- Story by Lorin Turner Photography by Lia Crowe
Autumn is a uniquely beautiful time of year. Warm pockets of sunshine left over from the summer are accentuated with the riot of changing colours, blending into cold autumn nights.
But as the golden days fade into the dark of winter, the anticipation of long, cold months is not the easiest on our mental well-being. And even with the approaching holiday season, this sudden change of atmosphere can affect our energy and dampen spirits. We retreat into our homes, instinctively yearning for hibernation. Instead of fighting against this need, we should prepare our spaces to maximize our enjoyment of this season.
Enter “hygge.” You may have heard of it. Over the past couple of years, this Danish lifestyle has gained international attention. Pronounced “hoo-ga” or “hue-gah,” hygge is more about embodying a sensibility of comfort than the creation of a defined design trend. It is the practice of mindfulness brought to life within our homes.
At its core, hygge is about giving yourself permission to slow down, live in the moment and celebrate the cozy comfort within your home and with your loved ones. Even with the long months of bracing Scandinavian winters, the Danish are consistently ranked as the happiest people in the world. They’ve leaned into the idea of wellness and it has become a core element of their daily lives, regardless of the season.
It seems so contrary to today’s thinking, but one of the main tenets of hygge is slowing down, doing less. Focusing on the deliberateness of simplicity, it’s about enjoying the process of brewing tea or slow cooking a stew and giving yourself permission to just curl up and read a book. How can you not love a lifestyle movement that encourages you to swaddle up in knits or hunker down in your favourite pair of old sweats?
Decorating for hygge
When it comes to decorating our homes, hygge relies on the “less is more” approach. For furnishings, think modern Scandinavian pieces, streamlined shapes with open legs. Upholstered furniture pieces should be comfortable, not rigid. This is a time to sink down and relax. Dining chairs need to be cushy enough for extended social gatherings. There is a nod to minimalism with hygge: never crowding your space with more than you need.
Don’t assume you need to replace everything to embody the hygge mandate. Cherishing the past and highlighting your family’s heritage is as important as the new. Be open to paring down. A little de-cluttering can better honour the mementos that hold deep meaning for you and your family. Cultivate your inner Maria Kondo (many of her practices align with the hygge mentality). Consider the items and pieces that spark joy and warm the cockles of your heart.
Another objective of hygge is to quiet the busy mind. Soften your home with whites, creams and naturally derived neutrals to amplify peace in the overall visual effect. The intent is to create a space of comfortable ease for you, your family and your guests. Reduce the use of bright colours, sharp geometrics and polished objects; embrace the calming effects of wintry whites. Look for matte textures such as concrete or clay when choosing dishware, table lamps and accent pieces.
Layered textures are key to creating a “cocoon-able” space. Chunky knits, nubby fabrics and sinkable furnishings add natural calmness. Warm and cozy throw cushions, blankets and plush area rugs are great additions to your current space. Look for natural materials in wools, cottons, linens. Textiles should be soft to the touch.
Natural wood elements are a perfect way to add warmth to your space, whether it be a teak end table, a walnut candleholder or a handcrafted acacia bowl. The gnarled and knotty textures of wood are a perfect companion to the snowy whites. Increase the calming power of nature by adding plants and greenery. Stick with hardy varieties that thrive in dry environments with minimal sunlight like succulents, aloe, and jade.
And for the simplest step of all, dim the lights. Candles and their gentle glow embody the cocooning mentality. Light a fire and set the ambiance to low. Accent lights and fixtures can be warm as well as energy efficient. Look for LED bulbs with a warm white temperature of 3000k or higher.
Hygge embodies the joy to be found in the quieter moments of our hectic lives. Too often we focus on efficiency and the ability to multitask as key aspects to a successful life. But understanding and supporting our very human need to retreat can be just as beneficial. Give yourself a cozy sanctuary where you can recharge and rejoice in the wintry days ahead.
Homebuilder: Goodison Construction
Home designer: Bruce Wilkin Inc.
Interior design: Mari Kushino Design
Styling by: Lorin Turner, Zebra Group
Accent table, area rug, table lamps, decorative accents: Bespoke Design