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Is Hygge Attainable in a Small Space?

by Kayla Kirby

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is a Danish concept that was brought to our attention by Meik Wiking in his book, The Little Danish Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. After all, Denmark is considered to be one of the happiest places in the world, so it’s no surprise that Hygge refers to the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. As Wiking shares in his book, “Hygge is humble and slow. It is choosing rustic over new, simple over posh and ambience over excitement. In many ways, hygge might be the Danish cousin to slow and simple living.” It’s truly this quality of coziness and comfortableness combined that brings about a feeling of contentment and well-being, a somewhat defining characteristic of Danish culture.

When the Hygge craze erupted, I decided to fully embrace it, especially since I’ve always been one for slow, cozy living (who doesn’t enjoy being bundled in a fuzzy blanket on a chilly night?). I first thought that it would be hard to create in my tiny, 700 sq ft space that I share with my fiancé (then boyfriend), but it turns out it was easier than I thought. After all, creating calm moments at home can be a really important part of self-care, especially with a demanding day job.

For me, Hygge has become an escape from the hustle and bustle, because there’s no denying that life can get insanely busy at times, and my apartment is the perfect place for me to elaborate on the concepts found in Wiking’s book to boost my mood. When you think of coziness, you might think of it as something only attainable in winter months, but what’s been most surprising to me is that it’s just as attainable in the winter as it is in the summer, truly making it something that can be embraced year-round.

Knowing that happiness (for me) can be found in small things, like a throw pillow pattern or a fragrant candle, here are some simple ways I create Hygge in my cohabitating small space:

Let’s Get Cozy, Shall We?

It’s Always Evolving: Our eating habits, sleeping habits, and exercise habits all evolve with where we are in life, so why shouldn’t our space evolve with us as well? My coffee table is probably one of the few things that change frequently in our apartment, and I tend to switch up the contents every two weeks or so. Right now, it houses an issue of Apartmento, a small wooden bowl, a crystal for good energy, a soy candle, and some wooden coasters. If we have a lot going on, usually it has a lot going on, and if we’re feeling minimalistic, usually it reflects the same.

In his book, Wiking says that “Hygge is about giving your responsible, stressed-out achiever adult a break.” Which is most true for our coffee table since it’s the main thing we sit around, eat on, and enjoy coffee over, especially since we don’t have a lot of room in our small space. If I’m having a slow morning, I like to pick up whatever magazine that lives on it to read, and if it’s a cozy afternoon, I like to light the candle to create a nice, relaxing aroma. Adding elements that make you happy and can easily incorporate into your routine to a common space in your apartment is a great way to live a Hygge lifestyle.

Candles are Really Important. Good smells have always been something I love, so it’s only natural that I light candles frequently in my home. Sometimes I’ll light a fresh linen scent, and other times, I’ll light two to three different woodsy-mixed-with-fruity scents at once to fill our space with a unique aroma, or lavender mixed with vanilla for a calming aroma. (Psst, if you’re looking for a good candle, we have some enticing recommendations here.) I like to place them all over my space; in my kitchen, living room, on bedside tables, and in my bathroom — basically on any surface available.

A phrase that’s stuck with me in Wiking’s book is that “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happens but seldom.” Candles are those small bits of happiness for me, and good aromas really boost my mood, which in turn helps improves my productivity. For me, lighting a candle is like practicing small bits of self-care daily since they create a cozy, Hygge feeling.

Throw Pillows and Blankets Alternate with Seasons. I love seasons, and each sparks a different feeling. Fall makes me want to cozy up with a blanket and a warm cup of tea, and spring makes me want to live in a white-top-with-jeans uniform and go flower shopping at the Saturday’s morning farmers market. Just like how my coffee table evolves, so do my linens. I like to buy pillow inserts from Ikea, that way I can change and easily store pillow shams, a great alternative for a small space. 

In the fall and winter I like to mix warm colors with off-whites, and in the summer I like to mix whites with blues and grays, while adding a pop of color here and there. The color combinations I choose are ones that make me happy, and I like to stick with one pattern all over so my small space doesn’t feel too cluttered (this summer I’m really embracing stripes).

Lighting is my Number One Priority. If I’m feeling zen, I usually like a dim-lit, quiet space with only a few lamps on. If I’m in the mood to cook a meal over good conversation with friends, I usually have all the overhead lights on with Italian dinner music blasting in the background. It really depends on what I’m in the mood for, but the lighting in our space changes a lot, especially with our mood. I find that incorporating table and floor lamps with different light settings is a great way to achieve this, and lets you alternate between various settings to get the exact feeling you want.

Natural lighting is also important in a small space, and living in the city, we tend to move every twelve months or so, so whenever I look at a new place I like to view it twice: once in the morning and once in the evening. As crazy as that sounds, seeing it twice gives me a sense of how the morning and evening light will fall, because I definitely spend the majority of my time at home at those two peak times of the day. Just like how natural light adds aesthetic to a picture, it also alters my mood, which makes me happier, especially living with limited square feet, because nothing is worse than a small, dark apartment.

Wiking says that “the rule of thumb is: the lower the temperature of the light, the more hygge. A camera flash is around 5,500 Kelvin (K), fluorescent tubes are 5,000K, incandescent lamps 3,000K, while sunsets and wood and candle flames are about 1,800K. That is your hygge sweet spot.” Creating comfortable lighting to feel Hygge, even in the smallest of spaces, is definitely achievable.

Create Cozy Moments in Unique Ways. Living with limited space can be hard, but creating cozy moments in unconventional ways is definitely doable. For instance in the living room, since we don’t have a fireplace like many large spaces may have, I like to put on Netflix’s Fireplace for Your Home to make the space more cozy and welcoming.

To create a spa-like experience in our tiny bathroom, for example, I like to draw a bath and place tea light candles on the edge of the tub (with dim lighting, of course) and will get cozy with a good book. You can also find me adding a Lush bath bomb and oat soak bath oil into the water to further create a cozy, Hygge experience. C.O Bigelow’s Cold & Flu Soak is also great in colder months (which Emma Watson recommends). If you don’t have a bathtub in your small space, creating a similar experience in a shower might include using a nicely-scented body oil with a calming exfoliator.

Having embraced Hygge for a few years now while living in a small space, I’m realizing it’s definitely more of a mindset, something that you can live by day-to-day depending on your mood, or where you are in life. Just like things in your life ebb and flow, so can your space.

Thinking of doing hygge in your home? Head over to our Insta @thechilltimes, and let us know what you plan to add to make your home cozy.

Feature image via PureWow

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