Calm, homely, warm and cocooning - in times like these, what more could you ask of a home? The Danish word “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah) encapsulates all of this, and has been something of a national manifesto in Denmark in recent years. Thanks to its focus on both wellbeing and good design, its popularity has gone global. The good news is that in just a few, relatively easy steps, you can overhaul your home to make it more hygge.
“A hygge home is one where comfort and calm are core,” says the award-winning interiors blogger and stylist Reena Simon, whose book Scandi Rustic (co-authored with Rebecca Lawson) is something of a bible to hygge's design philosophy. It places hygge beyond being an interior design trend, and instead shows how to make it a way of life.“Hygge embraces nature and appeals to all your senses - so your design mantra should be about comfort, calm and wellbeing.”
But before you leap in, cautions Pia Edberg, the Canadian author of The Cozy Life with Hygge, think about what kind of hygge you are: “Hygge means different things to different people,” she explains. “For one person, it could mean clean and minimalist, for others it could be being surrounded by soft furnishings and sentimental knick-knacks.”
To work that out whether you're a modern farmhouse kind of vibe or something more pared back she recommends closing your eyes, visualizing your dream cozy home in detail, and writing it all down in a journal. Then you're ready for your seven-day "be more hygge" overhaul.
The 7 step guide to how to make your home more Hygge
1. SWITCH UP YOUR COLOR PALETTE
As potentially your biggest commitment to hygge - since you’ll need to get the paint brushes out - this stage is best done first. “Hygge suits a warm and neutral color palette,” explains Reena - think whites, beiges and taupes, which happen to key in color trends right now.
Not keen on a major redecoration? Some new throws or sofa cushions in this color palette will still make a big difference. The key is to go for cable knit or mohair, anything that feels cosy.
And to add extra texture and warmth, Reena recommends painting walls in limewash paint, “so that it’s not flat”. Reena advises color-blocking with other tonal colors: “Go for a similar color throughout but with a slight tonal shift - it makes everything feel less flat and gives more flow and harmony to the home.”
These neutral colors are also renowned for their calming properties, notes Pia (as are greens and browns, she adds) - perhaps hardly surprising when they occur in nature.
2. Light a fire
“A fireplace is quintessentially hygge,” explains Pia. With any luck, you already have an existing fireplace or woodburner: if so, “Use it as much as possible,” she advises. “Don’t just let it just sit there as decoration.”
If there is no fireplace, simply place tall candles in candlesticks and start lighting them earlier than you might ordinarily. Mid-afternoon onwards creates a real feeling of hygge.
Going bigger, Reena advises investing in a log-burning stove with the biggest possible viewing window: “You want to be able to see as much of the logs and fire as possible,” she explains.
Even the cut logs waiting to be burnt function well as a hygge-inspired display - consider homing them either in a gorgeous log basket, or stack them “in a relaxed fashion”, says Reena. “You don’t want it to look too formal.”
3. HYGGE-IFY THE LIGHTING
“Getting the lighting right will have a major impact on your day-to-day mood,” explains Reena. Of course, this is something the Danes know all too well, thanks to their very short and gloomy winter days. What’s key, she adds, is ensuring “you have enough ambient lights radiating enough warm, soft hues.”
To warm up the atmosphere, she recommends layering your table lamps and wall lamps (which should be fitted with warm LED bulbs or one of the best smart light bulbs). “Warm light calms and relaxes us, while white light is energizing and active,” adds Pia. “Decorate with lots of candles and twinkly lights.”
If there’s an abundance of ceiling lighting you might want to consider decommissioning it (or at least keeping it switched off) as it’s not very hygge, says Reena: “Pendant lights can feel more artificial - you don’t want to feel like you’re in an office.”
4. USE TACTILE MATERIALS TO CREATE ATMOSPHERE
If considering a proper overhaul, you might want to switch up to wooden flooring, or cladding your walls in timber. “Think about your walls, floors and ceilings as a way to introduce more texture and make everything more warm,” says Reena. But you can still create a significant impact by skipping to the next level and introducing hygge-friendly textures in your furniture and furnishings - for example, linen, boucle wool and sheepskin. “You’re looking for fabrics that appeal to your senses,” she explains, “that make you just want to reach out and touch them.”
Pia recommends filling your home with “lots of fluffy blankets, pillows and places to curl up”. Furniture, she adds, should also have a softer, rounded look: “Avoid anything that looks or feels sharp or jarring,” she says. “
In living room feng shui, these can cause us to feel stressed and may even bring about bad luck or illness.” Pia advises striking a balance between cozy and calm - for examplr, soft, fluffy blankets and warm knits, and smoother, quieter items.
5. BRING NATURE INDOORS
Nature is a key ingredient to a hygge-inspired interior, thanks to its calming powers and that instinctive joy we derive from being connected with it. “Surrounding yourself with natural elements has a healing effect on mood and calms a restless mind,” explains Pia. She recommends decorating your home with lots of plants, rocks, crystals and wood.
It needn’t cost anything, adds Reena. “You can forage for things from your garden or a walk - I love sculptural branches or a floral display.” Consider items that could sit in a vase or on a window sill, or perhaps something more ambitious - Reena likes to hang floral installations over the dining table from the ceiling.
Whatever the scale, she recommends arranging the objects “as they would occur in nature - think organic shapes and imperfections, because hygge is very natural and informal.” Bringing the outdoors indoors connects you to the different colors of the seasons, she adds. “Your vignette will speak of that time of year.”
6. Get personal
Hygge is all about conjuring those warm fuzzies, so adding personal style elements that make you happy is a big part of it. “Be sure to include pieces that hold emotional value and tell a story,” says Pia - for example, mementos of your favorite childhood moments or travels abroad.
Or, she adds, “Buy things that remind you of something beautiful such as an antique wardrobe because you loved reading The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe as a child. Miss your family? Hang up more photos of your loved ones. All these objects will help your home feel warm and welcoming rather than cold and soulless.”
7. LAYER WITH SCENT
Not only does fragrance help to set the tone in a room (be that calming, fresh or warm and wintry), but our olfactory response also creates a direct link to the emotional center of our brains - pick the right scent and it can lower our stress levels and positively influence our mood.
Scents are also a really easy way to bring hygge philosophy into the home. “I love to bring the smell of outdoors, of nature into my house,” explains Reena. "In winter months, that’s fir, pine and bergamot, and in summer, it's jasmine and peony" - but of course scent is hugely personal. Reena recommends using candles, diffusers and room sprays. Or of course, if you have access, you could use sprigs or bouquets of the real thing.
Scandi Rustic: Creating a cozy and happy home by Rebecca Lawson and Reena Simon, Amazon
Quoted throughout this piece, author Reena Simon knows how to add hygge to your home. This coffee table design book continues the theme, with plenty of ideas for making a haven that's full of heart.
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Fleur Britten is a well-respected journalist who for years was the Senior Features Editor at Sunday Times Style. She is known as one of the smartest lifestyle journalists around, revered for being able to decode trends and report on new zeitgeists as they happen. She now writes for the Telegraph, Livingetc, Vogue, The Times, Harper's Bazaar and the Guardian.
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