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The Danish Concept of Hygge and the Comfort of Home

During the pandemic, our understanding of and approach towards home changed significantly due to remote work, safer at home orders and social distancing. At the same time, the American Psychological Association, Gallup and other organizations reported unprecedented levels of stress amongst US workers. In January 2021, 84% of American adults surveyed by The Harris Poll reported one or more emotions “associated with prolonged stress.” Nearly two years since the pandemic began, American workers are still struggling to achieve balance as they face new outbreaks of emergent coronavirus variants. With millions stuck at home again, it should come as no surprise that many of us have turned to the Danish concept of hygge. Hygge offers us permission to settle into our homes and simply be. Some Americans see this as a radical act of self-care. In “Have we been doing self-care all wrong?” for The Washington Post, Angelica Puzio ponders self-care and American culture. Puzio writes that “before the pandemic, many of [the people she interviewed] didn’t feel entitled to take time to reduce their stress.” Now – many months later – Puzio’s interviewees “see it as an integral component of their well-being.” In this post, we consider the Danish concept of hygge and propose ways to add warmth, serenity and coziness to your home this winter.

What is the Danish Concept of Hygge?

Hygge chalkboard signAccording to VisitDenmark, the Danish term “hygge”, (pronounced hoo-gah) roughly translates to “coziness." The term basically “means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” A warm cup of tea, a dinner by candlelight, a roaring fire, an informal chat and a warm pair of socks all exude hygge. In short, hygge refers to “simple pleasures.” As VisitDenmark’s resource on hygge notes, the term “didn't originate in the Danish language but in old Norwegian, where it meant something like ‘well-being.’” Today, we can draw a straight line between hygge and the modern concept of “self-care.” Hygge was first mentioned in Danish literature towards the end of the 1700s. Some might notice that this old Norwegian word sounds suspiciously like the English word “hug.”

Writing for Afar in April 2020, Sarah Buder describes the Danish concept of hygge as “inherently soothing.” This is because its roots are "comfort, togetherness, and well-being.” To distill hygge to its essence, Buder turns to Louisa Thomsen Brits. Brits is author of The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection. In her 2017 book, Brits defines hygge as “‘a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life.’”

Three Ways to Capture Hygge at Home This Winter

#1 Make the Most of Small Spaces

Small seat, window seatMany of us have watched in awe as a cat crawls into the smallest crevice or onto the skinniest ledge before taking a nap. The cat adapts to its situation and embraces casual comfort with ease. It revels in simple pleasures. This is a key tenet of the Danish concept of hygge. Writing for House Beautiful in her article “10 ways to create hygge happiness at home,” Olivia Heath recommends humans do the same.

Heath suggests turning the “gap under your stairs…into a library” or adapting the “loft you’ve never used…into a tranquil relaxation room.” Most of us do not have enough space. Those who are not physically confined might feel psychologically cramped due to months spent sheltering in place. Finding new ways to utilize your home’s interior can help alleviate this cabin fever and help you focus on the things that truly matter.

#2 Clear Away Clutter

Dining room window seat nook, VanderBeken Remodel, Mill Creek, 2022Second, try to clear away clutter throughout your home, leaving behind only the things that delight you, comfort you or serve a true purpose. In her article “10 Reasons Hygge Is Perfect for Small Spaces” for The Spruce, Ashley Knierim explains. Knierim writes that hygge “is all about limiting yourself to the things that actually bring you happiness and joy.” Get rid of unnecessary items that clutter your space and your mind to create an interior that truly captures the Danish concept of hygge.

#3 Fill Your Space with Warm, Gentle Light

One of the easiest ways to capture the Danish concept of hygge is to fill your home’s interior with warm, natural light. Most choose to do so with the flicker of a lit candle or the glow of a fire in the fireplace. A roaring fire is perfect for winter and candles are great for a romantic date night. However, there are simpler and more sustainable ways to create this type of atmosphere. Swap out fluorescent or other blue-toned bulbs with soft white LED lights. The natural warm tone of modern LED lighting is perfect for hygge interiors because it replicates sunlight – even in the dead of winter.

Creating a Hygge Home with VanderBeken Remodel

fireplace, open book, & warm drinkThe Danish concept of hygge is very close to our hearts at VanderBeken Remodel. In fact, one of our owners consistently draws inspiration from her Scandinavian heritage. At VanderBeken, we understand how important it is to create a soothing space that is clean, uncluttered and perfectly comfortable. During the COVID-19 pandemic when many of us are still sheltering at home, this need is even more potent. With decades of experience and endless dedication, our team can help you transform your space this winter. Learn all about our process and approach here.

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