Hygge took the design world by storm a few years back and has been going strong ever since. But the concept is actually centuries old, with origins in the long dark nights of the Scandinavian winter. Anyone can channel the hygge lifestyle, which merely implies warmth, togetherness, and coziness on the home front. But how each person interprets hygge will be specific to their own values. Nonetheless, certain universal principles apply: family and friends come first, home sustains us in a cold world, and material comfort is king.
The word itself is Norwegian, but it has been adopted in most parts of Scandinavia and beyond. Pronounced 'hoo-gah' or 'hew-gah' hygge is a noun that describes a state of mind. You can't be hygge, but you can have hygge. The concept has an emotional component, so the interpretation of the word can be slightly different for each person using it, regardless of their native language.
Anyone can do hygge, but the Danish have adopted the ideology as their own. With winters that can last six months and winter nights that are exceptionally long and cold, Scandinavians have a natural affinity for hygge. In other parts of the world, hygge is a delightful marketing framework that emphasizes warm colors and textures for the home. It's become popular in places like the UK and North America largely due to admiration for Scandinavian interior design values. Retailers love it because so many items of furniture and decoration can fall under the hygge brand umbrella.
Hygge is most easily expressed in the living room of a home. Think of a plush sofa with lots of cushions, and an ottoman or footstool for propping up feet. If you have a fireplace in your living room, great; if not, think about the warmth that can come from flames, even if they are artificial. There's a reason plug-in electric fireplaces are popular. The light and heat they emit is all about hygge.
For some of us, hygge in the bedroom might mean down duvets, Egyptian cotton sheets, and the right kind of lighting for enjoying a great book. For others, it might mean exactly the right firmness of mattress, the presence of a loved one, and the kind of quiet that means sleep is uninterrupted. Hygge is useful as more than just a design or marketing concept in that it requires people to ask themselves what really makes them feel secure and contented.
As we spend more and more time in our kitchens, where islands double as workspace, or a platform for dining and socializing, the hygge treatment is easy to achieve. With strategic lighting and some cushioning of hard kitchen surfaces with cushions and rugs, the heart of the home can have real heart.
Kitchen appliances like Instant Pot and other slow cookers help with hygge as they create comforting stews and dishes with attendant aromas that promote hygge. Baking cookies can help in a similar way.
In Scandinavia, hygge food likely means comfort food made for sharing. Warm drinks, such as hot chocolate or Swedish mulled wine, also known as glögg, definitely promote a hygge lifestyle. But really whatever types of food and drink bring comfort and warmth in dark times will qualify. You could build an entire party with close friends and family around comforting hygge-style hospitality.
Certain domestic items are closely linked to creating a hygge atmosphere: cushions, candles, and, most especially, cozy throw blankets. A few strategically placed fuzzy throw blankets will do the trick. They can be seriously woolly or soft fun fur versions, anything you can throw on to feel warm. And they can be an added bonus when you want to keep the thermostat set lower to save on energy bills.
In the era of LED and compact fluorescent lightbulbs, it can be challenging to re-create the warm glow of a hygge-style interior. Basically, overhead lights are a no-no. You want to combine brighter task lighting for reading with warmer ambient light for comfort. Directional floor lamps with soft white LED or incandescent bulbs can handle the former; white pillar candles of various heights work wonders for the latter. Twinkly fairy lights are also a great way to add warmth.
Hygge is often associated with similar color schemes to Scandinavian interior design: blond woods, soft whites and creams, and earth tones. The palette is meant to be soothing rather than energizing. Texture is important, too, and derives from mixing different kinds of fabrics and soft furnishings. Bringing elements from the outdoors inside, evergreen branches, or cut vines for decoration, for example, or using raw edge wood furniture, can also contribute to the hygge atmosphere.
Although it has been co-opted for the purposes of marketing consumer and design goods, hygge isn't really about buying stuff. Sure, a woolly blanket may make you feel good but not as good as being present and grateful for the blessings in your life. Create a comfortable and warm environment for the rooms of your home, but don't forget to fill it with the people and pursuits you love best. That's what living with hygge is really about.