Long been obsessed with all things Scandi? You’ll likely find the Danish concept of Hygge appealing. Pronounced ‘hue-gah’, it is best described as the philosophy of enjoying life’s simple pleasures, and is now the latest buzzword in wellness thanks to a new crop of books and blogs.
Wondering what it’s all about? We asked ‘Hygge’ devotee and 26Grains founder Alex Hely Hutchinson, and Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, for the lowdown...
How would you describe Hygge?
I've come to realise that hygge is a very personal thing. After a year spent living in Copenhagen, I began to understand it as a word that evokes a feeling of warmth, cosiness and togetherness. For me, hygge is about sharing moments with friends, enjoying the feel of new sheets, having a hot bath after a run, tucking into a warming bowl of porridge in the cooler months or having a cup of tea after a long walk. – Alex Hely Hutchinson
Hygge has been called everything from ‘the art of creating intimacy’, ‘cosiness of the soul’ and ‘the absence of annoyance’ to ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things’ and ‘cosy togetherness’. However, I think the essence of hygge can best be described as the pursuit of everyday happiness. – Meik Wiking
Where does the concept of Hygge come from?
Hygge’ appeared in written Danish for the first time in the early 1800s, but the word is actually Norwegian in origin. The original word means ‘wellbeing’, however, ‘hygge’ might also originate from the word ‘hug’. And in many ways that is what hygge is: a good hug, without the physical touch. – Meik Wiking
What would you say are the main benefits of Hygge?
It’s not something you can really strive towards, but rather something that you appreciate in hindsight. Hygge is about finding a moment of total contentment while doing the simplest things, whether that’s spending time with a friend you haven’t seen in ages or sitting down for your first meal in a new home. – Alex Hely Hutchinson
It’s about everyday happiness and about making the most of the moment. It’s about gratitude, savouring things, relaxation, togetherness, good food, good company and good lighting. Hygge is a way of planning for and preserving happiness. – Meik Wiking
Does food play a part in hygge?
Food is my hygge. Everything from hearing familiar voices in the kitchen to the smell as an onion starts to soften, or taking time to lay the table beautifully before sharing a meal with friends counts as hygge. Socialising definitely plays a big part, especially that feeling of sharing moments with loved ones, but hygge is what you make it – it can be about spending quality time with others or just taking time for yourself. – Alex Hely Hutchinson
It’s about giving yourself and others a treat and savouring the simple pleasures of good food and good company. Food is therefore a major ingredient. Comfort food is hygge, but hygge food is also very much ‘slow food’. The rule of thumb is: the longer a dish takes to cook, the more hyggelig it is. It's about enjoying the slow process of cooking, appreciating time spent in the kitchen and the joy of creating something of value. That’s why, for instance, homemade jams are considered more hygglige than shop-bought ones. – Meik Wiking
How can we make our home feel more hygge?
By making it the place you want it to be, not what you feel it should be like. You should do whatever makes you happy, whether that’s lighting candles or growing plants – this is the essence of what it means to feel hygge. – Alex Hely Hutchinson
I have three main tips for making your interiors more hygge:
– Make a Hyggekrog, which roughly translates as ‘a nook’. It’s the place in the room where you love to snuggle up in a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea.
– Bring in nature. Danes feel the need to bring the entire forest inside. Any piece of nature you might find is likely to get the hygge green light, from leaves and nuts to twigs and animal skins.
– Think tactile. A hyggelig interior is not just about how things look but how they feel, too. Letting your fingers run across a wooden table or through the hairs of an animal fur feels distinctly different from being in contact with something made from steel, glass or plastic. – Meik Wiking