Chances are you’ll have heard of the phrase “hygge” – pronounced “hoo ga” – which originated in Norway. It is a term that, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, refers to “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”.
Joanna Thornhill, interiors stylist, writer and author of My Bedroom is an Office and Other Interior Design Dilemmas, says: “The term is sometimes misinterpreted as simply a style or trend (which can lead it to be unfairly dismissed as a passing fad) yet at its core, it’s more akin to a wellbeing philosophy; a desire to be surrounded by comfortable materials and items which bring warmth and tactility and, in turn, those feelings of cosy, contented comfort.”
It’s likely to mean something different to everyone; for some, it might translate to cuddling on the sofa with your loved ones, while others it’s the simple act of surrounding yourself with the twinkle of candles. Ultimately though, it’s about being mindful of the small things in your home that can provide joy and happiness, particularly during the winter months.
The transitioning of seasons is a great time to reassess the soft furnishings within your home, and winter is the prime time to truly adopt this Danish-inspired way of life.
One of the reasons hygge resonates so well in the UK is the fact that our seasonal weather is, in some respects, similar to Scandinavia, and our annual battle with winter blues mean we seek solace in the things around us.
Interiors writer Lisa Dawson says that during autumn and winter you should “reassess your living spaces to create a cosy environment as the nights draw in. Switch up your textiles – add throws, cushions and cosy rugs in earthy tones and colours to make your home feel warm and welcoming.”
Similarly, Athina Bluff, founder and senior designer of Topology Interiors, suggested “adding thicker textures to your space – for example instead of light and airy cotton or linen, think about wools, velvets, and generally thicker textures to add extra warm layers.”
And, most importantly “surround yourself with your favourite things to create a space where you can feel comfortable,” says Dawson.
To some extent making your home more hygge is about lighting candles and adding soft throws to your sofa, but there are more ways you can achieve a calming atmosphere. With this in mind, we’ve spoken to the experts on what they recommend so that you can create a peaceful, serene space to embrace the cold winter months from.
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To achieve the ultimate cosy atmosphere at home, both Dawson and Bluff advise lighting candles. Dawson credits their ability to “add ambience and scent”, while Bluff notes how peaceful it is to watch the flame flicker. She suggests opting for the candles with “wooden wicks that ‘crack’ and ‘pop’ just like a real wood burning log fire,” which are particularly soothing to have on in the background.
The woodwick range by Yankee Candle is a great, affordable option for candles that crackle. We particularly like the sound of the “mountain air” (Yankee Candle, £24.99) scent.
It is worth considering the fact that many candles are made from paraffin wax that pollutes the air when burning, which can irritate lungs (which doesn’t sound very hygge to us). Opt for this Irusu dusk candle (Irusu, £25), which took the top spot in our review of best non-toxic candles.
The amber glass gives off a soft glow, while the scent of lavender, eucalyptus and rosemary is calming and restorative. Each soy wax candle is hand-blended, poured and numbered in the brand’s north London studio.
We’d advise positioning your candles in groups of three to five so that they form pools of natural light around your living space, which will work to create a calming ambience; perfect for snuggling on the sofa.
While no hygge lifestyle is complete without a candle or two (The Danes are Europe’s biggest consumers of candles), ambient lighting can also be achieved through lights that shed a warm tone.
“With the days shorter and it getting darker outside, it’s important to get your lighting scheme spot on so that when you want to unwind for the day you can do so in ambient, atmospheric light,” says Bluff.
She suggests investing in smart light bulbs, as “they’re a great way of introducing a dimmable lighting system to any existing light you have, be it a spotlight or a table lamp, without the need for an electrician or a huge cost”.
“Ikea does a great starter kit called Tradfri (Ikea, £65) if you’re looking for something entry-level, or Phillips hue is also great for something a little bit more pricey,” says Bluff.
It’s a great starting point, and Philips offers the most versatile and capable bulbs.
For a something simpler than the Philips hue that still offers millions of colours, look to the LIFX range – such as the LIFX+ A60 (Amazon, £54.50) – which requires no bulb, and can be scheduled on and off.
“By adding dimmable bulbs to your space that come in an array of colours (we would always recommend warm white bulbs for cosiness) you can create soft pools of light around a room without the need of having an electrician, and you can choose to lower the intensity of the light as the evening sets in,” says Bluff.
It’s small but still offers a decent amount of style. Although the bulb is tinted, it is on the brighter side, so we suggest you go for a lower wattage to obtain more gentle glow.
While it might not be the term’s definition, getting physically cosy can go a long way to make you feel more comfortable during the colder, darker nights. This is why when creating a sense of hygge at home, the textiles and textures you use and play with is essential.
Hygge certainly isn’t about perfectly co-ordinated or matching interiors, which makes it relatively easy to build up pieces gradually, which will work to create a serene environment.
“Consider investing in some upgrades to your space which will help aid comfort: if your windows are draughty but can’t be replaced, shop around for thick velvet curtains to reduce this,” says Thornhill.
We’re particularly drawn to John Lewis & Partners’s lustre velvet curtains (John Lewis & Partners, £135), which will offer a luxe finish to any room.
Coming in seven different colourways, we’re there’s sure to be something to suit your living space. Plus, there’s a range of sizes on offer depending on the height of your windows.
Alternatively, if you need just a single curtain, the La Redoute velvet single hidden tab curtain (La Redoute, £55) is an ideal pocket friendly option.
Again, there’s a range of colours to choose from, but we particularly like the midnight blue, which we’re certain will add an element of cosiness to your space.The joy of creating the Danish hygge look at home is that there’s no real rules – comfort is key. Thornhill suggests starting with a “sheepskin rug on a sofa back with cushions of several different shapes, sizes and materials on top, then add a loose lambswool throw on the side, keeping within a relatively constrained colour palette,” she adds.
The joy of creating the Danish hygge look at home is that there’s no real rules – comfort is key. Thornhill suggests starting with a “sheepskin rug on a sofa back with cushions of several different shapes, sizes and materials on top, then add a loose lambswool throw on the side, keeping within a relatively constrained colour palette.”
The warm colourway and the dynamic, deep pile texture means it’ll feel soft underfoot – a total joy on cold and dark mornings when you need something to make you feel a little more snug.
For more modest budgets, cushions are a great option – reach for fabrics like knit, boucle or brushed cotton. This chunky woven cotton cushion cover (La Redoute, £18) looks particularly cosy.
We love the earthy tones – cream and green – something that Lisa Dawson suggests is a key colour palette to reach for when creating a solace from winter blues.
And because hygge isn’t about matching interiors with one another, pair the knitted cushion with this Mongolian grey faux fur cushion (Dunelm, £10).
It’ll be super soft to touch and a comforting addition to your sofa as you curl up with a cup of tea. While you do so, you’ll want a woollen throw that you can snuggle up with. This cobweave wool blanket in mustard yellow (James & May, £55) was the favourite in our review of best throws and blankets.
The autumnal colourway is the perfect addition to any space, and it successfully mixes traditional craftsmanship with a contemporary aesthetic – we love it.
For something extremely affordable, yet still a lovely soft furnishing, try this herringbone recycled cotton throw (Wayfair, £10.24).
While we think the natural shade is a very hygge-esque, it also comes in black and silver should you wish. Or perhaps buy all three and layer them around your home.
Bring the outside in
“Nature is starting to switch its colour palette from summer brights into glorious rich, warm autumnal tones right now – bringing in any foraged branches, sculptural leaves and dried flowers and grasses will reflect what’s happening outside in your home, introducing a harmonious feel,” says Thornhill.
As such, we love the idea of decorating living spaces with dried flowers, not only do they look lovely, they also add another dimension of texture. The Great British Florist vintage country dried flower wreath (The Great British Florist, from: £45) was a standout in our review of the best.
We love the shades of purple, orange and yellow, and the fact you can choose from small, medium or large.
Similarly, The Country Garden Florist dried flower bouquet (The Country Garden Florist, £35) is equally as gorgeous and comes in a range of sizes.
Be sure to take a look at the website’s entire flower collection for a great range of flowers – fresh and dried.
While not necessarily an interiors addition, this is still an important part of making sure your lifestyle is a little more hygge. Switching off electronic devices will allow you to disconnect from the world – even for just a couple of hours. Dawson suggests “turning to the pages of a magazine or a book rather than a digital platform”.
Reading can provide a great form of escapism and invoke a warm, fuzzy feeling, which is everything that hygge encompasses. As such, take inspiration from our review of the best new books of 2020, in which Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers took the crown.
It’s a compassionate tale that has been exquisitely written and promises to entrance you from the very first page.
For more interiors inspiration, read our guide on how to create an Instagram-worthy gallery wall
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