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Hooked on Hygge

Hygge is more than a trend; it’s a Danish guide to happiness.

It’s the concept that everyone from The New York Times to Oxford Dictionaries is talking about, but what exactly is hygge, and how does it relate to interiors?

Hygge (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) is a Danish work with no literal English translation. Lazily it can be interpreted to mean cosy, but more accurately, it describes a feeling derived from living well. It is a word used to acknowledge a moment in time where one feels present, charmed and content.

“Hygge is a feeling you get or an ambience you create rather than being a tangible thing. It’s a snuggling up on the couch on a cold night, reading a great book, enjoying time with friends and family, or cooking a delicious meal,” says head of styling at Temple & Webster Jessica Bellef.

The concept is now so mainstream in the English-speaking world that nine hygge book titles are being released this year, plus a book parodying its non-Danish interpretation.

In short, it’s a highly marketable concept, but interior designers say there is validity to the hygge movement beond it’s commercial appeal.

“Some might say that it’s a bit of a fad, but I think it’s more than that,” says Lauren Li, director of Sisällä Interior Design.

“The concept of hygge is so appealing because it means putting the phone down, talking and listening to friends in person with a coffee and enjoying a treat... Actually taking that time to do the simple things has become a novelty in our busy, information overloaded lives.”

The interior design incarnation of hygge is highly conducive to real-life home styling that it offers warmth, comfort and practicality. It’s Li’s hope that as hygge increases in popularity, the structur edesign of Australian homes with follow suit.

“Our houses have multiple living areas, which means that every member of the family is spread out in the house and we’re not even in the same room. Some families have told it’s easier to SMS to let the kids know that dinner is ready – how very un-hygge” Li says.

“I hope that we start to consider if we really need that playroom, upstairs rumpus room or formal lounge room. We don’t need all of the rooms that we’re building.”

To incorporate hygge into an existing home, look at layering textures, injecting warm light, playing with soft furnishings, and surrounding yourself with the possessions and people who bring you joy. Remember, though, it’s not about throwing out your existing possessions for a plethora of cushions and faux fur rugs, but ultimately being appreciate of life’s small pleasures.

Layering textures with NASH Hlin throw blanket in Natural, Bemboka bed linen andRachel Castle velvet cushions. Styling Heidi Albertiri, photography Heloise Love

How to get the look...

Play with lighting

Lighting plays a huge role in creating a feeling of hygge. Use a combination of dimmed light via candles, floor lamps and table lamps to create a warm glow throughout your home, and incorporate focused lighting for work and reading. “They don’t need to be expensive, just make sure the globe has a warm colour temperature,” Li says.

Layer up the textiles

Create a point of difference in your home’s styling through textures, rather than colour, on your cushions, throw blankets, floor rugs, tablecloths and bed linen. These materials should be both a pleasure to touch and aesthetically pleasing.

Rearrange your seating

Instead of pushing couches and armchairs against the living room walls, bring these together in a closer, more intimate, rectangle or square formation. “Lots of comfortable seating options leads to quality relaxing time, but this should be balanced with a layout that doesn’t feel cluttered and allows for easy flow through,” Bellef says.

Keep it simple

It’s easy to go overboard on the chunky knit throws, but on load up on items that truly bring you a sense of cosiness and joy. “A minimalist space can still feel cosy with warm lighting, textiles and a few curated artwork and décor items,” Lis says.

NASH Hlin throw blanket in Natural. Image courtesy of NASH

Practice hygge in your actions

Hygge relies on human-life connection to be truly created. Take the opportunity to regularly entertain friends and family in your space, and have photos of them on display. “It is a daunting task for some, but why not do it in a true hygge way: invite a friend over, bake a cake and sort your photos together!” Li says.

NASH Hlin throw blanket in Smoke. Image courtesy of NASH

Written by Amelia Barnes for The Age Newspaper (print edition)


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