Words: Matt Potter
Hygge is among Denmark’s most successful global exports. But don’t abandon that cozy feeling when winter’s done. The return of light, warmth and green leaves brings new opportunities to build it into your everyday.
So what exactly is hygge? Ask Danes, and you’ll receive as many answers as there are people. My immediate friends volunteered a bewilderingly wide range of verdicts. It is “Cosiness, simple!” says one. “It is hunkering down with the tools you need to be cozy in the dark – a survival strategy when winters are long and the days are short,” explains another. “For me, it comes with a hot dog and mulled wine,” says a third. “Like looking out at rain but you’re nice and dry, and it doesn’t even have to be raining”, and “Like having a lovely log cabin inside your heart,” say others.
You could be forgiven for thinking that hygge is a seasonal feeling – something to be unpacked for the first chill blast of winter. But for Danes, it’s a year-round treat.
And spring is when it really comes into its own…
And no wonder we need a little springtime hygge. For our ancestors, this was the season of new hope, but also scarcity and chill. Dry fuel for heat was hard to find. The thaw brought back icy rain and swollen rivers, and wildlife that required long outdoor hours to catch. It was a time of hunger, when food gathered in the autumn and consumed through winter ran out.
And it’s in our refuges and coziness amid spring winds and showers that we see most clearly the key ‘secret’ ingredient for hygge: a sense of freedom from worry or concerns about the future.
As one ECCO colleague puts it, “Hygge is far more than furry blankets and cups of cocoa. It’s a moment of awareness and thankfulness, a conscious state of peace.”
For something so tightly connected with Denmark, it’s a surprise that the word did not originate there at all. Its roots lie in the Old Norse word for thinking, hyggja. Hygge, with its familiar connection to comfort and coziness, first appeared in Old Norwegian in the Middle Ages. Its association with Denmark specifically is a recent phenomenon, promoted by a country eager to help the world understand just what makes Danish design so special. Hygge is the metaphorical software that helps us to enjoy Danish furniture’s elegant, comfortable, life-enhancing, and supremely liveable hardware.
This is the deeper connection. Hygge, year-round, reflects the values of Danish society. Equality, lightness, transparency, and ensuring that everyone’s comfort and holistic wellbeing come first.
These are the principles that unite Denmark’s architecture, social history, design heritage, style and aesthetics, and the physical and emotional wellbeing of its people. And just as no Danish-inspired room is complete without the built-in potential for the comfort, ease, coziness, and freedom from worry that hygge brings, so Danish designers have brought that principle to their creations.
Hygge for your feet
ECCO shoes are designed and driven by the comfort experience, which makes them intrinsically hygge. Here are Swedish interior stylist Christine Björkman’s picks to support you through spring and beyond.
“I think it’s important to surround yourself with good things and that is what my spring hygge is about,” Christine explains. “The soft minimalism of the Scandinavian interior is really in my heart, and I love to integrate that feeling into my home.
“The home is not just a physical thing,” she continues. “It’s a feeling – like hygge. I open up the windows and doors and let in the season’s natural light. Particularly the morning light. And spring is the time of year when I really start to make the space to let creativity flow. It’s a time for clearing out and preparing for the lighter seasons. I find that taking time to organize – packing away winter clothes, embracing the new season, and preparing for summer – gives me a real sensation of calm. I set my mind up for everything. It’s an enhanced feeling of living fully every day, so there is the time to deal with things that may have fallen by the wayside.”
Christine also sees the lighter, spring side of hygge going back to the deepest drives of our animal natures – for the ultimate in ease of mind and physical security, comfort, and snugness.
“I stop and see and really enjoy those moments in life. New buds appearing and bulbs popping up. It’s just what life is about, right? To enjoy the small things, to open your senses – to see, feel and live fully in the moment. I feel free every time the warmer weather arrives and it’s the most wonderful feeling I know.”
This freedom is at the heart of it all. While winter hygge may be about hunkering down, spring hygge is about opening up and exploring the beauty of light and life returning to our world. Springtime is hygge reborn.
Christine Björkman shares her spring hygge checklist
New-season flowers and their scent
It’s so wonderful when the first tulips show up – the sign of a new season for us Scandinavians. Later, I collect flowers from my own garden and put them all around the house. There isn’t anything better.
White linen bedding
Clean sheets are a joy and white linen bedding freshens up the whole room, making it look bright and inviting. It also feels so soft on your skin.
My favorite light Trench coat
A classic trench coat is a must-have in my wardrobe. It’s a style staple and it makes a simple white T-shirt and jeans look chic.
A pair of white box-fresh sneakers look brilliant with everything from denim to dresses and they shout a welcome to the sunnier weather.
White and beige make up the palette of my home all year round. In this sunnier season, I opt for green accents by placing plants inside and out, maybe bringing in a green throw and some cushions here and there.