What in the world is "Hoo-guh"?

You can thank Denmark for this year’s most talked-about home lifestyle trend. Think of “hygge” (pronounced “HOO-guh”) as a softer, cozier counterpart to feng shui. But instead of rearranging furniture to find harmony between nature and the environment, hygge is more about embracing life’s simple pleasures—like a steaming cup of coffee, toasty blankets, soft lighting, and nights spent around the dinner table with friends.

Just in time for these very uncalm times, say hello to the Danish concept of living calmly, slowing down, and experiencing the moment.

Although it’s primarily considered to be a state of mind, you can embrace hygge by tailoring your home with cozy furnishings and creature comforts.

Hygge is an intrinsic part of Danish culture, centering on the relaxed attitude that is so highly valued in the Scandinavian lifestyle. The word itself is derived from “hugga,” the 16th-century Norwegian term that means “to comfort.”

“Hygge is about spending time with loved ones, carving out me time, and letting yourself experience joy in the ordinary,” says Traci Pichette, founder of Pumeli, a company that curates gift boxes suited for the hygge lifestyle.

There’s no definitive date of when hygge took hold in Denmark, but it seems to have evolved over time as a counterpoint to the extreme boredom induced by the region’s long, cold winters.

While generations of Danes have cultivated hygge for eons, the snug lifestyle has only recently hit the U.S. consciousness. In April 2016, “The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country” was published, became a best-seller, and jump-started the trend.

Since then, at least six books on hygge hit the market in late 2016 (with more to come in 2017), including “The Little Book of Hygge” by the chief executive of Copenhagen’s Happiness Institute, Meik Wiking. Last month, the New York Times spoke with Wiking, who put hygge in terms that we can all understand: “Danes see hygge as a part of our culture,” he said, “the same way you see freedom as inherently American.”

Houses rocking a hygge vibe are first and foremost sanctuaries of comfort, so think about creating an atmosphere that appeals to all the senses.

 Go for comfort when choosing furniture and accessories. Opt for inviting decor that encourages hunkering down with a good book—think couches framed by soft blankets and lots of pillows.

“Add lush, furry rugs to make sure you feel hygge down to your toes,” says Brentnie Daggett, a design writer.

Amp up natural light in common areas. For Danes facing a long winter, hygge involves bringing the fleeting daylight indoors.

“Avoid light-blocking curtains or blinds,” says Daggett. Instead, opt for sheer, white curtains. And when the sun sets, light candles and a crackling fire for an extra dose of hygge. “Candlelight emits the sense of calm that equates to hygge.”

If you don’t have a fireplace, consider springing for a ventless fireplace with a real flame.

Plan evening gatherings with friends and family. Another translation of hygge is “kinship.” Invite your favorite people over for an intimate dinner or a cup of coffee.

Jessica Dowling, head of Wayfair Trade for interior designers, suggests adding artisan touches and tactile dinnerware to your table. She likes hand-poured candles, vintage wine glasses (which are great for serving “glogg,” a Danish mulled wine), and pottery coffee mugs. These sensory extras set the stage for a beautiful dining experience and encourage guests to linger at the table.

Decorate with meaningful found objects. Hygge doesn’t mean you have to run out and buy every cable-knit blanket and cashmere pillow you see. You should also fill your home with objects you love. In fact, the perfect hygge decor could be hiding in your attic: family heirlooms or a knickknack that invokes happy memories of friends or family.

Unplug from technology. “Hygge is counter to our digital, flat-screen lives,” says Pichette. Give yourself permission to tune out and unplug from the stresses of a constantly connected lifestyle by creating at least one screen-free room in your home.

Take time in the morning for breakfast with a cup of tea and some light reading. You’ll thank us.

Keep clutter in your home to a minimum. To foster a sense of clarity, clear your kitchen counters and coffee tables of excess knickknacks. Fewer distractions will help you stay fully present.

Beyond decor, hygge is about continually gathering with loved ones to bond over a familiar and recurring ritual. To truly welcome the spirit into your home, it’s necessary to carve out moments of comfort and calm every day. That could mean savoring your morning cup of coffee, reading your favorite book next to a crackling fire, or indulging in a thoughtful conversation with a loved one. Enjoy!

Article courtesy of Margaret Heidenry, a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine. Photo courtesy of Realtor.com

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