Hygge, happiness and lamps – How to cosy up your home with the Danish art of contentment

The Danish concept of hygge – a sort of cosy feeling of enjoying the little things in life – is currently all the rage. Here’s how you can create some hygge happiness in your home with simple interior design ideas and a little bit of lamplight (plus 12 tips for a very British kind of hygge)…

Anyone can be cheerful in the Costa del Sol, but how do you stay happy if you live in a country that’s cold, wet, dark and generally miserable for a large chunk of the year? Remarkably, the Danes seem to have found the answer. They regularly top polls for the ‘happiest country on Earth’ despite living in semi-permanent gloom. The secret, apparently, is hygge.

What is hygge?

It’s pronounced ‘heurgha’ – you say the ‘y’ like the ‘u’ in ‘pure’, and do it in your best sing-song Borgen voice. There is no direct English translation for the concept, but it involves appreciating the small things in life, cosy moments in the home, good fellowship and an absence of any kind of stress or annoyance. It can be used as a noun, a verb or an adjective, so you can achieve moments of hygge, you can hyggely up your home, and you can buy hyggeish things.


There are some similar feely concepts around in other countries. The Germans have ‘Gemütlichkeit’, which means a state of warmth, friendliness and good cheer, and generally involves beer gardens. Hygge isn’t quite that. The Japanese of course have feng shui, the philosophical system of harmonising everyone and everything with the surrounding environment. It’s not that either. But we British have ‘niceness’, as in when somebody says, on a wild and wintry day, ‘Let’s go back to ours and have a nice cup of tea’. It isn’t just the actual tea: it’s being all together, warm and dry, huddled around a fire with nothing much to worry about except drinking something hot and whether or not to dunk your chocolate hobnob in it. Lovely. Well it seems the Danes absolutely live for that sort of thing. Here are some more hygge activities:

  • Lighting a candle and reading a good book in the middle of the afternoon as a hurricane howls outside
  • Putting on some thick socks that have been warming on the radiator while the coffee machine gurgles away in the background
  • Baking cookies with the kids on a Saturday morning and then taking them round to Grandma’s house for everyone to eat
You get the idea. It’s about taking great pleasure in small pleasures. But hygge is also very much about the home and interior design…

Hygge in the home

Danes are very proud of their homes, and hygge is an important concept in how they put together their interiors. It’s classy without being ostentatious, and homely without being twee.


There are lots of natural materials like wood and leather, and lots of layered textures: fabrics, throws, woollen rugs, faux fur and knitted cushions. Open-plan spaces will be divided into zones, with an emphasis on cosy corners and communal spaces for relaxation.

Colours tend to be simple and neutral. But actually, hygge isn’t really about a particular look: it’s about having a space that gives you a warm glow inside, where you can take time away from the cares of the world (and the pull of the smartphone and the email) and enjoy a bit of spiritual sanctuary. So personal preference is key.

sarah lund

Sarah Lund in The Killing wore some very hygge jumpers even while solving murders Another characteristic feature of the Danish approach to interiors is not worrying too much about cost. So if there’s something you really want in your home that’s a bit expensive, save up and buy it anyway rather than settling for something that’s just ok. And conversely, cheap things are fine too, if you like them.

Hygge lamps and light

Light is of course a critical element in the hygge approach. Lighting design is the quickest, easiest way to create a warm and cosy atmosphere. Danes absolutely love candles, but they also go for having a lot of lamps dotted about, creating soothing pools of light for reading or just lounging.


A Pooky Verona lamp in burnt wood - very hygge So if you want hyggify your home, make sure you have multiple sources of light: floor lamps, table lamps as well as wall lights and pendants lights. That will give you plenty of options for different moods and settings. You can play around with the combinations until you find the perfect hygge setting for every occasion: crisp mornings, rainy afternoons, winter evenings. And if you’re interested in that kind of thing, take a look at: Home lighting design: a guide to layering light.

So that’s hygge. Now you’ve got the idea, why not have a go at hyggeing up a nook of your home with a Pooky light and let’s see if we British can join the Danes at the top of the list of happiest nations. After all, we’ve got the weather for it….

Twelve tips for British Hygge Who says the Brits can’t do hygge? Here are 12 distinctively British ways to enjoy a shot of Danish-style happiness and contentment
  1. Go for a not-too-taxing stroll on a crisp Sunday morning then a roast at a gastropub with a real fire. Wear wellies, take dog, eat sticky toffee pudding for afters.
  2. Sing Away in a Manger, slightly glowing with mulled wine, at church on Christmas Eve.
  3. Say ‘Shall we go through?’ and all repair to the living room with full glasses of wine and put on one of these six after-dinner jazz albums.
  4. Wake up in a tent and listen to the summer holiday drizzle gently tap-tapping on the canvas.
  5. Do the full Sunday night television grand slam: Countryfile, Antiques Roadshow, Last of the Summer Wine and then perhaps a DVD marathon of the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice.
  6. Use a proper teapot for a change.
  7. Hide the phones and devices and all play a board game (but NOT Monopoly – it always ends in tears and bitter recriminations).
  8. Fall asleep in front of the snooker final.
  9. When you buy fish and chips for lots of people, put all the chips together in a massive communal pile in the middle of the floor.
  10. Watch an old episode of Dad’s Army with Grandpa and enjoy how hilarious he finds it.
  11. Go on a long train journey and find you have a whole four-seater table to yourself.
  12. Drink a foaming tankard of butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks Inn in Hogsmeade (nb. only works if you’re a character in Harry Potter).