Instagram is awash with nearly 1.5 million tagged ‘hygge’ moments depicting baked goods, fireside scenes, numerous cups of coffee and the odd selfie. Publishers are capitalising on our newfound love for the word with stocking filled sized books on ‘how to hygge’ and retailers are rebranding garments from cashmere socks, candles and loose teas as the ultimate ‘hygge’ accessory.
Yet what exactly does the Nordic word ‘hygge’ mean and how does it apply to the home?Our creative content editor Camilla is half- Danish and low and behold, even appeared on Denmark’s largest national TV show last year to discuss the UK’s adoption of the word ‘hygge.’ Below, she has selected five pointers on the her frustration at the mis-education of hygge;
1) Firstly, hygge isn’t all about cashmere. Nor is it about loose tea, an abundance of candles or warm socks. Hygge can’t be distilled into a single item or accessory. Hygge is too big and too transient to be defined by a single ‘thing.’
2) Hygge isn’t literally translatable, yet did you know that the word ‘hug’ is derived from Hygge. Not cozy. Hug, the way you feel wrapped up in that moment of heartfelt closeness – that’s hygge.
3) Hygge can’t be distilled into an instagram upload. You can’t really capture a ‘hygge’ moment since I would argue that it’s only on reflection or in the present second that you realise you’re even having a hyggelig (did I just throw you?) moment.
4) Being alone, being present, that’s altogether a different meaning. I would argue that hygge has to involve others since it’s truly about connection – we’re social creatures, after all.
5) Hygge’s association with cinnamon buns, slices of cake and coffee is slightly confusing, though I’m all for an appreciation of a baked good. Food is a fundamental way to bring people together so 99% of the time it does feature alongside hygge but it’s not so much about the actual food; it’s about the feeling behind the food.
So, how exactly does ‘hygge’ apply to the home? Having a healthy, happy home environment with furniture, art and objects you really love will lay the foundation for a space that feels intrinsically homely and ‘hygge’. Think about texture and natural fabrics in your home space that will bring the elements of nature inside. Robust leather chairs and rattan benches, combined with sheepskin throws and wool rugs are tactile pieces that ‘ground’ the feeling of a room because of their natural states.
Forget trends, as Danes are notoriously design-savvy, choosing to invest in collectors’ classics that will live alongside their changing lives. It’s why every home in Denmark looks effortlessly stylish, even if it’s a small city apartment with a limited budget. Nothing looks too ‘done’ as the authentic designs and emphasis on good quality pieces appear to look timeless. Most Danes inherit classic pieces within their families so it’s not unusual to find original Hans Wegner wishbone chairs and Paul Henningsen lamps in most homes.
Lighting can dramatically change the feeling within a room and Danes invest a lot of time and effort in creating the right lighting atmosphere inside. Think reading lamps in small corners and floor lamps behind larger pieces of furniture. Ceiling pendants add pools of light above dining tables which adds a warming effect.
Taking pride in your home will translate into a good feeling overall – which, some would argue, really is the definition of ‘hygge’. It’s about feeling comfortable with where you’re at, having your friends over for dinner, sharing a bottle of wine, laughing, chatting and feeling present. Danes are notoriously attuned to the seasons and ‘slow-down’ around the Christmas period to enjoy time with family and friends through simple pleasures such as a long walk in the forest, baking cakes, playing games and putting their feet up. Perhaps this is the most important aspect of hygge -overall, it’s a state of mind and something to hold on to over the dark, long winters.