also central to it is the idea of togetherness. Having a few close friends over for a comforting, simple meal and some hot cocoa, bundling up for a winter walk with your partner, or gathering your family around a board game next to the fireplace are all hyggeligt.

One final note: hygge, while it does involve enjoyment, does not extend to the level of gluttony or extravagance. One problem with the explosion of hygge is that, in the US at least, it has gotten tangled with consumerism.

Going on a shopping spree and bringing home piles of new "hygge" things is basically the opposite of hygge. Keeping this in mind, we've got a few tips to help you make your home more hyggeligt.

Light Some Candles

When it comes to hygge, there's nothing like the flickering of a candle. Candles give a room a kind of softness you feel you can sink into.

Real candles are probably best, but if you're worried about forgetting to blow them out, there are some weirdly realistic fake candles out there that mimic the flickering of real ones. They can be pricey, but might be worth it if you're concerned about safety or don't want to go through mountains of candles.

Candles can help with your overall lighting scheme, which you should use to highlight warmth, smallness, and comfort that can transform even an intimidating space into a homey paradise.

How you light your home, candles or no, should make it feel like an intimate little spot for human hibernation: more like a snug cave than a bright, spacious place. Use lights that mimic the ambience a crackling fire brings to a room.

And when it comes to the social part of hygge, focusing on softer light can also help create a more relaxed, pleasant atmosphere than white light blasting into the far corners of the room (and everyone's corneas).

Find Cozy Textures

Adding the kind of cuddly textures you want to be wrapped in will help bring some cozy to your home. Soft pillows, knit blankets, and thick socks or sweaters should all do the trick.

Cook (or Brew) Something Warm and Delightful

If you've been researching hygge, you've likely come across the mention of different Danish foods like glogg or meatballs. You don't have to pretend to be Danish to find hygge, though.

If the smell of coffee brings you simple joy, make some coffee and really enjoy it (including the cream and sugar). If it's the simmering of rich soup on the stove that is hyggeligt to you, invite some friends over and have them help you chop vegetables—and then curl under blankets while it cooks.

Whatever it is, find something that comforts you and let your senses fully experience it without the extremes of guilt or gluttony.

Use Some Houseplants in Your Decorating

Though this isn't as essential to hygge as candles or socks, plants can definitely bring a feeling of comfort to a home.

Even though they're somewhat of a trend right now, plants will always bring people peace and comfort. There are many studies showing how plants seriously relax people. They can even reduce noise in a room.

Avoid Extravagance and Excessiveness

The US is known for its consumerism, which may be why the simplicity of hygge is so attractive to Americans. It's a respite from the relentlessness of updating social media, chasing trends, and spending money.

Don't wait until you have that new couch to invite your friends over. Let things be the way they are and just focus on adding simple warmth and welcoming into the mix.

It's not about being perfectly minimalist or spotless in everything you do, or so concerned with creating the perfect atmosphere that you can't enjoy it. Rather, hygge is about embracing and enjoying the simple in life—not doing so in spite of imperfections, but perhaps because of them.

Sarah Woodbury