Many of you may have heard this term recently. Maybe it was through social media or you heard a friend taking about it. “Hygge” is a Danish word that basically means “homey or cozy.”  I have to say this has become my new favourite word. Ever since I can remember my environment has been key to my well-being and I’ve never been able to grasp the right word for what this was. Now I get it. All these years I’ve been trying to bring more “hygge” into my life. When I have “hygge” my whole world feels calmer and happier.

Every culture seems to have a word that means something similar to this. For example, in Holland it is “gezellig,” and in German it is “behaglich.” But why does the Danish word “hygge” seem to stick? I think it is because this term is so central to the Danish culture. I’ve been Reading Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness, by Marie Tourell Søderberg, and she writes how the Danes have had to find a way to create warmth in their lives, as most of the year is dark, dreary and wet. Reading the beautiful pages of this book and learning about different ways Danes have brought hygge into their lives, has inspired me to look further into what this word means to people.

For some, hygge means going for a cool walk in the woods with friends and then returning home to drink a warm cup of tea and snuggle up with a book. For others, it is having a laid back dinner party with sandwiches, snacks and boardgames, rather than prepping a fancy meal. For me, the most exciting part of hygge is how one creates it through design. It is through the materials one uses and the items they choose to place in their space that creates this. And for each person it is different. For me it is having white walls and naturals woods in my home. With my favourite art across the walls. But don’t forget the white space. White space is key to creating a relaxed and balanced atmosphere in my life. And in at least one corner of my home I like to create a cozy nook, with a large chair in the corner, a side table and a reading light over head. Perfect for those cozy Sunday afternoons to read a book and find some peace.

Why has this word all of a sudden become so important to me? Well the answer is simple, travelling. While backpacking around Europe for 4 months I never felt homesick, but I also found myself not able to fully “recharge my battery” at times. But when I stayed with friends and family at their homes, I found myself surrounded by the things and people that bring that hygge into my life. It was a feeling of “home.” This is when I realized how important that feeling is. It doesn’t mean that you need to be in your own home to create this, but you need to be able to find it somewhere. When I stayed with my family in the Netherlands their home was in a loft style apartment. Their walls were full of art, their windows were bright and we ate goodies that reminded me of my home. When I stayed in Scotland, my hosts took me to the most beautiful landscapes and we always finished the evening with a delicious meal and a cup of tea. I was always surrounded with great company. These are all things that made me feel a sense of home. I guess you could say I found many homes away from home.

All in all, I think this feeling of “hygge” is essential to the well-being of all of us. It then makes me start to think about all the people that don’t have this in their lives. Maybe it is people that live in poverty or those that have lost their homes due to a disaster. One thing that I’ve learned about people that have lived in the wild for long periods of time, they say the key part of their survival and being able to stay sane, is creating a home. They build their homes out of the natural materials they find. It is not say that people who live in poverty and other situations can’t create this on their own too, but I think in many situations this is not something they have the resources to create or even think about. I would like to help find ways to bring more spaces to people that will make them feel at home. Whether it is the way we design shelters, providing more affordable homes or creating spaces in the outdoors that bring a sense of calmness.

I’m constantly on a journey of finding more “hygge,” and hope this journey will help me create it for others too.