Hygge: Danish decorating philosophy

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Hygge: Danish decorating philosophy

Photography, Brad Quan / Qstudios

Roughly translated, hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a Danish concept that means cosiness. The word is used to acknowledge a feeling or a moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or not, ordinary or extraordinary, as cosy, charming or special.


Think of it like a hug, which will also help you to remember how to pronounce it. The term was derived from a Norwegian word that means wellbeing. Everywhere we look these days, we are being presented with the construct of Hygge, and many of us have already been doing it, without really knowing it. We could also substitute the word cosy for hygge.

Denmark is known as one of the happiest countries in the world, and with 17 hours of darkness per day in the winter, people spend more time indoors and put a greater focus on home and entertaining.

But hygge isn’t a winter-only concept. Restaurants are exporting the concept of hygge with intimate settings and a lack of uniformity in decor, while concentrating on comforting food. Not all patrons may realize it, but they certainly get a sense of it.


Incorporating the hygge construct into our homes encourages us to relax, and to feel as at-home as possible.

One hygge specialist suggests that it works best when there’s not too much space around a person or people, so use every nook and cranny for optimum design functionality. Inviting window seats with plush, down-filled seating and lots of cushions for curling up in is a great use of space. It’s all about sumptuous textiles that are soft and cosy, yet luxurious and sophisticated.

Of course, kitchens are the place where family and friends congregate. Here you can add plush seating and incorporate cosy gathering retreats. Not only do you want efficient prep areas, but you want kitchen layouts that promote good cooking and good conversation.

In the bathroom, heated floors and towel bars are sumptuous additions, as are oversized tubs for two. In the bedroom, consider soft colours, low levels of lighting, as well as luxurious linens and down duvets.

Incorporating the hygge construct into our homes encourages us to relax, and to feel as at-home as possible.


Hygge is about creating an atmosphere that’s comfortable and inviting. Install dimmers on lights so that you can set them to appealing levels, and augment with candles. Surround yourself with colours that you love – colours that feel familiar and comforting to you. It’s not about material items, but ways to make use of what you have, and to embrace the most important elements in your life.

To make a happier home, be true to the way that you and your family want to live. Design your home around your lifestyle, and avoid getting caught up in the latest trends. Decorate with art and furniture that speak to you. Incorporate an escapism space so that you can unplug from technology. This could be an intimate reading nook, a place to mediate, listen to music – or a space just to be.

There’s also an element of minimalism to hygge. Declutter your home and get rid of unnecessary stuff. It’s one of the easiest ways to free yourself from feeling overwhelmed. You’ll be more relaxed in an environment that’s just the way you want it to be.


The concept of Hygge extends beyond the home as well. Take the time to get outside, ride your bike, go for a walk and have a picnic. Create a welcoming spot outdoors where you can let you mind, and body, be still.

I work hard during the day, and when I come home, I want to be able to stop and drop anywhere that my heart desires. I like to wrap myself in a soft cashmere blanket in my cosy club chair next to the fireplace, with my favourite coffee mug and slippers.

There’s an adjectival form of hygge – hyggeligt is a word offered as a compliment to the host after a pleasant evening at their home.

Perhaps the rest of the world is slowly waking up to what the Danes have been wise to for generations – that having a relaxed, cosy time with friends and family, along with good food and drink, is also good for the soul.

Tania Richardson is CEO and Co-founder of Tomas Pearce Interior Design Consulting Inc.


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