Last summer, my husband and I were fortunate enough to go on a three-week vacation in Europe, which included 18 days of cruising from Barcelona, Spain to Copenhagen, Denmark. We spent several days visiting Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Norway in numerous cities: both large like Amsterdam, Bilbao, and Oslo, to quaint small towns like Warnemunde, Germany and Frederica, Denmark. This trip was one of the highlights of my life. One thing the tour guides mentioned again and again was the practice of the Hygge philosophy and way of life in the Scandinavian countries.
So, what is Hygge you ask? That’s what I wanted to know, too! First, Hygge is pronounced hoo-gah and is the Danish word for coziness. Second, there is no right way to Hygge, but it is more of a feeling that is evoked by creating a mood and lifestyle. The best description is a kind of a Nordic Zen and can be anything from having a small coming together of friends in the winter, to lighting a candle. It is an ambience, a sense of togetherness, and a feeling of overall coziness, and the Hygge trend is catching on in both home design and the wellness community.
Some of the ways you can create a Hygge home this winter are easy and are quite possibly things you already instinctively do during the dark cold months. But just in case, below are some of the ways you can bring a Hygge home sensibility into your life, and hopefully along with it, a sense of warmth, peace and calm while we await the first stirrings of spring.
Light a Fire – There is something so soothing about having a fire burning in the fireplace. If you’ve ever gone camping, you know the feeling of staring into a fire and enjoying the mesmerizing quality of a crackling logs. No words are necessary; just a time to enjoy the cozy feeling that a fire brings. In the same way that staring at the ocean and allowing the sounds of the waves lull you into a sense of peace and calm, having a fire burning will create Hygge in the winter.
Light a Candle – Whether you have a fireplace or not, burning candles also evokes a feeling of Hygge. Candles create an environment of warmth and comfort, and if scented, can also appeal to the sense of smell using aromatherapy. I happen to be one of those people who love the idea of candles, but don’t remember to light them often enough. Since trying to create a Hygge home for us this winter, I have been making a point of lighting them more often, typically in whatever room I’m in, the kitchen during the day and the living room at night. We have really enjoyed this, so if you aren’t in this habit, I encourage you to light some of your candles to bring more Hygge into your winter home.
Make soothing meals – Those wintertime favorites such as hearty soups and casseroles are called comfort foods for a reason. They provide warmth, comfort and often a reminder of our childhood when our mothers would make these winter dishes. We are a soup loving family and here are some easy recipes that I have blogged about in the past. What’s Cooking? Butternut Squash Soup… and A Tale of Two Soups and my personal favorite, What’s Cooking: Pasta Fagioli Soup…. Make one of these or another family favorite this winter. It will make your house smell divine, and create another aspect of Hygge.
Invite friends and family over –Gathering together is one of the hallmarks of Hygge and one of the ways it helps those who have little hours of winter daylight get through the season. Even though we
Bring out the throws and blankets – Another way to bring Hygge into your home is through cozy throws or blankets. In the winter, I bring a green bamboo ladder from our Hawaii home days, into the living room and drape it with various throws so they are always at the ready. The same thing could be achieved with a large basket, overflowing with cozy blankets or throws. Even with our modern central heat, houses can feel drafty when the temperatures fall. Having even a lightweight throw over your legs can really make you feel enveloped in a warm hug. Just add a good movie and some popcorn and you’re all set to Hygge!
Keep reading material at the ready – We love to have baskets of books we are waiting to read in the living room, as well as magazines to peruse while we are enjoying the fire. My husband loves his Wooden Boat magazines, where he drools over all of the pictures, and I love a good home decorating book or magazine for inspiration. Bringing some of our reading material out of the bookcases and keeping them neatly corralled in a basket makes them part of the decor and, better yet, helps us make reading a priority.
One of the things I love most about traveling is learning more about other cultures. One thing that was referred to over and over in the Scandanavian countries was their priority on having a good work/life balance. There is no sense of pride in being part of the rat race that some cultures do. Rather, they cherish time at home, in nature, and most of all with their family and friends. Making your home a sanctuary goes a long way towards providing a respite from daily work and having a Hygge home helps to achieve that balance that many of us need.
If you are inspired to create a Hygge home this winter, I hope I have given you some ideas on how you can follow the northern Europeans and incorporate this cozy lifestyle into your own home. Most of these things won’t cost much of anything, and what better way to get through these cold days than by enjoying a savory meal with loved ones by the warm glow of a fire, with candles burning, great conversation, and a throw wrapped draped over your lap? I think the Scandinavians are really on to something!