If you’ve ever contemplated how the Scandinavians stay so cheerful during winter’s dark days, look no further than their interiors. Airy, natural, and warmly lit, Nordic spaces typically exude a cozy essence known locally as hygge.
What is Hygge?
Akin to feng shui of the 1990s, hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Danish art of designing an intimate ambiance. Though there is no direct English translation, it’s defined as the practice of “creating a soothing atmosphere to enjoy the good things in life with good people” by the Denmark tourism board. Chances are, you’ve already come across its influence in magazines, on Instagram or within a room that’s so comfortable it feels like a warm hug.
Hygge is more than just lighting a candle and pouring a cup of tea; it’s a way of life, a philosophy for slowing down to savour the simple things. The Danish have been practicing it for decades but thanks to various books like Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, hygge is now firmly planted in the design world’s vernacular. Leave it to Denmark, a country shrouded in 17 hours of darkness per day for months on end, to cultivate radiance—and what better way to do that than with lighting? In pursuit of year-round Nordic bliss, we’ve compiled a few ways to hygge-fy your space.
1) Master the science of a ‘warm glow’
Catellani & Smith’s PostKrisi pendant casts a warm glow thanks to its gold interior
Scandinavians often sprinkle their rooms with golden pools of illumination. While no hygge lifestyle is complete without a candle or two (fact: the Danish are Europe’s biggest candle consumers), the same can be said for lamps that shed warm light. According to hygge expert Meik Wiking, the optimal light temperature is 1800K, which is the temperature of sunsets and wood burning in a fire. In general, lights with a lumen range of 1800K – 2700K are considered warm-coloured.
Left: Innermost’s Circus Pendant, Center: LA’s Austin, Right: Marset’s Maranga
A similar effect can be achieved with shades that have gold or brass interiors, such as Luminaire Authentik’s Austin LA83 floor lamp (above) or Innermost’s Circus pendant (above), both of which pleasantly refract warm tones. If opting for a suspension lamp that directs light downwards, look for one that’s fitted with a diffuser, such as the Marset Maranga Suspension (above). This particular shade allows rich fragments of light to escape between 32 slice-like pieces, preventing glare and creating an interplay of light and dark like a pierced lantern.
2) Favour natural materials over synthetics
Studio Italia’s Maggio Suspension light
Drawing inspiration from nature, hygge practitioners incorporate a lot of wood, ceramics and organic fibres into their décor schemes. Spaces are filled with neutral colours, matte finishes, organic textures and subtle nods to the outdoors. Forest-loving Scandinavians might choose a lamp with a wooden component, such as the Stickbulb Bang Table Little (offered in sustainably sourced maple or walnut, reclaimed heart pine, ebonized oak or reclaimed water tower redwood) or the Secto Teelo 8020 Table (handcrafted from Finnish birch).
A beach lover, on the other hand, may seek out wavy shapes and a soft colour palette. The light grey UMAGE Eos (above), made from all natural goose feathers, draws its gentle power from the earth tones of the Nordic landscape to instil a sense of calm. Meanwhile, the Anisha Table (above) features a fluid design reminiscent of a porthole window. When choosing a metal lamp, look for one with a nature-inspired shape, such as the Studio Italia Maggio Suspension light (above), which features laser cut carvings that resemble intersecting tree branches.
3) Use a mixture of floor, table and wall lamps
Harsh overhead lighting can instantly kill a hygge vibe. Instead, strategically pepper your space with floor, table and wall lamps to form inviting spots for reading, dining and lounging. Paper lantern-style lamps, such as the Foscarini Rituals Table family, are perfect for discreetly scattering ambient light around a room. Even larger paper lamps, such as &tradition’s Formakami Pendant Lights, have a sense of weightlessness.
Vapor Floor lamp by Studio Italia
Most Scandinavian spaces will also feature a floor lamp that sheds light evenly, such as the Vapor Floor lamp from Studio Italia, which features polycarbonate waved diffusers. Wall lamps are an ideal option for setting an alluring mood. Select a subdued sconce like the Catellani & Smith Lederam Wall Light, made up of two coloured spheres that filter light warmly.
4) Play with adaptable lighting
It’s no coincidence that most restaurants turn their lights down in the evening. Low lighting establishes an atmosphere that’s perfect for intimate conversations. In residential and hospitality spaces, reducing brightness after dusk can set a tranquil mood and even improve sleep quality. Today’s most versatile lamps offer limitless possibilities to control light. The Lana Wall by Pablo Designs (available in natural colours like stone grey) features a magnetic, 100% wool felt shade that can be attached to any ferrous surface and an optical dimmer switch to customize the vibrancy and energy-efficiency of the light.
The Uma Sound Lantern emits a soft warm glow
Portable lamps are a convenient way to illuminate indoor and outdoor settings, from dining tables and terraces. Today’s rechargeable portable lights often come with modern features—the Uma Sound Lantern from Pablo Designs (above) even boasts a surround sound music player. Look for portable lamps that emulate the warm light of a candle such as Marset’s FollowMe Table, featuring LED technology, a dimmer and a sleek oak handle.
5) Devise personalized pockets of calm
Hygge centres around embracing moments of indulgence: sipping wine by the fire, reading a good book on a rainy afternoon or squeezing in 15 minutes of morning meditation. The right lighting can be used to divide spaces into cozy areas. Small nooks are best illuminated with lightweight table lamps like the Foscarini Kurage Table. For large, open spaces, consider Estiluz’s Revolta T-3636 Suspension, a pendant light with open circles that can be filled with fabric-covered panels of sound-absorbing felt. Hygge spaces are often filled with a mix of tactile textiles, making the acoustic felt inserts (available in an array of pastel colours) a smart solution for decorating and illuminating a dining room.
With endless personalization options, creating a unique sanctuary is easier than ever. Cue the warm lights and get cozy; you may just find yourself among the world’s happiest people.
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