Contrary to the title of this post, Hygge is actually pronounced “Hoo-guh”. This Danish noun should be rather impacting if not inspirational to any Designer’s life.
If you decide to search up the word “Hygge” on Instagram, there will be 1.7 million posts (waiting for you to spend the rest of your evening looking at) relating to hot chocolates, scented candles, thick cosy blankets and a warm fire next to a hand-crafted wooden coffee table. Another staggering statistic is that Pinterest experienced a 287% spike on “Hygge” pins, and in the same year it was shortlisted as the ‘Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year’. Having said this, it’s not difficult to understand why this aesthetic is becoming more desirable amongst millennials in particular with hipster/quirky retail companies such as Urban Outfitters adopting many Hygge principles. With Hygge possessing some classic design attributes such as minimalism, spacial awareness and a complimentary colour palette, it brings a compelling new feel for a user with it’s strong elements of traditional craft, sublime use of illumination and a sense of everyday pleasure.
If you already know a little bit or a lot about Hygge design, I hope you enjoy enriching your already existing love for it. If not, go and get yourself a hot drink and a blanket (maybe even light some candles if you’re really feeling it?), sit back and enjoy the beauty of Scandinavian derived design. The hardest part comes when you’re finished, look around your room and feel hugely underwhelmed with the current decor. Oh well, we dare to dream.
Hygge, as described by the author of the book, “The Little Book of Hygge” whose name is Meik Wiking is ‘the feeling of being consciously cosy’, ‘the art of creating a pleasant atmosphere’ and my particular favourite, ‘the pursuit of everyday happiness’. Others have also described it as ‘socialising for introverts’ as it is about being around loved ones, spending time relaxing with good food, being grateful for what is around you and treating everyone equally.
In relation to how Hygge impacts people in day to day life, it involves the user being indulgent, especially in what they eat. Being indulgent in food usually means eating things like cake, chocolate, sweets and consuming hot chocolate or alcohol. These actions of indulgence connote to being sinful in how you should treat your body, however it breaks the pressure of everyday media and news dictating what people should and shouldn’t eat.
Personally, I’ve always eaten well, having large portions of food from all food groups for my meals and snacking on mostly fibre based foods. But when it comes to treats and desserts, I’ve never held back – I LOVE chocolate. Throughout my life, I’ve been able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want because I keep myself active, exercise regularly and dont consume unhealthy foods on a daily basis. This excludes that (all too well known) exam/deadline period every student undergoes at least twice a year – during this time my diet consists of cheap pizzas and chocolate covered raisins.
Denmark, the birthplace of Hygge, has the lowest life expectancy out of some other Scandinavian countries such as Norway or Sweden due to their more unhealthy diet. However, obesity and type 2 diabetes are not what the Danish are known for. Denmark has consistently come out as #1 in the UN’s ‘World Happiness Report’. The Danes have pretty much nailed how to run their country with equal opportunities for everyone, social security, free healthcare and education and free University(!). They understand that an increased income of a family doesn’t necessarily result in increased happiness – these two factors are far from proportional.
The concept of treating everyone equally in Denmark is perhaps shared with their inanimate objects and living spaces too. For example the image above shows this bedroom area as something to be respected and to be proud of with the use of the sloped walls, strong structural beams and contrasting natural elements. It shows that they take nothing less than pride in their possessions and treat them as carefully as they would with a friend or family member.
Creating space and a pleasant environment for every object in the family home is key, even if it isn’t placed or held in a traditional manner. For example the child’s clothes above are held out in the open instead of being in a wardrobe – but it damn well works.
Designing a living space which makes the user consciously feel comfortable and happy can have a huge impact on their day to day performance in work or social scenarios. I understand that you have to walk before you can run – meaning that you can’t expect luxury living at the age of 21 when you’re first starting out in a career (unless you’re extremely lucky), but one can still make use of whatever living space they’re given – for example student halls or a small, cramped cheap flat in London. Just take a look at the small space above and how it can be transformed into a personal sanctuary. You’re bound to wake up happy in a space incorporating some Hygge principles.
The Danish seem to be very in touch with nature and consistently like to incorporate elements of it into their designs. Unlike many cultures in today’s society, they seems to have a genuine appreciation and respect for the natural world and what it can provide us. Thanks to many money hungry, industrial housing associations and city planners in places like London, Hong Kong, and Paris, humans see nature as a secondary priority and concern when planning their accommodation. Families are herded like cattle into flats and apartments which soar above other buildings. The whole business is very much a “bums on seats” system.
Denmark does not have this approach to living and they appear to be very proud of everything they own and produce. Much like the famous quote from Sir William Morris, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful“.
Good on you Danes, good on you.
I hope you now have a better understanding of what Hygge is and what it represents for people. It’s ever growing success and impact on people’s lives has influenced big retail companies as mentioned at the start of this post. Below are just a few examples of the retailer’s extensive interpretation of this design aesthetic.
Urban Outfitters is one of the world’s largest retailers, initially specialising in youthful hipster fashion, often selling clothes which were supposed to look like they were from charity/vintage shops, with anything but a charity/vintage price tag on any item. They were, and still are the culprit for selling Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones t-shirts to 14-16 year old girls in high school who couldn’t even name one song by the band. Disgraceful. However this is not Urban Outfitters’ fault, this is simply a case of bad parenting and not bringing their children up with a good foundation of music to start building their own interest upon. Thanks Dad for not doing this to me and making me genuinely appreciate every second of School of Rock at the age of 13.
Contrary to this, I must congratulate Urban for producing a rather delectable array of interior products and make me slightly envious of some interiors they have used as samples for their social media. They’ve teamed up Hygge with more modern graphical and artistic elements to appeal to a younger audience, particularly College and University students.
Instead of using objects and colours to connote “good vibes”, Urban felt the need to stress that the user must be feeling good vibes by making a cushion with “good vibes” on it. This is where Urban and the Danes differ hugely – Hygge shouldn’t need a visual prompt, it should be consciously felt and experienced.
Take note Urban, you tried.
I’m all for using natural elements to contrast with interiors, however I feel like my hayfever might go off on one in this design above, or I might wake up to being confused for being an extra in the new Tarzan adaption. I do like the use of wooden pallets for the bed frame, I just hope they’ve been sanded and varnished over and over. No one likes a splinter.
Below we have the ever-so pretentious ornaments. Tobacco scented candles(?) and a re-vamped record player – the essentials for any try hard high school kid.
Oh and don’t forget the cactus!
So there we have it, the origins and evolution of probably one of my favourite design aesthetics and how it has influenced worldwide retailers to create their own versions. I understand that it sounds like I’m having a dig at Urban Outfitters, but I only wish to stress how the principles of Hygge should impact people’s outlook and personalities into something more equally balanced, appreciative and respectful to what surrounds us. These principles shown by this movement have been used by a company which for example, charges £40 for a strappy top. Just saying.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and like me, would just love a bit more Hygge in their lives.
Tak, (thank you)
Image References via : https://www.pinterest.co.uk/