In Norwegian, the word is koselig. In Dutch it’s gezellig. In Swedish? Mysa. But perhaps the most popular term for the movement that’s swept in from the north and can best be summed up as mindfully creating a cozy atmosphere in your home is the Danish hygge. Pronounced HOO-gah, the dedication to a warm, comfortable space has become a full-on global phenomenon. (So much so that it even inspired Denmark to apply to have the word added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list, alongside yoga from India and flamenco from Spain.)
And though traditionally the concept is embraced most fervently in the winter months when the days get shorter and the snow flurries gather, that’s not to say that there isn’t a space for hygge year-round. With most of us sheltering in place—be it within an apartment in the city, a home in the suburbs, or a tucked-away cabin in the woods—there’s no better time to embrace the Nordic love affair with all things inviting to recharge the senses and create a relaxing routine.
Below, our top tips for mastering hygge living at a time when we can all use a little extra comfort.
The number one rule of the concept is to embrace all things that please the senses, touch key among them. There is no true hygge without soft textures, soothing shades, and plush textiles draped over, piled up, and scattered throughout the home. Hygge calls for soothing tones aimed at creating visual harmony—no single harsh color should overwhelm the eye or detract from the relaxed mood of a space. Whether you prefer cashmere, mohair finished off with soft braided fringe, or an oversize vintage cotton quilt, the goal is a sense of unmitigated coziness. Complete the setting with plush pillows, and don’t forget to outfit yourself in equally cozy fabrics. Whether your work-from-home outfit calls for buttons and zippers or an elastic waistband, a considered wardrobe swap to a post-work loungewear uniform is primed to set the right tone for a calm night.
Once you’ve cozied up, reach for the perfect brew. Hygge is all about warm, aromatic drinks. On colder, rainy evenings, this is the domain of mulled wine, neat whiskey, and steaming cups of tea. When the days are warm and long, homemade lemonade or a favorite cocktail can take their place. Central to the joy of a delicious drink is the routine of making one. Treat the time as a minute to breathe deeply and relax. Pick a favorite hearty mug or tumbler, and be mindful of the simple joy of pouring, stirring, and sipping.
With your tea (be it hot or iced) in one hand, it’s time to put down the phone that’s probably firmly still in the other. Hygge is fundamentally rooted in the idea of slow living—finding pleasure in the mundane. There’s no better time than the present to swap the frenzy of technology for connecting with the ones you love. And though we might all be social distancing, keeping in touch with friends and family (be it in person or virtually) is more important than ever. An easy way to bond and have fun? Go old school. Board games, puzzles, and coloring books are all perfect options.
Listening to the birds outside your window or the wind picking up is essential hygge. But that’s not to say the quiet Zen can’t be broken up with a thoughtfully edited playlist—particularly one with a slow tempo and elegant instrumentals. Putting aside the modern tech takes things to a whole new level. If you have an old record player stashed away deep in the attic, now is the time to dust it off and enjoy that one-of-a-kind crackle of needle on vinyl.
Finally, there’s no more iconic visual of hygge than a group of candles casting a warm glow. Bright, fluorescent bulbs are the enemy. Dim or, better yet, turn off overhead lights in favor of soft, diffused table or reading lamps. When setting up your candles, opt for an odd number, and vary the height of pillars, votives, and tapers to create balanced groupings. Since the aim is to leave them lit throughout the evening, unscented beeswax (which gives off the most beautiful honey glow and has the added benefit of cleaning the air as it releases negative ions) is a great choice.
So whether your preferred teacup is a chipped yard sale find or pulled from the special occasions–only china, at the heart of hygge is a celebration of home and all of the comforts it’s ready to offer. A cure to the hours of darkness embraced by the Danes for over two centuries, it’s uniquely equipped to shine a light.
- All images: © Ralph Lauren Corporation