Hygge: an attitude that can transform any space

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If it wasn’t for Ikea coming to the UK, we’d probably be none the wiser.

As well as the Scandinavian-designed furniture, Ikea seduced us all with their shaggy rugs, throws and blankets, loads of cheap candles and, most of all, those delicious cinnamon buns to have with our coffee!

What, we started to ask, was all this about?
The answer, of course, was Hygge: a word which literally means warm and cosy, but really encompasses so much more. When you live in a part of the world that’s dark for almost half the year, you develop a love for creating spaces which are warm and welcoming, that lets people relax together.

A lot of people outside of Scandinavia think that Hygge means small, enclosed spaces and that you can’t achieve this in larger spaces, for example, an industrial warehouse conversion cannot achieve this surely? Nothing could be further from the truth!

So much more than candles in the evening or the right cosy setting, it’s making the environment inviting and warm for the cold, dark winter months.

From bare to Hygge: it’s all about creating an intimate space.

Creating Hygge is to choose a focal point in your property – in Norwegian households that’s usually the kitchen, specifically the table. You put candles, little decorative figurines, table mats, dim the ceiling lights, have a ceiling lamp which can be dimmed too, and hey, presto – any room will create the atmosphere you need to gather around the table for Hygge. Add the smell of freshly brewed coffee and perhaps some of those amazing cinnamon buns right out of the oven and you have perfection.

Blankets scattered around the house, candles and dimmable lights everywhere, rugs on your floor, softening the coolness and the room itself.

You can even extend the look outside by simply stringing up some fairy lights. The important thing is to make your home look welcoming to visitors or people passing by.

But is that all there is to it? We asked some people from different backgrounds, living both in Scandinavia and elsewhere what Hygge means to them. First up is Adriana, a Mexican living in Oslo.

“Hygge here in Scandinavia is so much more than candles in the evening or the right cosy setting. It goes beyond curling up on the sofa before a crackling fire with an excellent book, woollen socks on and a cup of Earl Grey. It’s the complete lack of stress, the sense of deep, inner wellbeing. Hygge is simple comfort which does away with all pretence and anxiety.”

Author Barbara Madsø-Vuegen, who moved to Norway from Belgium with her Norwegian Husband says: “In our house, Hygge means playing games on a Friday night, discovering new recipes with our sons in the kitchen, reading bedtimes stories and goodnight cuddles under heavy down blankets. We curl up like a pile of puppies on the sofa to watch a movie, or we just hold another without speaking when there is sadness. Though Hygge is a feeling, the decoration is specific to Scandinavia too.

“The moment the dark winter months arrive, you’ll see candles placed outside, lights turned on in the windows and fairy-lights hung up outside so they can become snow-covered when that time arrives.

“We like to create Hygge indoors too and do it differently since we moved here. On winter mornings, to combat the dark outside, I place candles on the breakfast table instead of turning on big ceiling lights, while the light-coloured tablecloth creates a cosy setting for my teens to wake up to. I hang up light-filled glass globes behind the windows, and thick winter blankets get dragged out of the closet to cover the sofa. We seldom use our ceiling lights, instead, we brighten the house with candles (electrical ones these days) to create a feeling of intimacy.

“Instead of preparing individual cups of tea, I use the old teapot from my husband’s childhood home, and the cookies we bake get spread out on my grandmother’s decorative tea-plates. I keep matters simple to emphasise the quality of comfort and home because you’re trying to achieve simple harmony without it being a big deal; that’s really all you need to make your home Hyggelig.

“As much as many stores around the world try to market the concept of ‘Hygge’ in the form of ornaments, candles, foods and lord knows what else, you can’t purchase true Hygge. Norway’s view on Hygge taught me to consider sensations and moments on a more profound level. To seek beyond the material, to what is already there. Because in the end, Hygge is home.”

A kitchen made for entertaining: fill this with friends and good food, and the Hygge will flow.
Hanne Eskebjerg is from Denmark and now lives in the UK.

“A Hygge promoting atmosphere involves dimmed lightening – lots of small sources are best, candles are a plus. Cosy furnishing and a crocheted blanket made by your grandma helps!”

Guri left Norway a long time ago, and now lives in Eastbourne with her family:
“To me, in my home, I find the best way to set a Hygge mood is to turn the lights down, so I made sure I had dimmer switches fitted everywhere. We also love lots of candles and nice smells, with comfy seats not too far away as Hygge is also about contact with family and people you love.”

So there you have it; whilst there’s much Hygge to be enjoyed in front of the fire, you can also create it in a large communal space like a kitchen; a few candles, some good things to eat and drink, and friends to share them with. Skål!

The kitchen, without doubt, was the centre of creation, all things revolved about it; it was the pediment that sustained the temple. ~ Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

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