Every industry has its own buzz words and lingo. In design, particularly sustainable design, we love to use “pop” (a pop of color, a pop of life, a pop of energy) and we love to use hygee (the Danish word meaning to give comfort, joy, and peace). Pop is easy for everyone to understand because it is literally like an exclamation point in a room—an accent, a focal point. Hygee, on the other hand, takes a little more explaining and little more thought—It is something to be considered.
Hygee is tough because there is no literal translation in English and the exact definition varies from one designer to the next. It is also difficult to say (it is pronounced “hoo-gah”), so we often substitute it for easier words like cozy, warm, and inviting.
Hygee goes a step beyond those simple terms; It is a powerful idea—a philosophy even—that a space can create a mood. It is the idea that design can bring peace, tranquility, and even promote wellness and happiness. As designers, we love having a word that captures the essence of what we try to do. It is a bit like the French phrase “je ne sais quoi” (I don’t know what it is, but it works), but in the case of hygee, we know what it is and we know why it works. Principles of Hygee are these:
Create A Space for Family and Friends
Work with your layout to make sure you include a place for everyone to gather. If your seating arrangement in the living room is limited to one sofa and two chairs, don’t be afraid to pull seats from another room or create a cozy pillowed spot on the floor. Believe in the power of “if you build it, they will come,” as nothing is more inviting than a gathering spot that includes everyone. Extra bonus points for making a spot for the family pet(s) as well as part of the family gathering space!
Layer your lights, layer your fabrics. Don’t rely on an overhead alone, use table lamps, candles, sconces, whatever you have. Same goes with textiles. Don’t leave furniture naked. Every sofa, every chair deserves a throw and pillows. Depth helps create the sense of safety and security and helps everyone feel at ease.
Some might wonder how hygee can promote depth (i.e. blankets and pillows) while promoting the idea of simplicity. Simplicity is a funny thing though and isn’t the clean, minimalist modern look many people tend to think of when they hear the word. Rather, think of simplicity in terms of pairings. Create depth through textures, not color and pattern. Use accessories that feel harmonious together. Stick to theme. Use honest, natural materials like organic textiles, natural wood, etc.
A favorite color palette in hygee is soft pale pinks, soft blues, whites, creams, and grays. These colors work together very well and are reminiscent of dreamy winter sunsets. As you transition your home away from holiday decor, pack away the reds and opt instead for soft, natural, hues.
Hygee is all about crafting thoughtful spaces that go the extra mile. You don’t have to go overboard with everything but try and pick a few accents that are elevated beyond typical everyday use. Many of us have fancy candles we save for months and months. Embrace hygee and use them now. Don’t wait. Little luxuries are meant to be enjoyed and deployed whenever there is a chance to sit down, relax, and enjoy hygee.
—By Kate Gray Fudim
Editor’s Note: Kate Gray Fudim is an interior designer with Beth Haley Design. Kate has a master’s degree in Interior Architecture and Design with an emphasis in sustainable design. Beth Haley Design, an urban interior design firm, focuses on remodeling and revitalizing established homes, as well as creating stimulating, functional, sustainable spaces in new homes.. E-mail your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bethhaleydesign.com.