As temperatures start to drop and the days grow shorter, there is no better time than winter to embrace hygge, the Danish philosophy of cozy living.
"One part of Danish culture I ended up loving was their ability to slow down and have these special moments," says Alexandra Gove, who co-owns Hygge Life—the Avon, Colorado brick-and-mortar and e-tailer that celebrates the Danish philosophy.
After meeting her now-husband and business partner Koen van Renswoude, the duo moved to Amsterdam, van Renswoude’s hometown, and traveled throughout Europe for four years. It was in Amsterdam where Gove discovered gezellig, the Dutch version of hygge. Then, when the duo arrived in Denmark, Gove says, "That is where a light bulb went off."
"I had to do something with this," says Gove. "There is a word that captures what I love about these European cultures that we aren’t focusing on in the U.S."
So, the two bought an old camper van and traveled Europe selling mini pancakes and textiles. They set up pop-up shops at markets and Gove started collecting vintage wool blankets and candle holders that evoked the feel of hygge as they started to develop the framework for what evolved into their own small business, Hygge Life.
After their European tour, the duo came back to Colorado two years ago and opened the shop in August 2017, which sells European, Scandinavian, and American wares that evoke the feeling of hygge.
Below, the creators of the home-accessories shop share their top tips on how to bring the cozy, comforting aesthetic of hygge into any home.
Let Your Home Reflect You
"Think about your space as your haven, filled with all the things you love," says Gove. To create special moments, surround yourself with the furniture, decor, and people that make you happy. For example, if you love to read, create a cozy reading nook with a plush chair; or if you love to cook, outfit your kitchen with beautifully made utensils.
"It’s important that we have a place that caters to our lifestyle and what we love to do—and that creates those moments and feelings," notes Gove.
Decorate With Nostalgia in Mind
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make a happy home. Head to the flea market or a thrift store, and you'll be surprised by the nostalgic treasures you might come across. "Or if there is something passed down to you that evokes emotion or a feeling—like china you can break out every once in a while, or a painting you can hang on the wall," Gove says.
Splurge on Occasion
The Danes embrace design and will tell you the importance of investing in furnishings that are both functional and beautiful. So if you have the means, splurge on furnishings or decor that you’ve been longing for. "If you are thinking that you’d love a custom dining table to have your friends around and host dinner, that is a nice thing," says Gove. "Another part of hygge is bringing out the things that you are excited to share with your friends. Use your 'good' stuff, your passed down Grandmother’s china. Hygge is about using your nice things and bringing out the good wine."
Embrace Natural Materials
Incorporate natural elements into your home by decorating with natural decor and furnishings—such as a beautiful wooden table with a live edge, or perhaps an organic wool throw. Add good ole Mother Nature to your home by gathering items from the great outdoors, too. "Over the holidays, bring a real tree into your home or have flowers on your table," says Gove.
Create an Ambient Glow
"One of the essential things in hygge is candlelight and lighting," explains Gove. On cold winter days in Scandinavia, there is only an hour or two of daylight, which makes candlelight so essential. Candles are used from the morning through the evening to create a warm, cozy atmosphere.
"We have a line of everyday candles and they are all Danish and hand-poured," adds Gove. While candlelight evokes warmth, it also creates a peaceful moment.
Use Textures to Soften Spaces
Create inviting spaces with natural textiles—such as cozy wool blankets in the winter and light linens in the summer. Gove recommends sheepskin that is sustainably sourced and minimally processed. "It is beautiful to drape on dining chairs or a sofa, or on the floor for your feet," says Gove. Another option can be wrapping yourself in something cozy like a sweater and throwing on some cushy slippers.
Entertain Loved Ones With Intention
"Having people in your home is a special occasion," says Gove. "It’s not going to happen all the time, so make it a nice moment." For instance, if you are gathering in the living room, make sure that the seating arrangement is centered around conversation and not the television.
"Arrange your home in a way that encourages connection and conversation," continues Gove. When throwing dinner parties, she recommends doing food prep in advance so that you can spend time with guests, rather than be stuck in the kitchen cooking.
Remember—It’s All About the Details
When entertaining, it's important to remember that details go a long way—showing guests the time and thought you put into hosting. Gove recommends putting a basket of slippers at the front door to allow people to slip off their shoes and relax. Gussy up the table with special touches like flowers, handwritten menus, and place cards. "Show your guests that you’ve been thoughtful about it and and preparing," says Gove. "Simple touches feel homey and thoughtful."
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