The Danes love candles, fireplaces, warm bulky knits and homes that are cozy and inviting.
All of these little things encourage pursuit of the Danish lifestyle, and influence their happiness at home and work, with family and friends, and time spent quietly on their own. They call it hygge (hoo-gah) and they use the word a lot. It is used in reference to all the simple pleasures in life.
The window seat, where you curl up with a book or journal is called a hyggekrog. There is a book about it called, The Little Book of Hygge written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (yes that’s a real job!). Sweet and unassuming in appearance, the book actually delves into important matters, like the real emotional satisfaction people can get from the simplest little things.
Hygge has become a buzzword in the interior design world, and as it refers to design, it covers a lot of ground. You find it, obviously, everywhere in the Ikea stores, but it has expanded to permeate other popular aesthetics. It has counterparts in other countries as well.
In Norway they have koselig. The Dutch use the word gezellig. Lagom in Sweden, is similar, but a bit less about coziness and more about tasteful moderation, being comfortable with just enough. The architectural implications, however, are similar in all of them: serene uncluttered spaces, muted colors, lots of natural light, raw linen, wood furniture, strategically placed modern light fixtures, handmade crafts, fireplaces and warm and cozy accessories.
There is also an offshoot creeping up recently in design blogs as well, that has been dubbed Japandi. It basically refers to designs that blend the natural simplicity of Scandanavian modern, and spare clean lines of traditional Japanese design. It signals to me that there is a growing desire for what some call ‘cozy minimalism’ in our home environments.
Marie Kondo shares a similar ideology, but comes at it from a cleaning and organizing angle—her mantra: only keep things that are useful or spark joy in your soul! Her unassuming book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has created an unexpected upsurge in organizing accessory sales—even though she encourages her readers they can do without! Decluttering has become a huge trend. It can improve both the functionality and aesthetics of our home, but also comes with the psychological benefits of reduced stress, improved relationships and increased ability to relax.
Biophilic design is another related architectural concept that comes from the sciences. It is adapted from biophilia, or man’s innate affiliation with the natural world. In terms of design, it means bringing nature back into the built environment: abundant daylight, operable windows, natural materials, indoor plants, outdoor green spaces... Because of the nature connection, these design trends also share many biophilic features.
There are other similar trends that have been simmering for a while—feng shui, slow-living, voluntary simplicity—and others that seem to be just getting a foot hold. In the next few blog posts I will be touch on each, and providing the visual evidence to help clarify the differences and similarities. I have collected images on Houzz to help you visualize what hygge looks like.
I am very excited by the direction that residential architecture is headed. It seems like people really want to find ways to decompress from the many stressors coming at us as a part of modern life. Our homes are clearly the best place to begin, from there it may even spread to our workplaces and our cities.