Words Gaynor Stanley
You’ve likely seen references to hygge in your favourite homewares outlets and wondered just what does that mean? Cosiness comes close to describing hygge, but stops short of fully embracing the warm and openhearted atmosphere that every Dane feels quintessentially at home with. So entrenched in Denmark’s culture are things hyggeligt that Denmark is actively pushing for hygge to be given World Heritage status by UNESCO. I sought clarification from my Danish friend, Janni, who introduced me to hygge when she was a young traveller pining for its genial values in brash Sydney 15 years ago.
Now all grown up, for Janni hygge is all about sharing good times with favourite people in cosy surroundings. “Hygge is quality time with family and good friends and it often includes candlelights, a fireplace, food, coffee and/or a glass of red wine. “My kids sometimes say: ‘Mum, are we going to hygge tonight?’ It means we are all together, eat candy, play a board game, watch a movie or just talk together. Hygge is a positive word and makes me smile.”
This convivial vibe isn’t the exclusive domain of the Danes. Kiwis are expressing its ‘feel good factor’ in small bars like OGB’s Parlour, The Poplar Social Club and The Last Word, as well as Kadett Café, Earl and No. 4 Restaurant, Queenstown’s Canyon Food & Brew Co., and Argo Beach Co-working in New Brighton. I experienced a hygge feeling while preparing to write this story cosseted in a Banks Peninsula bach. Its the Christchurch owners have painted feature walls of their 1930s weatherboard a warm navy to complement the kauri floorboards and ceiling, gathered comfy wooden retro furniture strewn with cushions repurposed from Kaiapoi Woollen Mill blankets on a jute rug in front of a russet-coloured Bosco firebox, a timber chest laden with board games and a small TV yet large DVD selection. With no Wi-Fi, yet ample supplies of coffee and red wine, joy was sparked to see our 18 and 10 year olds happily bent over books and bonding with Mum and Dad as Jenga towers fell and Mr Bean’s Holiday and Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em tickled genetic funny bones.
“For us Danes, hygge is the pursuit of happiness,” says the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute Meik Wiking, who is championing the UNESCO bid. For the rest of us, we can envy the Danes channelling hygge in their inviting interior design, fashion (chunky layers, oversized scarves) and even bicycles (those cargo bikes with pint-sized passenger seats over the front wheel). As a Dane will tell you, everything is hyggeligt.
As we bid long summer days farewell and prepare to hunker down for autumn, I recommend following the Danes’ lead and warming your living space with some hygge. Visit Denmark proclaims Danes are the masters of smart, minimal, and intentional design, where ‘less is more’. When aiming
to make your home more hygge, if an item, piece of furniture or area doesn’t make you feel more relaxed or cosy, either restyle it, move it or give it away. And, if that’s sounding a bit Marie Kondo, you’re right.