Photo by Dallin Hassard on Unsplash

By Tiffany Edison

I often stake claim to being a fall person, because it absolutely is my favorite time of year in Michigan. The crisp air, gorgeous color change, and the desire to “nest” are among my most treasured rites of passage. This combination, along with the recognition that winter will soon be upon us, awakens in me the desire to prepare my home for the holiday season. I liken this feeling to hunting and gathering, and attribute this instinctive drive to create a comfortable environment throughout the winter months as the ultimate indulgence. 

Interestingly enough, there has been a phenomenon gaining popularity in the United States in the past couple of years, based on Scandinavian principles of restraint and effortless comfort.  Hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” 

With its increasing popularity in the States, it has also garnered a rather broad band of skeptics who believe that hygge is just a clever marketing scheme hijacked by big business in an effort to serve its own commercial interests. Namely, to increase sales of candles, blankets, and yes, even sheepskin rugs. 

There have been multiple books about hygge published in the United States in recent years, including The Little Book of Hygge, a New York Times bestseller written by Dane Meik Wiking. In its purest form, this Danish term is a way of life, emblazoned in the Scandi psyche. It is not something one can buy, but a feeling. After reading up a bit on this topic, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that our nation’s obsession with happiness is often linked to how we compare ourselves to other nations around the globe and their ability to achieve it! Denmark clocks in as the world’s happiest country, according to the 2016 World Happiness Report, attributing their good fortune to quality time spent with friends and family and focusing on the good things in life. Other Danes, such as Sofie Hagen, highlight the Scandinavian tax model arguing that when free university education, social security, universal health care, and paid family leave are all taken care of, it frees one up from stress, allowing for a better quality of life. In many respects, this principle reminds me of the mantra my yoga teacher often repeats about being mindful and present: “Mindfulness costs nothing, but the return is invaluable.” I feel in some small way that is what we are all searching for on our path to happiness and well-being.

Regardless if you practice yoga, hygge, or simply consumerism, I will say that there is most definitely an aesthetic associated with this phenomenon, or at least the marketed version. Given the Scandinavia’s long, cold winters, it should come as no surprise that creating a warm environment in one’s home is at the top of the list. This can take the form of a roaring fire in the living room hearth, or even be as simple as a few simple candles scattered throughout the home. The goal is to create a calming environment, and let’s face it, there are not many things more romantic than candles and a crackling fire. Add in the comforts of loungewear and a soft blanket, and you have set the scene for a perfect hygge moment. 

Softening your space through neutral paint colors is also a way to create a relaxing oasis at home. The use of a single paint color such as white, cream, or even a pale blush throughout the home can create a cohesive look that is comforting to the eye. I also love to use fabric at the windows to soften spaces and give character to each designated room. Textured wallpaper, such as grass cloth, can also add depth and offer a nice contrast to a crisp paint job. If you are not a fan of using wallpaper, you could opt for a textured rug or knit tapestry to ground a special room in your home. And don’t forget to bring on the wood! I have long been a big fan of reclaimed wood, whether in the form of beams on the ceiling or a rustic coffee table—wooden items have a way of making us feel grounded and closer to nature. What is of paramount importance is surrounding yourself with items that bring you joy and offer a sense of contentment. These are just a few of the ways that hygge (in its aesthetic form) can be achieved. But why stop there? It is equally important to calm the mind… 

If you have ever heard the adage that a “cluttered desk is a cluttered mind,” then you would be wise to practice organizing your home environment for efficient, stress-free living. Don’t allow odds and ends to pile up, creating a chaotic setting. My advice is to create a system for how you organize high-traffic areas in your home, whether it be the kitchen, mudroom, or home office. Baskets and bins can maintain the order of toys or bills, and offer a practical way of knowing where something is at all times. Additionally, by keeping surfaces in the home clear from clutter, there is an overall sense of peace of mind. Just think of all the time you’ll save knowing where your keys are when you are heading out the door to work. Better yet, you will not have lost your mind in the process of trying to locate them! Which brings me to my final point: when your home feels relaxed and organized, you can allow yourself to be present and fully enjoy quality time with those you love. With all these warm, fuzzy feelings you have created, you will undoubtedly want to extend an invitation to friends and family to gather around your table and share a meal chock-full of good old-fashioned comfort food.  

No matter which label is used to designate the feeling of contentment, or the difference in opinion of how it is ultimately achieved, it is clear that as human beings we all desire inner peace and connection. As the colder months inch ever so much closer in our little corner of the world, we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone. We can practice being present and grateful. We can celebrate our likeness to those near and far.

BIO: 

Tiffany Edison has been an interior designer since 2002 and specializes in both
residential and commercial projects.  She holds a Master of Social Work degree
(ACSW) and utilizes interpersonal relationship skills on a daily basis with her client
base, largely comprised of Ann Arbor, and Metro Detroit residents.  She has a
wonderfully large blended family residing in the city and enjoys the comforts of home.
When she’s not fully immersed in client projects, you can find her active on the golf
course, a favorite pastime.

www.birchdesignassociates.com