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I was first introduced to the concept of hygge last year on my birthday. A friend of mine gave me a book called “The Little Book of Hygge.” She said it reminded her of me and my apartment. (Isn’t she sweet?)
I’ve had the book sitting on my coffee table for the better part of a year, and then several months ago, I started noticing the term “hygge” trending on some of the other blogs I follow. Hygge is a real thing, but before I received a book about it, I had never even heard the term. It’s not a common word here in America.
So, what is hygge, and why do people love it? Let’s dig in.
How Do You Pronounce ‘Hygge’?
First things first: “Hygge” is actually pronounced “HOO-ga.”
Was your mind just blown? Because mine was when I learned that. I definitely thought it was something like “hi-gae” or “hi-ga,” but “hygge” is actually a Danish word. Meik Wiking, the author of “The Little Book of Hygge,” writes in his book, “To foreigners, Danish sounds like someone speaking German with a hot potato in their mouth.”
I’m not saying that exactly, but the pronunciation of the word isn’t what I expected.
What Does ‘Hygge’ Mean?
Many people say there is no single English word that can be translated as “hygge.” The closest interpretation would be something like “cozy” or “homey.”
Liat Tzoubari, from Sevensmith, an ethical home décor 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.”
“Hygge” can be a verb or an adjective. 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 hygge-like the situation is. The elements are as follows:
- Atmosphere: A hygge-like atmosphere has low lighting with lots of candles
- Presence: There’s an emphasis on being fully present. No phones, no computers, no distractions.
- Pleasure: Hygge is about enjoying simple pleasures like hot drinks, cakes and cookies.
- Equality: A hygge-like gathering makes sure no one person takes on too much of the talking or the responsibility. Everyone gets to share, and everyone helps.
- Gratitude: This is about appreciating the moment and taking it in. Find joy in these simple moments
- Harmony: While being present, remember it’s not a competition. There’s no need to convince anyone of anything. Things just flow.
- Comfort: In order to hygge, you have to be comfy. Comfortable clothes and furniture and a comfortable environment are important.
- Truce: At a hygge-like event, you don’t talk about divisive topics.
- Togetherness: Hygge can be done alone, but it’s best in small groups.
- Shelter: Ultimately, beyond the atmosphere and the treats, hygge is about feeling safe. You’re with people who are for you in a place where you feel safe and secure.
How Do I Hygge?
The first thing to acknowledge is that hygge can take place anywhere, but it’s usually done in the home. There are a few things you can focus on to make your place more hygge-like.
Light the Candles
Candles are an almost necessary component of this lifestyle. According to a study done by the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen 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, go for scents that are natural or smell like baked goods to enhance that homey feel. Here are a few examples:
- Lantern Multiple Candle Holder – $123
- Ambre/Amber Diptqyue Candle – $34 – $64
- Lara Taper Holder – $38 – $148
Togetherness is one of the key elements of hygge, so it should come as no surprise that gathering is a quick way to hygge. Jordan Zaplatosch of LuxeDecor 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 weekly 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.”
Having items in your home that make hosting easier is a great way to incorporate hygge. Opt for kitchen essentials like serving trays, tables that people can sit around and ceramic drinkware. For example:
Hygge gives you permission to indulge a little. Have that slice of cake, grab a cookie or pour a hot cup of coffee, and don’t feel guilty about it – enjoy it!
Sweet treats that are hygge-like aren’t extravagant or intimidating. Homemade chocolate chip cookies, a cake with a simple drizzle or a French press of your favorite fresh-ground coffee are all simple and very cozy.
Items like a cake stand, a metallic French press or a cute cookie jar can help make these simple treats feel extra special (and extra hygge-like):
- Marble and Acacia Wood Two-Tier Stand – $100
- Bodum Chamord Copper 34 Ounce French Press – $50
- Jamie Oliver Food Storage Jar – $10
Hygge pays close attention to natural elements. Hygge design often involves wood and other elements that tie the décor 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 his book, Wiking mentions that wood is a key factor in a hygge-like home, but wood 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.”
Consider layering animal hides (faux ones included) with your wooden elements. You can even add in other natural touches like twigs or pebbles.
The last step in creating a hygge-like space is making sure it’s cozy.
Think plush furniture, warm fur blankets, lots of fluffy knit accent pillows and literally anything that makes you want to cuddle up. Doesn’t this just make you want to grab a piece of cake and a cup of coffee? See, it all works together.
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,” says Zaplatosch, “Soft textiles, like a fur rug or blanket, with lush pillows creates a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation.”
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