Finding hygge in your home
The Danish term hygge doesn't directly translate to a word in English, but it's a popular concept throughout Scandinavian Europe. Often described as a cozy feeling that brings to mind comfort and finding joy in a moment, hygge can be a thing you do, a description of an event or an interior design style. "It's kind of a system of contentment, from how you organize to how you see the world," says Stephanie Pedersen, author of "American Cozy: Hygge-Inspired Ways to Create Comfort and Happiness."
Beyond a trend
Hygge has been on the radar of many Americans since 2016. While it might feel like a sensation that will quickly fade with other design trends, hygge evangelists disagree. After all, we're always striving for comfort in our homes, and hygge is the feeling we hope to find when enjoying the company of our closest friends and family. Alexandra Gove, owner of Hygge Life, a blog and online store as well as a shop and cafe in Avon, Colorado, explains that hygge is something you seek to cultivate throughout your day, week and year, rather than something you can accomplish by purchasing a few items. "It's not something cheap or commercial," she says. There are classic elements of hygge that can help you get there, however. Read on for decor ideas to help you create hygge in your home.
The right lighting is key to setting the mood for hygge and inspiring a cozy feeling. You don't want harsh overhead lighting, but you do want enough light that you can enjoy a book or play a board game with friends in the living room. In "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living," author Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, recommends lamps that produce a warm glow, creating "caves of light" throughout the home. While warm lighting is typically associated with older incandescent light bulbs, LED bulbs with a lower measurement on the Kelvin scale can achieve a similar look -- 2700 K to 3500 K offers a warmer lighting option compared to daylight.
Candles are considered key to creating hygge moments. While scented candles are popular in the U.S., consider unscented candles as well so you can light more at once without creating an overwhelming blend of smells. Once you've bought the candles, make sure to use them. "We hear from a lot of our customers that they have these cabinets full of candles, but they never light them, which is very contradictory to hygge," Gove says. Candles don't give off much heat, but their flames remind you of warmth, and they add to the overall atmosphere of calm and comfort in a room.
If you're looking to achieve hygge at home, don't neglect the fireplace if you have one. Wood-burning fireplaces help create an atmosphere with the natural smell of burning wood, but the warmth and atmospheric lighting of a gas-burning or electric fireplace can also do the job. Wiking notes that many Danes consider hygge the main reason to have a fireplace. While fireplaces in the U.S. are most often seen in older homes built when a fire helped heat the house, as much as 46% of new single-family houses sold in 2017 had at least one fireplace, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
If you're looking to make your home feel warm and cozy, it's important to start from the ground up. Cover hard floors with rugs to encourage guests to take off their shoes, sit on the floor and relax. Pedersen stresses that it's not necessarily about finding the perfect area rug to tie a room's color scheme together, but creating a more welcoming space. "Rugs read cozy -- even the ugly ones," she says. Layering rugs throughout your home is an excellent way to make it feel warmer as well. To help guests feel cozy and even more at home, Gove recommends placing a basket of slippers by the door.
We all love curling up on the sofa under a blanket, and that's a kind of hygge you should try to achieve. Keep soft throw blankets throughout the house to make them easy to grab. Gove recommends keeping baskets of blankets near spots where people like to cuddle up to help guests to feel at home. Soft materials aren't just for the couch, though. Promote a similar feeling around the dinner table when you're serving a meal to friends and family. Gove says to put "sheepskins on your dining chairs to make things more comfortable for a long dinner."
Just a couple throw pillows
Throw pillows are often a given when it comes to decorating rooms in the U.S., but Pedersen says they're not quite so plentiful in Europe. Especially if you find your pillows are taking up half the space on your couch, it's far more comfortable to do away with the unnecessary cushions. "When you get rid of the throw pillows, or at least some of them, you make room for people on the sofa," Pedersen says. After all, the focus of hygge is about achieving comfort with friends and family.
Items with a story
You're less likely to get a true hygge feeling at home if you rush out and buy all the softest items in one shopping spree. Gove stresses that it's not about matching a hygge design style you see in a magazine, but finding soft materials you like, picking colors that make you feel good and decorating with flea market finds that have a fun story to go along with them. In "The Little Book of Hygge," Wiking recommends waiting to buy big-ticket items, like chairs, until you've accomplished something, like getting a promotion and a raise. You may have the money saved already, but if you tie your purchase to a good experience, you'll remember that accomplishment whenever you sit in that chair.
Your good dishes
Instead of serving snacks or dinner on paper plates when you have people over, use your fine china and nice cocktail glasses. A casual gathering can still be a special event, after all. "We fully encourage that people use their nice things. You're risking things breaking, yes, but you're creating a special atmosphere with your family and friends," Gove says. Rather than collecting dust, your nice dishes carry the memories of a fun evening that you'll have in mind when you use them again.
Plenty of people like putting on music at home to help set a mood, but for hygge, Pedersen stresses that you want calming music. "Mozart is going to have a different effect on you than electronic music," Pedersen says. Even if you prefer other genres, classical is a good choice for background music that's not intrusive. That way, the music won't distract from the conversation. It can simply help set the mood, along with warm lighting, candles and blankets.
The right smells
You've got soft textures, pools of light throughout the room and music playing in the background. Next, stimulate your sense of smell by bringing in familiar scents. A wood-burning fireplace can do the trick, as well as a favorite scented candle or an evergreen tree around the holidays. An excellent way to achieve hygge with a personal touch is to cook comfort food, perhaps from a recipe that's been passed down in your family, such as the tomato soup your grandmother used to make. This will give your guests something to taste as well as smell, Gove says. "Those are the things that create that perfect hygge feeling," she says.
Close family and friends
A key aspect of hygge is to surround yourself with loved ones. Many hygge moments are best achieved when those loved ones are utilizing the blankets and slippers you've provided, eating food you've made and cozying up by the fire in the living room or playing a board game. Wiking recommends gathering a small group of people, maybe three or four total, for the best hygge moments to get that comfortable, casual feeling with those you feel closest to.
Hygge decor ideas for your home include:
-- Throw blankets.
-- Just a couple throw pillows.
-- Items with a story.
-- Your good dishes.
-- The right smells.
-- Close family and friends.