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How to Hygge Your Home

Natural fabrics, comfy chairs and soft lighting will help turn your home into a hygge haven

spinner image a hygge themed living room
Creating a space in your home for cozy conversation is part of the hygge philosophy.
Hygge Life/Ali Vagnini

Dread winter? Take a tip from the Danish: Welcome the spirit of hygge into your home like an old friend. 

Hygge (hooo-gah) is the Danish word for a concept that has no English equivalent and is even a bit hard for a Dane to define. Think of it as a sense of cozy, comfortable, congenial and connected. 

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“If you Google it, you get a whole lot of pictures of fuzzy socks in front of fireplaces with a cup of hot cocoa and candles on the side. And that’s certainly it, but it’s not,”  says Susan Loschenkohl, a member of the Board of Directors of the Danish American Center in Minneapolis, whose parents immigrated to America from Denmark.

She says hygge influences home design but goes beyond candles and woolly throws. It’s also about cozy relationships (and not just the romantic kind). Her teenage cousin in Denmark, for example, would host friends for tea and cookies before heading out to the movies — creating a time to just sit and chat in a welcoming space. 

The feeling of a cozy space sets the mood for connection, says Myquillyn Smith, a North Carolina blogger, decorator, workshop teacher and author of Cozy Minimalist Home and other books.

This isn’t about perfection, says Alexandra Gove, co-owner of Hygge Life, a store in Avon, Colorado, and the author of Dwell Gather Be: Design for Moments. Hygge, she says, is “about finding things that speak to you, inspire you, remind you of wonderful moments and that you can share with all the people you love in your life.” 

How can you adopt the intention of hygge to create an atmosphere that helps you get through winter? Here are eight suggestions for hygge at home:

Do more with less.

Amber Brandt, a Michigan decorator known as the Coziness Consultant, suggests clearing a room, then being intentional about what you put back. “Scandinavian design is all about creating simple, clean, warm spaces — so sometimes the best thing you can do is ‘quiet’ your space, by removing anything unnecessary,” she says. You can go whole hog and clear off surfaces, remove art from the walls and empty the shelves; then replace things with a specific purpose, such as creating a reading nook, she says. “This will require a little bit of time and energy, but it costs nothing, and it can help you reimagine your room with no financial investment.” 

Encourage conversation.

Take the focus off the TV and create a seating area in your home just for conversation, like an old-fashioned living room, Loschenkohl says. And make sure your dining room chairs are comfy to encourage chatting after supper. “If you go and have dinner with a Danish family, don’t expect to eat at 5 and be done eating and clearing the table at 5:30,” she says. “Even simple dinners will have a little bit of a multicourse conversational turn at the end of it.”

Loschenkohl says her cousin offered pre-movie tea by setting up a full porcelain tea set in a corner of her room with a low table and comfortable beanbag chairs. “Everything was on the floor, but [we were] sharing tea and some chatter before we would go out and do something.”

spinner image candles for warm lighting
Low, warm lighting using candles or a dimmer switch can bring a sense of peace and calm. ​
Anastasiia Krivenok/Getty

Soften your lighting.

The Danes are famous for burning candles (unscented please, Loschenkohl says), but also rethink your home’s electric lighting. Make it dimmable, so you can soften the atmosphere. 

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One trick is to layer your light sources, says Beth McDonough, who owns Forty Nine Interiors in Wasilla, Alaska — another place where residents understand winter. She suggests at least two lamps in each space. “It brings in light at different levels, encourages you to sit and get cozy. Sitting next to the lamp, maybe you’re getting out a book or something at that point,” she says. 

Go for comfort.

One simple trick is to put in ottomans, which are inexpensive and add seating to a room, McDonough says. “This is an easy one: small, movable ottomans. When I think about wanting to get cozy, it’s about curling up or putting my feet up.”

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Use warm colors.

When you’re considering paint colors or home decor such as furniture, pillows and blankets, go for soft, warm tones. Creamy whites or gray-beige can help create a cozy atmosphere, Gove says. “Steer clear of cool tones if you’re going for a hygge atmosphere. Choose whites with a red undertone, while steering clear of blue undertones,” she says.

spinner image left a bedroom with a fuzzy rug and a neutral bed spread right a fuzzy chair and a fern
Fuzzy rugs and furniture made out of natural fabrics in neutral tones give your home a hygge vibe.
Hygge Life/Ali Vagnini / Chaney Fray

Choose natural fabrics.

Stick to textured, natural materials such as real wool, leather and stone, Gove says. “In the winter months, adding natural soft materials like textured pillows, soft blankets and natural wool sheepskins can bring hygge and warmth to any space,” she says.

Bring the outdoors in.

When it’s hard to be out in nature, Danes like to bring nature inside, Meik Wiking writes in The Little Book of Hygge, which helped to popularize the trend in America. Fresh flowers, an evergreen branch or a plant from the grocery store — all add a touch of what winter often lacks. Plants are one of the first accessories Smith adds when she’s decorating a room. “They do help bring life, they do help finish off a space,” she says. Don’t be afraid if you lack a green thumb. “Let’s just say you’re at the grocery store and you buy a $12 beautiful, green, fresh live plant, and you bring it home, and even if you keep it alive for three months, that’s $4 a month,” Smith says. “That’s a dollar a week to have something green in your home.” 

Remember hygge is year-round.

The intentional feelings of comfort, self-care and community are not confined to winter, Loschenkohl says, although the decor might vary a bit. Brandt says she likes to swap out her winter “cozies” for lighter linens and knits and put out fresh flowers. But the spirit of hygge remains the same. In Denmark, it can be light until 11 p.m. in summer, and friends might go hiking together or gather around a fire, Loschenkohl says.

“I think in the United States, [hygge] pops up a lot in the winter, because the candlelight and the cozy and the wool socks and the fireplace are so iconic,” she says. “But it’s definitely more transferable to other areas and other times of day and times of the season than just wintertime.”

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