Hygge has taken the world by monochromatic storm—but do you actually know what hygge means? Originating in Denmark, hygge is pronounced “HEW-guh” and refers to a feeling of quiet contentment and coziness. It’s derived from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being,” and the earliest known use of “hygge” came in the 1800s. However, the concept really took off in 2016, when explanations of hygge —and pictures of simple yet attractive Danish homes—took the world by storm.
Hygge is not just a design principle, but a mindset–one that extends both to your home’s decor and how you live your life. Whether or not you’re of Danish descent, you can cultivate a sense of hygge in your home by following the tips below. If you thought your home was cozy before, you’re about to seriously level up.
Take a look at any pictures of hygge-inspired homes and you’ll notice one common trend: There’s no clutter anywhere. For one, the Danes dislike waste, which includes extraneous physical objects. The average house in Europe is also smaller than the average house in America, so Danes have less space in which to store things. All this translates into a lack of clutter. Before you hygge your home, go through everything and figure out what you don’t use anymore. Donate it or give it to a friend who you know will use it. If you’re a creative type, you might also be able to give it a new purpose–artistic, functional or otherwise.
That being said, hygge is not about throwing everything out and stripping your home life down to the bare essentials. If you have an object that’s meaningful to you, such as your grandmother’s china or a piece of furniture from your parents, then by all means should you keep that, and even make it a focal point of the room. If you don’t currently own any objects like this, you can visit thrift stores to find furniture, rugs and other decor that already have a sense of history to them. Your home is supposed to feel personal, not like a sanitized room out of a catalog.
Bright colors are the antithesis of the hygge aesthetic. Most decor follows a monochrome palette based on greys, creams, tans and other neutrals. Some color palettes might introduce touches of other harmonious tonal shade, such as muted greens, blues or purples. These color palettes are soothing to the eye and make it easy to decorate, since everything is based around the same versatile shades. If you currently own a lot of bright fabrics for furniture, you might want to look into replacing or reupholstering them to fully embrace the hygge aesthetic.
Color isn’t the only aspect to choosing the right fabric when it comes to cultivating hygge. Choosing comfortable, cozy fabrics is an integral part of creating a space you want to be in: think soft knitted blankets, nubby upholstery on couches and sheepskin rugs. Basically, the fabric should be comfortable to the touch and make you want to wrap up in it. While hygge may involve a limited color palette, it calls for wide variety when it comes to fabric texture. These various textures really pop in the absence of different colors and help add both visual and tactile appeal to the space.
Tactile and visual appeal doesn’t stop with the fabric. You should incorporate a variety of textures across a wide range of objects. For example, you might put a glazed ceramic pot on top of a smooth wooden end table, or pair a rough linen lampshade with a polished stone base. In the bedroom, a chunky knit blanket can set off a smooth white bedspread, and in the bathroom sleek metal fixtures will contrast nicely with slate tile. Get creative and experiment with combining textures across different rooms.
Danes use the most candles of any country in Europe, and with good reason. This old school illumination makes for the best lighting for a hygge ambience. When clustered together, candles create a soothing, gently flickering light that won’t blind your eyes with brightness. It’s the perfect way to provide low lighting at home during dark winter nights. Plus burning scented candles will further contribute to an aura of peace and calm, and there’s nothing more hygge than that. Arrange several candles together to produce more light and create a focal point in the room.
Candles aren’t the only form of lighting these days, and sometimes a flickering flame just can’t provide enough illumination. That’s why hygge is about embracing soft light in all its forms. Natural light is the best way to achieve this, so pull open your curtains and raise the blinds to let the sunlight in. If you don’t get a lot of sunlight in your home, or you need more illumination at night, lamps with lower temperature light bulbs are an excellent fix. These light bulbs provide softer, less harsh light that won’t hurt your eyes as much. If you want to make the light even softer, choose lamps with shades instead of opting for the exposed bulb look.
Bringing the outside in is another core concept of hygge. This design principle can take many forms, from a bouquet of wildflowers to a small potted plant to a hand-crafted oak table. In fact, plants are an excellent way to add a pop of color to your aesthetic and introduce elements from the natural world. If you’re selecting potted plants that you plan to keep around a while, opt for houseplants or succulents that are mostly green in color. This will follow the hygge color scheme and keep you from introducing too many new hues at once.
If you like books, you’re going to love hygge. Danes are big readers, and books often feature prominently in their homes. After all, reading is an excellent pastime for winter nights when it’s too cold to go out. Books also make a fantastic addition to hygge decor, so if you’ve always wanted your bookshelves to be front and center, now’s your chance. Make sure to install plenty of shelves so you can display your books in a clean, uncluttered way. Overflowing shelves are definitely not very hygge.
There’s nothing better than curling up next to the fire on a cold winter’s night. If you have a fireplace, making it the focal point of the room is absolutely a hygge move. Orient your furniture so that it faces towards the fireplace, and clear any obstructions sitting in front of the fireplace so they don’t catch flames when you stoke the fire. Even if you don’t have a fireplace in your home, you can practice hygge outside around a firepit or campfire. In a pinch, you can always cue up a video of a roaring fire on your TV or laptop and pretend it’s the real deal.
Many Danish homes feature a nook that’s perfect for curling up in with a warm blanket, a good book and a steaming cup of tea. Evaluate your living area and see if there’s any space that you can convert into your very own nook. It can be as simple as a chair in the living room, or you can get more creative with spaces like unused closets or window seats. Fill the nook with things that make you happy: scented candles, a comfortable throw pillow, a cute potted plant. If you prefer to do something besides sitting and reading, you can turn the nook into a workspace instead—as long as it’s something that brings you meaning and fulfillment.
Not all current design trends are anti-hygge. The muted color palettes that are in right now are a good example of how modern design trends and hygge can intersect. While the hygge aesthetic may be minimalist in some ways, especially when it comes to color, it’s not supposed to look cold or uninviting. And unfortunately, modern furniture often embodies just those traits. If your couch looks like it might stab you if you sit on it, that’s not hygge. Instead, look for comfortable, well-made furniture that practically begs you to take a seat, and test drive in the store if you can to make sure that it’s really as soft as it looks.
Making the bedroom as cozy as can be is a big focus in hygge. This starts with investing in a comfortable mattress and then covering it with high quality sheets, plenty of comforters and blankets and lots of cushy pillows—all in a calming color palette, of course. If light keeps you up at night, get some blackout curtains that you can open up during the day to get that all-important natural light. Who knows? The calming nature of hygge might even help your sleep in the long run. And if lazing around in bed isn’t comfort and contentment, we don’t know what is.
Hygge doesn't stop at the bedroom and bathroom. Your kitchen also deserves the hygge treatment. The kitchen can be one of the hardest areas in your house to keep organized, especially if you cook a lot or if you have a small kitchen. Go through the kitchen like you did the rest of the house and get rid of anything you don’t use. Shelves, cabinets, islands and other forms of storage are your friend here, and you might want to consider investing in some organizational solutions such as bins to keep things out of sight.
If the bathroom is the last place that comes to mind when you think of cozy, then you haven’t seen a true hygge bathroom. Sure, bathrooms are made of hard, easy-to-clean surfaces out of necessity, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn the bathroom into a space of luxury and coziness. Get some plush bath mats, soft towels and a cushy bathrobe to help soften up the space. Light some candles and sink into an indulgent bubble bath whenever you have the time. Even if you can’t relax for a long soak, you can still use scented soap and soft washcloths to turn even a quick shower into self-care. It’s easier than you think to make your home smell like a spa.
Yes, spending an evening by yourself on the couch with a good book is very hygge. But so is welcoming loved ones into your home and entertaining them in a space that you’ve intentionally filled with things that you love. Arrange the furniture to face each other to encourage conversation, and fill the dining room with personal touches like handwritten name cards. Hygge is all about the simple pleasures in life, and some of those pleasures include gathering for a family dinner or having a wine night with your closest friends.
If you’ve always wanted your home to be cozier, hygge is an excellent thing to pursue. Follow these 16 tips to embrace hygge in your own home.
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