By LAURI GROSS
If someone enters your home and utters “HOO ga!” don’t be insulted or perplexed. It’s actually a compliment. Unless they had gas-station sushi for lunch, chances are, your visitor is commenting on your beautiful décor with a Dutch word spelled Hygge.
Considered a defining characteristic of Danish culture, and a popular lifestyle trend in the U.S., hygge is a quality of coziness and comfort that creates a feeling of contentment or well-being. A home decorated in the spirit of hygge is one in which the inhabitants enjoy an absence of frustration and appreciate the simple things.
CountryLiving.com calls it a national obsession with all things cozy and says hygge is one of the reasons Denmark always tops the list of the world’s happiest countries, despite their miserable winters.
If Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest – not to mention books on shelves in actual bookstores – are any indication, then it appears hygge definitely qualifies as a phenomenon.
First, some ground rules: Togetherness is important to the spirit of hygge so staring at your phone is out. TV is ok if it’s the watching-a-movie-with-friends kind of TV. Or, better yet, make chili and play board games with friends. Visions of living the hygge life often include snuggling indoors and that is definitely ok but hygge also means embracing the outdoors for chats by the firepit, or taking long walks, even in winter. Beware the fine line between embracing simplicity and feeling the need to purchase furniture and décor to make it look like you are embracing simplicity. Hygge enthusiasts say: appreciate what you have. (But that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a few things to live your best hygge life.)
Lighting is very important to hygge, and candles are a great first step. Danish homes are often festooned with candles, and having a fire in the fireplace is a big bonus. Hygge purists opt for plain white, unscented candles.
Comfort foods, warm drinks and blankets are all classic elements of hygge so, you’ll want to have these around to offer visitors.
Decorilla.com says hygge is a state of mind and you’ve achieved it if your home says, “I love to live here.” With your candles and fireplace lit, try stringing fairy lights across the mantle, or along a railing.
Most hygge experts feel that bright colors can be too distracting, and they instead opt for neutrals and shades of white to achieve a sense of calm. Display meaningful art and knickknacks such as your grandmother’s crystal bud vase, books that you love, family photos, or treasures from a favorite vacation. A cozy nook for reading is very hygge. Include a comfy chair and it’s even better if the nook has a view for gazing outdoors. Texture also plays a big role. Introduce it with warm wood, which adds a nice Scandinavian touch. Natural-fiber rugs are also perfect, as are hand-crocheted placements at the dining table. A bundle of white birch logs in a basket placed by the hearth or the front door puts your hygge good taste on display.
TheCultureTrip.com reminds hygge practitioners to include piles of pillows and blankets in the window seat or reading nook. And, in addition to wood elements, they suggest including leather and wool pieces for a textural nod to mother nature. Even the way you set a table can say hygge. TheCultureTrip.com experts suggest rustic earthenware for a casual gathering around comfort food, rather than anything formal. Add to the serenity of the space by hiding clutter in sleek, clever storage solutions. And don’t fret about perfection. It’s more about the sentimentality of an upcycled old chair, than about something without meaning.
The folks at RhythmOfTheHome.com take the texture mantra even further. They say texture creates a rich and satisfying feel, even in minimalistic surroundings. For instance, in addition to that cozy rug and wooden table, try an ottoman upholstered in silky fabric, a cashmere blanket and nubby baskets brimming with pine cones. Even the walls can contribute to the textural feel of a room with wallpaper or painting techniques that create a suede look.
Before you bask in your hygge, you should know that it’s much easier to enjoy a home with a hygge vibe if you feel the part. So, you might need to go change into something fluffy.