Hygge, the Danish Art of Coziness, Part 1

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Happy Thanksgiving!

As we enter the Holiday Season, I would like to share a mini series about Hygge, the Danish Art of Cozyness with you. It inspired me to bring a little bit more coziness back into my life, and I hope this may do the same for you. Enjoy!

When was the last time you enjoyed cozy togetherness, without the feeling that something was tugging on your sleeve? I recently blew the opportunity while my mom was visiting from Europe, which made me reflect upon our different lifestyles, and the things that we may be able to learn to get a little more Cozyness. While I’ll share a little bit about German Gemuetlichkeit, the Danish have become the true experts on the matter. My memories from visits to Denmark are less about it’s architecture, and more  about people sitting in coffee shops, often outside, even on chilly evenings, warmed by blankets and holding  hot mugs in their hands. Some reading, some watching the world go by, and some engaged in deep conversation with their friends. From the distance, or on your favorite coffee table book, a lot of Scandinavian design stands out in sleekness. But in real-life, these spaces get transformed into havens of coziness. How do they do that?

Part 1: The ABC of Hygge

The Little Book of Hygge by Mike Weiking digs deep into the concept of “Hygge”, the Danish word that encompasses a philosophy of Coziness that stretches from concepts of design to psychology. To give you a taste of Hygge, here’s my own interpretation, or the ABCs of Hygge:

I’m not proud to admit that my lifestyle has steadily moved from the C’s to the B’s. Running a business and having two little ones, we have grown semi-dependent on screen time when we I need a break from the kids (administered in 10 minute increments to soothe my conscience), and many other easy and fast conveniences. And there is something about busyness that is contagious. Here (in the US), there still is a little bit of heroism about our busyness. I don’t brag about it, but I have to admit it more often than I care to.

My Mom recently stayed with me for a month to help with the kids while my husband was working out of state. While she didn’t say it, I could tell how bewildered she was about my frenziness. I barely made time for our meals, taking a utilitarian “need nutrition” approach, instead of the ceremony of a shared meal. I did a horrible job honoring tee-time. The house had slipped into a state in which it failed it’s job as a restorative oasis, and instead became an additional reminder of all things undone. I was antsy, always eager to move on to the next thing on my list. Upon closer inspection, whenever I did finish a task, and things did slow down, and a little pocket of unprogrammed availability occurred, I developed a habit to immediately fill it with the next thing, and the supply of “next things” never runs out.

Thinking back to life in Europe, even Germany celebrated the concept of “Gemuetlichkeit”. Of course we would occasionally get busy, but we would cherish sitting in a cafe, Biergarten, or having dinner at each other’s houses. We had our own traditions of teatime. Generally the distracted frenziness that seems  normal here was frowned upon. It wasn’t considered the right way to live. Here (in the US), it’s almost the opposite. We tend to hide our downtime in private, as if it was a guilty pleasure, while displaying our busy side much more publicly.

Since the recent experience with my Mom, I’m  becoming more aware that my own behaviors strongly influence the culture at Spark, personal friendships, my marriage, and most importantly, our kids. But habits are hard to change, especially when surrounded by a culture that looks and feels so busy. Short of moving us back to Europe, here are some ideas to bring Hygge back into our everyday life. As a book nerd I recommend  The Little Book of Hygge, but don’t wait to read it to take hyggeness for a test drive. Warning: My experience is that it’s surprisingly hard. I still find myself wanting to justify a lengthy lunch as important for business, or a break as a productivity boost. These justifications are technically valid, but how about just doing it for the sake of Hygge? By allowing ourselves to embrace that idea, we give others permission to sample a little bit of Hygge in their own lives.

 

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Sophia Sparklin

Growing up in a family with generations in medical practice, Sophia discovered her passion for architecture during an internship 1996. Since then Sophia received formal and informal education in Germany and the US. At Arizona State University she was honored by the Henry Adams Certificate for graduating on top of her (Master of Architecture) class in 2005.