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Hygge decor with kitten.

Hygge: What It Is And How To Incorporate It Into Your Home

Molly Grace5-Minute Read
February 26, 2020

If you still haven’t heard of hygge, you’re behind the times. The fun-sounding Danish word has been a self-care staple in the U.S. for several years now for lifestyle gurus trying to achieve simple, happy lives.

So, what is it, exactly? We’ll fill you in.

Hygge Pronunciation

Let’s get the confusion out of the way: “hygge” is pronounced “hoo-gah.”

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of “The Little Book of Hygge,” writes “To foreigners, Danish sounds like someone speaking German with a hot potato in their mouth.” However, hot potato mouth aside, this particular Danish word has sparked a global phenomenon surrounding the idea of bringing more contentment into one’s life and achieving long-term happiness.

What Is Hygge?

Many people say that “hygge” cannot be translated to a single English word. The closest interpretation would be the feeling of something being “cozy” or “homey.”

Liat Tzoubari, from Sevensmith, an ethical home decor company, puts it this way: “Hygge is not about having the perfect home or a specific style. Hygge is the Danish concept of feeling comfort, coziness, charm and joy.”

What Does Hygge Mean?

The feeling of hygge runs deep in Danish culture. Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world – for 2019 it earned the No. 2 spot in the World Happiness Report, just behind Finland.

Hygge, at its core, is a feeling. It can be brought on by enjoying the simple pleasures of life, like a warm drink on a rainy day or time spent relaxing with friends.

Hygge is not a lifestyle trend that requires you to buy lots of new things or go minimalist and get rid of all your earthly possessions. It’s the feeling you get when you’re wrapped up in a soft blanket with a candle flickering on the table next to you. Anyone can practice hygge as they are right now.

While “hygge” is often used as a noun or an adjective, it can also be used as a verb. For example, in Danish culture, you can hygge. Something can also be hyggelig (hygge-like), like a restaurant or an event.

10 Elements Of Hygge

According to “The Little Book of Hygge,” there are 10 elements in The Hygge Manifesto. You don’t need each of these to experience hygge, but the more you have, the more hyggeligthe situation or environment is. The elements are as follows:

Atmosphere

A hygge-like atmosphere has low, soft lighting. This is often achieved with lots of candles.

Presence

There’s an emphasis in hygge on being fully present while spending time with your loved ones. No phones, no computers, no distractions.

Pleasure

Hygge is about enjoying simple pleasures, like hot drinks, cakes, cookies and other sweet treats.

Equality

A hygge-like gathering makes sure no one person takes on too much of the talking or the responsibility over tasks. Everyone gets to share, and everyone helps one another – it’s “we” over “me.”

Gratitude

Those who practice hygge place focus on properly taking in each simple moment and appreciating it for what it is.

Harmony

Hygge encourages people to remember that they aren’t in competition with their loved ones and shouldn’t feel the need to boast about their accomplishments to earn more of their affection. At a hygge-like gathering, things just flow peacefully.

Comfort

In order to achieve hygge, you have to be comfy. Comfortable clothes and furniture and a cozy, relaxing environment are important.

Truce

At a hygge-like event, you don’t talk about divisive topics like politics. Table any arguments or sources of tension and enjoy the time you’re spending with your loved ones.

Togetherness

Hygge can be done alone, but it’s best in small groups. At hygge-like events, time should be spent building and strengthening your relationships with people whose company you enjoy.

Shelter

Ultimately, beyond the atmosphere and the treats, hygge is about feeling safe. You’re with people you trust in a place that feels peaceful and secure.

Ways To Add Hygge Decor In Your Home

The first thing to acknowledge is that hygge can take place anywhere; however, it’s most often done in the home. It can also be done at any time of year, but factoring in the importance of coziness, winter might be the perfect time for you to get started on your hygge journey. Here are a few things you can focus on to make your place more hygge-like.

Get Cozy

Get creative with how you incorporate hygge-like decor into your living space during the colder months. Think plush furniture, warm fur or polar fleece blankets, lots of fluffy knit accent pillows, and literally anything else that makes you want to cuddle up in front of a roaring fire.

The Danes prioritize coziness so much that having a nook or a “cozy corner” is common.

“The ‘hyggekrug,’ or cozy corner, is a cornerstone of hygge. Creating one in the bedroom creates a perfect little hygge oasis,” notes Jordan Zaplatosch, former public relations specialist with home furnishings company LuxeDecor, “Soft textiles, like a fur rug or blanket, with lush pillows creates a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation.”

Light The Candles

Candles are an almost necessary component of the hygge lifestyle. According to a study done by the Happiness Research Institute and published in “The Little Book of Hygge,” over 70% of Danes light candles at least once a week, and 28% light them every day. They’re not just lighting one candle, either, as 31% of people in Denmark tend to light more than five at a time.

Maureen Calamia of Luminous Spaces, a feng shui consulting and training business, says, “The most important thing in hygge is the lighting. Soft lighting with candles and lamps that emit warm/yellow lighting.”

Choose candles in various shapes and sizes that blend well together. If you opt for a scented candle, aim for wintry scents that are natural, like pine, or ones that are warm and sugary, like holiday cookies and other baked goods.

Go Natural

Hygge pays close attention to natural elements. Hygge design often involves wood and other elements that tie the decor back to nature.

“My biggest takeaway from hygge are the principles of authenticity and naturalness. Handmade objects made of natural materials … create a sense of caring and warmth,” says Calamia.

In “The Little Book of Hygge,” Wiking mentions that wood is a key factor in a hygge-like home, but that wood alone isn’t enough. “Danes feel the need to bring the entire forest inside,” writes Wiking, “Any piece of nature you might find is likely to get the hygge greenlight.”

To create your hygge winter wonderland, consider layering animal hides (faux ones included) with your wooden elements and adding other wintry natural touches, like pine garlands, pinecones, wreaths, berries and twigs. Maybe even sprinkle a bit of fake snow on your shelves!

Gather Together

Togetherness is one of the key elements of hygge, so it should come as no surprise that gathering is a quick way to hygge. Zaplatosch notes, “An overarching feeling of hospitality and warmth are some of the key elements of this [hygge] style.”

Having small groups of people over to engage with is a common occurrence for many people in Denmark. In fact, 78% of Danes say they socialize at least once a week, according to “The Little Book of Hygge.” This winter, consider inviting your closest friends and family into your home on occasion to huddle together against the cold, share some hot drinks and sweet treats, and enjoy each other’s company.

Having items in your home that make hosting easier is also a great way to incorporate hygge. Opt for kitchen essentials like serving trays, ceramic drinkware, and tables that people can easily sit around.

If after learning all this, you’re ready to get cozy (and maybe even curl up and take a nap) you’re ready for hygge. Winter is a great time to begin your pursuit of hygge – with all this chilly weather, coziness and warmth might be exactly the pick-me-up you need. However, hygge is something you can strive for year-round, even after the ground begins to thaw.

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    Molly Grace

    Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.