2016 is now history. Shall we add « good riddance»? And as in years past, we will greet 2017 with optimism and a renewed determination to better ourselves. Eat better, lose weight, quit smoking, get in shape, save money – the list of goals are lofty, the resolutions ambitious, not to mention identical to last year’s, but hold on. Maybe what we should really strive for is happiness?
It appears that the Danish have learned this « life lesson » well. According to the United Nations, the Danish are the happiest people in the world followed by the Swiss. Canadians come in at a respectable 6th place. But what do the Danish know that we don’t?
The answer comes in the form of an odd and virtually unpronounceable word: Hygge.
What is Hygge?
Although a Danish concept, Hygge (pronounced « HUE-gah») is actually a Norwegian word meaning well-being. Simply put, Hygge is about the joy in simple pleasures. For the Danish, it is most famously exemplified by the warm light of candles during winter, but regardless of the activity or thing, it is usually enhanced when shared in the company of loved ones.
Hygge is breaking bread and lifting a glass with friends and family, long deep discussions or silly chit-chat with your BFF or slipping on a favourite sweater on a chilly autumn night. It is also taking time for oneself like a long, hot bath, curling up with a good book and not feeling guilty for staying in pyjamas all day sipping hot cocoa and binge watching a TV series on Netflix.
What Hygge is not about is excess, « bling » or the décor of Donald Trump’s apartment. It’s living life more face-to-face than on-line. The spirit of Hygge celebrates simplicity, relationships with others and things that are handmade. It’s about escaping our consumer culture on steroids.
The practice of Hygge is to discover the art of living, to indulge in the small things that bring us pleasure. Yes, that includes occasionally, enjoying a cheeseburger or a jelly doughnut without remorse. It’s about being outdoors, enjoying nature, exposing ourselves to the elements only to savour more intensely the soothing warmth of a crackling fire when we return indoors. Hygge is all about balance.
So you want to add a little Hygge in your life? It’s easy. Start by making small changes in your home décor according to these three principles.
Keep it Pure and Simple
First of all, the spirit of Hygge is about what’s important to you and your family and this includes your home décor. It’s OK if it’s not perfect as long as it’s you. This means that family antiques can fit with more contemporary style and still be an expression of you as long as it’s done in moderation.
Living in the spirit of Hygge is also about simplifying and when it comes to décor, that means uncluttered spaces. If the task seems insurmountable, start small. Give yourself small objectives like cleaning out a drawer, a desk or a closet per day. You’ll see how far you’ve come after one short month.
On the style side, go for restrained and luminous interiors with a Scandinavian flair. Combine furniture with clean lines, soft natural materials and warm-tinted whites. Add some colour by sprinkling a few pastel-tinted accents.
Create gathering spaces using accent chairs and sofas that face each other. Enhance the comfort for your guests with the addition of ottomans and small accent tables for placing coffee cups and glasses.
Your home décor should invite relaxation and the sharing of life’s simple pleasures. Make your home a sanctuary, a refuge from the cacophonous world outside. Invest in soft throws made of wool or cashmere. Buy or craft your own cushions with silky rich textures and cover your floors with soft, neutral-coloured carpets. You’ll see the soothing effect of these materials will be instantaneous.
Light it Up with Warmth
For a Hygge décor, use soft lighting for a relaxed ambiance. Add table lamps that will offer a brighter, more focused light needed for reading. Don’t forget the candles, for nothing embodies the spirit of Hygge like the soft, warm flicker of candle light. Place several on a metal tray in the living room or on your night table. Candles are also perfect for the bath.
Following these simple guidelines, you will be able to create a warm and inviting home environment, one that can be shared with others because, after all, Hygge is all about sharing, no?
To learn more about Hygge, read this article that appeared in The Independent “What is hygge? How the Danish lifestyle trend became a Word of the Year.”
Main image source: Amara.com