It's all about hygge or is it?

Cut through the hype and find the true meaning of hygge, says property and interiors journalist Sharon Dale.

Hygge could well win the prize for the most over-used word of the season. It's been hijacked by marketeers and PR companies to give all sorts of products a fashionable prefix, so we can buy hygge-inspired cushions, throws, fires, chocolates, hotel rooms... you name it.
 
Yet when you dig deeper into the Danish concept, pronounced “hoo-gah”, it isn't all about stuff. It has its roots in old Norse language when it was used to describe the feeling of comfort and relaxation after a long day out working in the cold. Now it’s about wellbeing and cosiness, which is what many of us crave in this mad,
fast-paced and sometimes quite scary world we live in.
 
To find the true meaning of hygge, I've been delving into a couple of books on the subject. The first is by Scandinavian cook and writer Signe Johansen, “How to Hygge: the Secrets of Nordic Living” published by Pan Macmilllan.
 
Signe was at a recent book signing event at Baltzersen’s Scandinavian café in Harrogate and says:

“There’s lots of good data showing that Scandinavia has exceptional standards of living and in this book I’m trying to analyse why. I studied anthropology at university so the idea is to understand everything in context. It’s too simplistic to look at one element of Nordic living as everything is interlinked.”
 
Her book has 50 recipes and a chapter on cocktails in keeping with the hygge philosophy of keeping things simple and pared back. There are also chapters on design, interiors and fashion, and elements relating to kinship and the outdoors.
 
Everything starts with nature, according to Signe.

“The hygge mindset is based on the strategies we developed to get us through the long, dark winters. It affects what we wear and the way we eat. It’s about getting back to basics, stepping back and seeing what’s important.”
 
I’ll certainly be taking her advice on embracing the joy of fika (coming together over cake and coffee) and am delighted to hear that alcohol is integral to the healthy hedonism of hygge. I also love her explanation as to why the Scandinavians take hygge seriously:

“Where I come from, people don’t care so much about material wealth and status symbols. Most of the Nordic countries were very poor for a very long time and that has shaped our perspective on life. Yes, it’s nice to have nice things but we have a sense of making the most of our time on this planet.”
 
Charlotte Abrahams book “Hygge: a Celebration of Simple Pleasures” published by Trapeze, is all about her efforts to practise the philosophy.

“I was told that the average Dane aims to do at least two or three hyggelige things each week: perhaps a picnic with friends, an evening alone watching Nordic Noir under a blanket and an afternoon baking ginger biscuits with the kids. I have tried to follow suit,” says Charlotte, who has also made some adjustments to her interior décor in an attempt to increase the “cosy rating” of her home.


Hygge by Charlotte Abrahams, £20, published by Trapeze
 

Here are some suggestions on how to hygge your home:

 
Furniture: focus on comfort. Scandinavian designers excel at this. I love the Lamino chair by Swedese, though if, like me, you can’t afford one, then try the Poang from Ikea – there’s a reason it sells like hot cakes. 
 

This gorgeous sheepskin covered Lamino chair is £1,400 from Funktionalley.com. If your budget won't stretch to this, you could try Ikea's Poang, which is also very comfortable.

Light: Have pendants and inset spotlights on dimmers and layer your lighting with lamps and fairy lights. Scented candles are very hygge but make sure they are eco-friendly and organic. You’ll pay more for brands like Neom or pure beeswax candles but they last longer and are better for your health.


Stag candle pins, £11.95, Annabeljames.co.uk

 These star fairy lights are £30 from Piajewellery.com

Buy a wood-burning stove. There is nothing like a real fire for cosiness and chopping your own wood is very therapeutic.


 New Charnwood Arc stove, Charnwood.com

Fill your home with natural materials and lots of different textures. Think 100 per cent wool throws, velvet cushions and sheepskin rugs.


 Fake fur throw, £39.99 from Dunelm.com
 
Handmade products. Buying from small designer makers brings feelgood factor and adds soul and individuality to your home. Find them at local art markets and on Etsy, Folksy and Not on the High Street.


Supporting designer makers if very hygge. This collection of ceremics is designed by Kate Thornburn, aka whatkateloves.co.uk, and is made in Britain.
 
Friends and family are important so invite them for informal dinners – round and oval tables are non-hierarchical and encourage conversation.
 
Accessorise with photographs of family, friends and with finds and mementoes that remind you happy times.

Publish date: 24/11/2016