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Hygge: the art of living, Danish style


There has been an explosion of interest in all things Scandinavian in recent years, from interior design and Nordic noir to fashion and food. The latest trend to sweep the nation is the philosophy of hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’), which was originally a Norwegian term for wellbeing but was adopted in the 19th century by the Danes, who incorporated it into their way of life.

Hygge is sometimes loosely translated as ‘cosiness’, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about slowing down enough to appreciate the value – emotional as well as tangible – of the small things in life. Almost anything can be hyggelig – whether you’re baking pastries, entertaining friends, snuggling up in front of a roaring fire or luxuriating in a warm bath, the key to hygge is to find contentment and meaning in everyday moments.

Hygge is centred around the safety, familiarity and warmth of the home, so it really comes into its own in the dark winter months, when we feel a greater urge to stay indoors. Sheltering from the outside world is comforting, especially after the upheaval of recent times and amid uncertainty over the future – perhaps this is why hygge has really taken off in the UK and the USA over the past year or so. It’s important to step back and acknowledge the hyggelig moments, both present and past, in our hectic lives.

The aim of hygge is to create an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere in which to relax. There’s a focus on neutral colours, clean lines and natural materials such as wood, marble and leather. Texture comes from tactile accessories in wool and faux fur, and the gentle glow of flickering candles is a must.

Simple rituals that feed the soul are fundamental to hygge. Although the focus is often on togetherness and hospitality, it can also be enjoyed alone. It’s important not to deny ourselves ‘me time’ – and what gives a greater sense of wellbeing than to wallow, uninterrupted, in a bubble bath, perhaps with a glass of wine and a good book? Rushing is simply not allowed, so you have our permission to linger until all your cares melt away. Afterwards, put on some cosy pyjamas and hunker down with a hot chocolate and a classic film – that’s hygge, right there!

Achieving the intimacy and fellowship of hygge is possible in the private sanctuary of the bathroom, however. Catchpole & Rye’s La Cage d’Amour is a romantic heart-shaped double shower enclosure:

And the Niederbronn bath, based on an original design from 19th-century Alsace, is far wider and deeper than most freestanding baths, ensuring plenty of space for two!

As well as reportedly being the happiest people in the world, the Danes also­ appreciate great, timeless design when they see it; they value good craftsmanship and high-quality materials, and if they find something that makes them happy, they consider it worth the investment. Amen to hygge!

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