What Exactly Is Hygge in Nordic Design?

Discover this Danish design trend based on comfort, which is applied to fashion, crochet, and interiors

If you have your finger on the pulse of what's happening on social media, you'll probably have already spotted the word “hygge” everywhere, especially hashtags related to design, style, and decoration.

The term is often associated with fluffy carpets and soft fabrics; warm atmospheres filled with flowers, flooded with beautiful light, and serving up delicious and nutritious dishes. It is also associated with clothing, furniture, and even certain practices. If it encompasses so many different things, what exactly is hygge?

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Meik Wiking's book “Hygge” discusses the concept. Credit: Unsplash.

How is it translated?

Hygge, pronounced hyoo-guh, is roughly translated as "coziness" yet means so much more. Hygge is a word referring to the happiness derived from life’s simple pleasures. The Danes believe that by putting hygge into practice, they will feel happier and their homes warmer.

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Hygge means so much more than "coziness." Credit: Unsplash.

Where does the word come from?

The word hygge is thought to come from an Old Norwegian word for "wellbeing." Today, it is most associated with Danish culture–after appearing in a Danish document in the late 18th century for the first time, it entered the popular vernacular. In general, the Danes ascribe it to this sense of shared wellbeing. It is a concept that experiences high and low seasons.

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Hygge experiences high and low seasons. Credit: Unsplash.

What is the high season for hygge?

This term is usually associated with winter and the culture of hibernating, looking after oneself, and building a shelter that protects one from the hostile conditions outside. Its peak season is Christmas, when there is a focus on sharing with others and entertaining friends and family. However, summer also embraces elements of hygge culture, such as picnics in the park, barbecues with friends, bike rides, and street festivals.

What reinforces all of this as hygge is its strong aesthetic component. Danes like beautiful things, and by beautiful, they mean natural, ecological, homemade, and sustainable. Hygge prioritizes that which is environmental and human. It is the polar opposite of artificiality.

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Christmas is full-blown hygge. Credit: Unsplash.

Why has this concept become so significant?

In 2012, a report conducted by the UN ranked Denmark as the happiest country in the world. From that moment on, the design universe started paying more attention to the importance of coziness in Danish culture.

The influence of this trend on design

In interior design and decoration, hygge is created with candles, blankets in a range of textures, cushions, handmade ceramics, linen sheets, light colors, natural materials, and soft lighting.

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Candles are key elements for creating hygge. Credit: Unsplash.
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Books, blankets, and coffee. Credit: Unsplash.

When it comes to clothing, hygge embraces roomy, super-comfortable cuts in pastels, grays, and terracottas. As you'd expect, hygge design prioritizes gifting objects that have been made by hand, either by you or your friends. An item of clothing doesn't need to be new to be hygge; it can also be something you inherited and love to wear.

Crochet and knitting are very popular in the hygge universe. You can explore this more in Ali Maravillas’ (@alimaravillas) Domestika courses. She is an expert in Nordic crochet.

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This piece from Ali Maravilla's Nordic crochet course, "Create garments with one needle," is very hygge.

Find out more about the concept

The Danish government has an official tour called “Hygge and happiness” tour that takes you on a walk around Copenhagen to see sites that ooze hygge. It lasts 3.5 hours and is a great way to get to know Danish culture.

English version by @eloiseedgington.

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- Designing Products of the Future, a course by Cecilia Tham
- Textile Pattern Design for Home Interiors, a course by Tatiana Nedialkova

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