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Discover the Danish concept of hygge

The Danes have a unique and endearing outlook during the cold winter months. Discover the concept of hygge and find out how to prepare for this season like a local

Sally McIlhone

Feature

by Sally McIlhone

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You may not have heard of hygge, but it’s almost certainly something you’ve enjoyed in one form or another. Pronounced hoo-gah, hygge roughly translates as cosiness, but this definition only scratches the surface. In Denmark hygge is more than a concept, it’s a feeling and part of the fabric of life, and it’s especially important when the weather turns colder.

Getting cosy
Hygge can be experienced whether you’re relaxing in the gentle glow of a scented candle, curling up under a blanket on the sofa or sharing food with friends and family. Various items are associated with hygge – from loungewear to cushions – and Danish brands know that to appeal to customers they must offer items which can help create a sense of hygge at home.

Mette Skjærbæk, founder of Danish skincare brand Karmameju, believes the country’s long winters have contributed to the importance of hygge. ‘Denmark is dark and cold for quite a long period of the year – my guess is that this is how we started developing the focus on hygge. But I think the nature of the Danes has a lot to do with it as well: a large study found that it is more important for a Dane to like their boss than how much salary they receive,’ she explains. ‘This is the same as hygge: we want to feel good and we want the good life.’

Lounge about
Karmameju’s hygge-inducing loungewear will certainly make you feel good. From bathrobes to comfortable onesies with hoods, these are items to wrap up in on a cold winter’s evening. ‘Loungewear and hygge go hand in hand, as hygge is all about feeling great and our loungewear is designed to be like a big hug for the body,’ Skjærbæk continues. ‘Our bathrobe is floor length, because the lower leg needs warmth and comfort too and our blanket is 2.5 metres long, enclosing the entire body. Our Cosy socks can be worn in bed, on the plane or when just wandering about your home. The body is at ease in these products, and that is hygge.’

Wrap up warm
Homewares too need to be cosy in order to induce a feeling of hygge. Karen Mimi’s Fuss label has developed patterned cushions and throws which are perfect for this purpose. Not only do the cushions boast merino wool covers and soft feather and down filling, but the designs will bring a touch of Scandinavian chic to your home. ‘We have become slightly obsessed with gorgeous cushions and throws,’ Mimi jokes. ‘We put it down to the time of year when the leaves are falling off the trees, there’s a chill in the air and it’s time for big open fires.’

Comfort is key
Lasse Elvang, co-founder of Danish homewares brand Elvang, agrees. ‘The Danes are very into interior decor and with throws and cushions you can easily change the look of your furniture. Furthermore, throws and cushions have always made the base for a hyggelig (cosy) evening on the sofa, watching a film or entertaining friends and family,’ explains the designer. ‘Elvang throws and cushions are made of soft alpaca wool and offer this special feeling of hygge.’

Set the mood
Candles are an important part of the hygge experience and Danish brand Skandinavisk has created Hygge, a scented version. Combining notes of baked strawberry cake and tea, the aroma brings about warmth and comfort. Another characteristic of hygge is inclusiveness, and the brand aimed to reflect this when devising the candle’s scent. ‘We wanted to create a scent that is inclusive, with fragrance notes that people of all ages can recognise and warm to,’ says Skandinavisk cofounder Shaun Russell. For Russell, hygge is about more than shielding yourself from the cold and dark of winter. ‘It’s the ability to find comfort and happiness in the smallest everyday moments. So it’s a priority we can all learn from.’

Look the part
Clothing can also provide a feeling of cosiness and Copenhagen is the ideal city when shopping for warm clothing from local labels. By Malene Birger has a selection of cosy yet fashion-forward jumpers and cardigans made from tactile fabrics including wool and mohair. Its range of coats, from cropped shearling jackets with wide lapels to long woollen coats with fur collars, will take you from city shopping to returning home for a hyggelig evening with friends by the fire. Birger Christensen also has some comforting winter clothing options for men and women, from fur pea coats and colour-pop capes to panelled sweaters, blankets and muffs.

And when you’ve selected your perfect Copenhagen-inspired wardrobe our experts recommend a visit to the Royal Smushi Cafe and to the Tivoli Gardens amusement park. ‘Hygge is really all about the people, so get social,’ says Skjærbæk. ‘Copenhageners love visitors, so don’t feel shy: ask them an opening question and you will find that we love to talk, share and experience.’

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