Nicer Homes; Happier People

10 things you need to know about… Hygge

Trust the Scandinavians to celebrate life’s small wins. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have any real problems – there’s already free education, health and other social securities, along with the type of leave most would call a sabbatical – that they’ve come up with a word to describe taking pleasure in a warm beverage, pure wool sweater or extra blanket.

Here’s ten things you need to know about hygge and our tips for using comfort to live your best life.


The runner-up for Collins English Dictionary word of the year 2016 (Brexit got top honours) is defined as "a concept, originating in Denmark, of creating cosy and convivial atmospheres that promote wellbeing”.


The Danish obsession with getting cozy is based on their long, dark winters and bad weather, but makes sense for us down South when you consider the Cape’s winter rains and Joburg’s frigid cold. Durbanites should turn the AC to 11 and apply these learnings to days that they’re hungover.


Pronounced hue-guh , not hoo-gah or hig-gee, the word is said to have no direct translation in English, and derives from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console”.


It’s a lifestyle that needn’t cost much, and is all about taking pleasure in the every day and making ordinary moments more meaningful. Next time you find yourself basking in a moment that feels like dipping into a warm bath, be grateful for it.


You can Hygge alone while making your morning cup of coffee, on the couch with Netflix and your signficant other, or even with friends around the dinner table. Hygge is simply being aware of a good moment.


While you don’t necessarily have to buy anything to buy into hygge – it is in fact quite removed from consumerism – you should look to invest in the type of thing that will elevate the mundane to the sacred.


There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad life choices. Avoid erroneous clothing and decor items by doing things like relying on lamps instead of overhead lighting, surrounding yourself with soft blankets and fluffy pillows, pulling on chunky knits, and holding hot drinks in front of open fires. No fireplace? Arrange candles of different sizes into a cluster and watch the flames flicker.


You should attempt to live your life as an art form, embrace your domestic chores as an opportunity to flex your hygge muscle, and always look at stripping away any extraneous items that don't bring you joy. Rustic equates to authentic. Simple means sophisticated. Flipping a record on your music player instead of streaming music from your phone is lifestyle.


Essential hygge reading: The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell, How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection, by Louisa Thomsen Brits.


Incorporate healthy hedonism in the form of food and drink into your hygge home. Breakfast on homemade muesli, take a cardamom bun with your mid-morning tea, then feast on hearty stews and artisan breads for dinner. To drink? Glühwein, Irish coffee or a single malt scotch. And you can’t have a great meal without the right gear so invest in your dining room and kitchen.

* Photographs: Imax Tree