Feeling a little stuck at home? People in the far north of Scandinavia hundreds of years ago felt the same way! To counter their circumstances, they focused on making the home a comfortable and peaceful haven, a place they would enjoy being for a while. This spirit lives on today in the form of the Danish concept, hygge.
These 8 principles are the guides we use to create cozy and enjoyable experiences together.
Picture yourself in the far North of Scandinavia a few hundred years ago. With winters that felt too long, and days that felt too short, families took refuge in the home. Being stuck in your house for an extended period of time without central heating or Disney+ seems like a hard pill to swallow! To counter their circumstances, they focused on making the home a comfortable and peaceful haven, a place they would enjoy being for a while. This spirit lives on today in the form of the Danish concept, hygge.
What is hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) and why should you care? To put it simply, hygge is creating a feeling of coziness and contentment through life’s simple pleasures. Hygge helps alleviate the stress of the day and that feeling of being trapped inside, whether enduring a long winter or surviving a pandemic. The origin of the word hygge traces back to an old Norwegian word hugge, which means to embrace, or as we call it, hug. Do you see what we’re getting at here? Think of how you feel when someone you care deeply about gives you a loving hug. There’s a flood of warmth, relief, and comfort. The purpose of hygge is to hug your soul, and make it last for more than a moment.
While there are many means by which you can achieve hygge, we want to share eight ways that we create these special moments for our family.
Hygge thrives on a warm and inviting atmosphere, called hyggekrog (hygge nook). Check out our hyggekrog pinterest board! While it isn’t hard to find restaurants and cafes that have the right feel, sometimes there’s no place like home. If you’re on the road, the key to finding the right environment is to try to feel as cozy and peaceful as if you were at home.
Shaping our hyggekrog involves having a clean space. For those with kids or roommates, keeping everything clean all the time can seem ridiculous. Rather than wishing the impossible, we try to focus on keeping just one room tidy. We’ve made it a point to make our family room the main hyggekrog of our home. It also doubles as our playroom though, so it can be quite the task to keep it tidy! We’ve found balance in doing a quick clean up in the evening rather than combating clutter throughout the day. Sometimes though, our mudroom is the only clutter free place in our house and we find ourselves in there more often than usual. Your hyggekrog might be a different spot in your home depending on the day and that’s a fun way to change it up!
Decoration is important in forming your hyggekrog. You don’t need expensive Danish design, just a few meaningful pieces that make you happy. Think family photos, drawings from children, work from your favorite artist, books, family heirlooms, travel mementos, and knick knacks. The important thing is that these pieces tell a story. We try to avoid an excess amount of things in our hygge space. Over cluttering dampens our hygge. Along with meaningful items, we find that it is important to have pillows and blankets, which have a warming effect on a space and your body!
Another important factor is relaxing music. We’re not saying elevator music, unless you’re into that sort of thing, but something you enjoy that doesn’t get your adrenaline pumping. Music can be such a powerful factor for hygge that it might be all you need. Some of our most hygge moments were on road trips driving at night, with the kids asleep in the back, and the right song on the radio.
Although this topic fits under ambience, it’s important enough to be its own section. Light is so important to hygge that in Scandinavia some designers have solidified themselves as design icons solely based on their lamp designs. Poul Henningsen spent an entire decade in his attic perfecting the PH lamp, which he presented in 1925. This lamp diffuses light with layered shades that disperse the light just right while hiding the bulb itself. The most important thing about this lamp is that it brings light from the white end of the spectrum over to the red. White and blue light tell your brain to be active. With hygge, you want to slow down and relax.
We were once having dinner by a large window as the sun was setting. The light was warm and dim, but visibility was still high. It was beautiful. Then someone turned on the harsh fluorescent lights. It was like daggers in our eyes! In contrast, one of the most hygge restaurants we’ve ever had the pleasure to eat at was in Copenhagen. The light was low, and was littered with PH lamps. It was wonderful.
But you don’t need a $1,000 PH Lamp to find hygge! There is a better, and more economical source of light that even the danes themselves use as the go to. Candles. There is a reason that a candlelight dinner is the quintessential romantic moment. Candlelight and sunsets have similar levels of kelvin, and both do a wonderful job of enhancing hygge. If you don’t have candlesticks, tea lights are a great way to go. As a bonus, they are cheap and don’t make a mess with their drippings. One word of caution, for the benefit of your health, please air out the room after blowing out candles.
One step up from candles, the ultimate source of hygge light, is the fireplace. You don’t have to be lucky enough to have a functional fireplace in your home for this one either. Though not as convenient, a camp fire will do the trick too. When we go camping, we usually try to find sites that allow fires. Nothing beats cooking dinner over open flame, and then of course the mandatory roasting of marshmallows that follows.
The bottom line is to use low, warm light and rely on multiple sources of small lights, rather than one big harsh light.
Hygge is all about slowing down. We live in a fast paced world, and we can’t help but constantly think about the many to do’s we have for our family, house, and business. When you deliberately enter your hyggekrog, leave all of that behind. Be mindful, be in the moment.
We used to hate winter. It was that long and dreary season, with a brief oasis of the holidays, that was overall unpleasant to endure. Then we learned to look for the good in situations. What good did winter bring? For us it was hot cocoa, soup, sweaters, wool socks, snow shoeing, and skiing. We learned to enjoy our home more and not just feel stuck. We learned to enjoy being outside more and not just feel cold. Don’t just see the bad during a bleak winter or isolation and uncertainty during a frightening pandemic, see the good. Celebrate each season that life brings. We’re not saying to ignore all things negative, just don’t focus on them, especially during your moment of hygge. Winter is still longer than we would like for it to be, but having a better attitude towards it helps us enjoy it more.
One key we’ve found most helpful in being present is to unplug. Too often we’ve sat down for a nice relaxing evening with the intent to look up just one thing on our phones, then an hour later we realize it’s time for bed already. Put your phone down, close your laptop, and turn off the television. All that blue light kills the mood anyway. Unless of course the main activity of your hygge night is watching a movie, then at least light some candles too.
While hygge can easily be accomplished alone, it is best enjoyed together. Hygge should be an intimate experience with family and close friends.
While the obvious thing to do is invite people into your home, sometimes that’s just not an option. One alternative can be a date night in with your significant other after the kids go to bed. Or a family hygge night and story time before bedtime to help everyone wind down for the night. If you find yourself in a situation where you are separated from loved ones, you could break the no phone rule and call or facetime someone. Connection goes a long way with hygge.
There is something calming about nature, the sounds, the smells, and the sights. We love taking walks to a nearby creek and surrounding ourselves with trees and mountain views, and listening to the birds sing. But who says you can only experience nature outside? Bring the outdoors in! Fill your house with plants and flowers. Decorate with pine cones, chestnuts, and even twigs. Photographs or artwork of natural places work too. This is another great way to combat winter blues.
While walking through the woods can feel very hygge, hearing thunder from an impending storm might make you feel vulnerable. But a thunderstorm while you’re snuggled on the couch with your favorite blanket? That’s what we call an hygge amplifier. For some the quality of hygge is improved when there is an element of controlled danger.
In order to feel hygge to its fullest, you have to be comfortable, and clothing plays a big role in that. What articles of clothing are just so cozy that you feel happier just by putting them on? In Denmark, a person’s favorite pair of comfy pants are called an hyggebukser. Think sweatpants or yoga pants, wool socks, slippers, and soft sweaters. It doesn’t matter if you wouldn’t wear it out in public, wearing it at home is what matters.
Just because we place an emphasis on relaxing doesn’t mean we sit around our hyggekrog just staring out the window, though sometimes after a hard day with our kids that is all we can manage. Pass the time doing something you look forward to. Have a nice chat, knit a sweater (double hygge points), read a story, play a game, watch a movie, make crafts, or bake a treat. The point of hygge after all is to have a nice time.
Hygge for us is enhanced by food. A cup of hot cocoa or herbal tea, a warm chocolate chip cookie or cinnamon roll are among our favorites. This isn’t limited just to treats, sometimes a nice dinner can be the right move.
While you could pre-make food or order in, we feel that making it ourselves often adds to the hygge. For example, our favorite hygge treat is a kanelsnegle, which is a Danish recipe cinnamon roll (literally translated to cinnamon snail). We find it much more rewarding to make them from scratch. Don’t be fooled, we just buy cinnamon rolls most of the time, but it’s a special treat when we take the time to do it ourselves.
Our ultimate hygge fantasy is to be snuggled up on a couch as a family with hot cocoa and kanelsnegle by a fire, in a mountain cabin at dusk, with a thunderstorm outside for good measure. If that doesn’t sound like a dream to you, that’s okay! Your version of hygge can and should be tailored to you. These eight principles are just the guides we use to create cozy and enjoyable experiences together.
- Ambience: create a cozy and serene environment.
- Light: use light that is warm and low.
- Presence: slow down and be in the moment.
- Togetherness: connect with loved ones.
- Nature: surround yourself with nature.
- Clothing: dress for the occasion, make yourself comfortable.
- Leisure: do what you enjoy.
- Cuisine: give in to your cravings.
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