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 (£10.99, Amazon.co.uk), 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.”
That’s likely to mean something different to everyone; for some, it might translate to cuddling on the sofa with your loved ones, while for others it might be the simple act of surrounding yourself with twinkling 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 transition between seasons can prompt a reassessment of 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 means 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, suggests adding different textures to your space – “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.
With this in mind, we’ve spoken to the experts about what they recommend so that you can create a peaceful, serene space to embrace the longer nights from.
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 (£20.99, Yankeecandle.co.uk)
It is worth considering the fact that many candles are made from paraffin wax, which can irritate lungs (which doesn’t sound very hygge to us). Opt for a non-toxic version, such as this Scentered sleep well wellbeing ritual candle (£49.95, Scentered.me).
It took the top spot in our guide to the best soy wax candles, with our writer noting that the all-natural aromatherapy blend of ingredients and the “scent of palmarosa, lavender and ylang ylang is soothing and comforting”. “Billed as a sleep-well candle, our tester has been lighting throughout the day for a calming fragrance too,” she added.
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 (£65, Ikea.com) if you're looking for something at an entry level, or Phillips hue is also great for something a little bit more pricey,” says Bluff.
In our guide to the best smart lights, the Philips hue white and colour ambience starter kit (£129.99, Philips-hue.com) took the title of best buy. It’s a great starting point, and Philips offers the most versatile and capable bulbs.
For something simpler than the Philips hue, but which still offers millions of colours, look to the LIFX range – such as the LIFX+ A60 (£44.20, Amazon.co.uk) – which requires no hub, and can be scheduled to go 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 help of 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 style. The light can “project out of the top of the lamp a little but not so much as to be dazzling” – but we’d recommend opting for a lower wattage bulb for a more gentle glow.
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, textiles are essential.
Hygge certainly isn’t about perfectly coordinated or matching interiors, which makes it relatively easy to build up pieces gradually that will work to create a serene environment.
“Consider investing in some upgrades to your space that 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 velvet curtains (£111, Johnlewis.com) that look like they’ll offer a luxe finish to any room.
Coming in eight different colours, 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, for a more pocket-friendly alternative, turn to H&M’s velvet curtains (£66, Hm.com), which come in two neutral shades. They’re bound to go with any current decor while adding an element of cosiness.
The joy of creating the Danish hygge look at home is that there are no real rules, but 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 colour and deep pile texture mean we found it to be “incredibly soft and silky” underfoot – a total joy on cold and dark mornings. If you’re not sure about the rich brown tones, it also comes in cream and charcoal.
For more modest budgets, cushions are a great way to add more texture into your home – reach for fabrics like knit, boucle or brushed cotton. This chunky woven cotton cushion cover (£18, Laredoute.co.uk) looks particularly cosy.
We love earthy tones – cream and green – which Dawson suggests is a key colour palette to reach for.
And because hygge isn’t about going matchy matchy, pair the knitted cushion with this Mongolian grey faux fur cushion (£10, Dunelm.com).
It’ll be super soft to the touch and a comforting addition to your sofa as you curl up with a cup of tea. You’ll also want a woollen throw that you can snuggle up with. This Heating & Plumbing super fluffy pure new wool blanket (£89, Heating-and-plumbing.com) won over our writer in our review of the best wool throws and blankets.
It has a “wonderfully soft texture”, praised our writer, and it successfully mixes traditional craftsmanship with a contemporary aesthetic – we love it.
For an extremely affordable yet still lovely soft furnishing, try this herringbone recycled cotton throw (£13.99, Wayfair.co.uk).
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 texture. The Magic Flower Company sandstone letterbox bouquet (£39.95, Magicflowercompany.co.uk) wowed our writer in our review of the best dried flowers.
This neutral bunch has touches of yellow and calming green – the Eucalyptus “sits alongside preserved golden solidago, pampas, a dried palm, delicate cream gypsophila, dried yellow achillea and white bunny tails”, noted our writer.
Similarly, Your London Florist thistle meets artichoke (£45, Yourlondonflorist.co.uk) is equally as gorgeous – this “chic centrepiece of nudes and natural tones is the perfect option for lovers of pared-back style and Scandi minimalism”, they praised.
“The frothy pampas grass gives great height and fullness, while the dried artichoke and thistles add texture and interest,” she added. A great way to bring the outside in.
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 guide to the best uplifting books, in which The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin took the top spot.
It’s a “remarkable debut about the friendship between two women”, praised our reviewer. She added that “it’s a beautiful, funny, and incredibly assured story filled with rich characters”. A great read for the autumnal evenings ahead.
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