Scandinavian Style and Hygge: How to Build a Cozy Home

Transform your space into a dreamy and minimalistic oasis

If there’s anything I learned from moving my entire apartment into my boyfriend’s 1-bedroom last year, it’s that less is more.

I used to be drawn to stuff — vibrant art, every area of free space covered — then I started struggling to sleep through the night.

I realized that a better option for keeping the mind free of mental clutter and your surroundings free of actual clutter is to keep things minimal. Especially in this era of lockdown where our living room is also a gym, movie theater, office, and a place of social “gathering” (over zoom).

Elements of Scandinavian style

Calm & cozy

This style promotes clean spaces (which is already calming), but also creates efficiency! For example, your french-press isn’t in the back of a drawer somewhere. It’s on the counter. (But it’s also the only thing on the counter…see ‘minimalist’ below.) Decor in this style is comfy: chucky blankets, soft fabrics, flickering candles, pillows, and plants. The Hygge aspects of Scandinavian style encourage comfy clothes, warm wool socks, and a mug of hot cocoa!

Clutter-free & minimalist

This style challenges us to pick what we really need and highlight those pieces. Everything is connected to its purpose: perhaps a desk will have a chair, a clock and a small plant. The idea is, if we cut out the unnecessary, we can focus on the beauty of a few things we have and live with less anxiety. Lot’s of white is used in this style as well!

(Multi) Functional

Because we have less in Scandinavian style, it’s also important for our items to be multifunctional. Whether it’s a bench that doubles as storage, a coffee table that extends upwards to become a desk, or a bed with drawers underneath, this is a major space-saver. This is a must-do in apartment living!

Natural & Textured

With less clutter, there’s more of an opportunity to appreciate a gorgeous light wood grain, or the softness of a cable-knit throw. Blonde wood is typically prevalent in this style, but there are often pops of black as well. The fabrics and fibers are usually natural: linen, wool, leather, etc. Plants are also incredibly important for purifying the space and adding comfort. You’ll also see gorgeous metals in rooms with Scandinavian influences.

Contrasts & Clean Lines

Through this style incorporates beautiful natural woods and plants, the softness of these elements is also juxtaposed with metal or black accents (hardwear, light fixtures, etc.). Bright pops of color are used to tie the room together — from pillows, to art, to furniture! Finally, most of the furniture, design, and decor in Hygge is made of clean, crisp lines that contribute to the modernism, minimalism, and calm of the space.

Light

Nordic countries don’t get a lot of light, so this style encourages keeping the windows uncovered. Curtains are rare, and if they’re incorporated, they’re usually sheer white. Light fixtures and lamps are common, but candles are actually everywhere!

Focal Pieces

Because everything else is so clean and neutral, Scandinavian style often features a punch of color in the form of a pillow, or as geometric wall art. Black and white line drawings are also popular. Beautiful and bold metal accents work well as focal pieces too!

So, what exactly is Hygge?

Hygge is specifically Danish (Denmark is a country in Scandinavia) and is a specific concept based on the feeling of being cozy. It’s more of a lifestyle and a practice, including schools of thought on cuisine, activities, work-life-balance, and self-care. The prinicples of Hygge include:

Pleasure: this component covers indulging in the occasional slice of coffee cake, to relishing in a novel all afternoon.

Atmosphere: Ambient and warm, the Hygge atmosphere is one that is both welcoming and alluring. Dim lighting and comfy seating are examples!

Truce: There’s no fighting or heated debates in Hygge…it’s just peaceful and chill conversation, focusing on our best qualities.

Comfort: This includes luxurious fabrics, worn-in clothing, messy hairstyles, slipper’d feet, and curling up to watch a movie.

Shelter: The concept of focusing on home and nesting. The feeling of being safely inside with a mug of tea, while the snow comes down, is exactly what Hygge celebrates!

Presence: In this anxiety-free space, we relish in conversation and engage in activities that bring us serenity. It’s less about those long-term fitness goals or the work empire you’d like to build and more about caring for yourself in the now. Being grateful for this moment.

Harmony: Just as this design concept plays with contrasts, the balance of lights and darks contributes to the harmony of the space. Just as we balance little indulgences of sweets or balance our work-life-balance, Hygge focuses on finding the harmony in a space. This includes furniture that balances the room or designs that have symmetry.

Equality: As well as encouraging generosity and the good of the group over the good of the individual, this practice values equality and fairness. Whether it’s dividing your time equitably, or the way folks are treated when they enter your home, equality is at the core of Hygge.

Gratitude: The focus on utility, safety, and warmth in this style are all due to the extreme weather in Nordic countries. Hygge incorporates mostly functional items because they are necessary in extreme cold. Candles and blankets keep us warm, and our homes themselves keep us safe from storms. But Hygge celebrates these circumstances by creating a way to live harmoniously in extreme conditions. The focus on pleasure and treating yourself is also another way to show gratitude for life and shelter.

Togetherness: Everything in Hygge is better enjoyed with a partner, a friend, a parent, or a fluffy cat. The style is designed to bring people together over coffee and cake, on a comfy couch, or over a game of jenga!

How to incorporate Hygge and Scandinavian Decor

If you know me, you know I’m always trying to find a quick decor fix and a deal. Here are some ideas if you’d like to add a flavor of the Scandinavian way into your home (without breaking the bank).

De-Clutter

Whip out the KonMari Method and separate your essentials from more frivolous items. I used to think it would save me time and money if I held onto everything. This got me to a place of **light** hoarding. That’s when Amber Plaster told me that clutter actually does cost: it takes away your mental clarity, it takes up much needed space (hello apartment living), and it keeps you stuck in the past. If you’re able to part ways with some things (make sure to donate!), that’s the first step to a Scandinavian home.

Focus on your bed

Having multiple layers of blankets and sheets is part of Hygge, but in a way where they all work together to function and are comfortable. Currently, we’re living abroad and have several weird mis-matched sheets and blankets that always come untucked and it is NOT working for us. Your bed should feel cozy and sturdy when you get in. It can hold your weight but also lull you to sleep. Your mattress, bedding, and linens should be clean. Really invest in a pillow you love, and if you’re like me, buy multiple types! Since your bed is the motherboard of comfort in your home, it’s worth prioritizing.

The “quick fixes”

Once you’ve decluttered, the most transformative items you can add to the space that are also inexpensive? Plants and candles! They’re also staples of Scandinavian design. Splurge on a few yummy smelling neutral colored candles and go nuts with plants! Your space will not only smell amazing and feel purified, but it will look 1000 times better already.

Add a book nook

I love this idea because most people have enough books lying around to pull this off. Find a semi-separate area of your house, whether it’s a corner, a pouf, or even on a blanket on the ground, and stack your books. Add a plant, a candle, and there’s your basic book nook! If you want to go even farther, hang up some string lights and a tapestry and relish in your area devoted for reading, pleasure, and relaxation.

Cozy up your kitchen

That place with open flames and dirty dishes? I know, I know, the kitchen doesn’t seem cozy per se. But what’s in it can be! Maybe invest in that espresso machine you’ve been wanting so you can make gourmet cappuccinos for your guests. Or perhaps make a beautiful box of tea and display a charming tea pot. Hygge is all about indulging, so some warm coffeecake or hot cocoa is never NOT a good idea!

Find a new pop of color

Feeling like your space is in a rut? Switch out some pillow shams or replace some hardware for a new set of gleaming metal ones! Another fun way to switch things up is to find some new geometric art or frame some prints. There are plenty of options that are affordable, but you can also make your own DIY versions for just a few bucks! Here’s how:

Whip out the board games

Important for connecting and togetherness, Hygge is big on board games, both for aesthetic reasons, but also because they promote fun! These days, we’re all on our computers for the entire day (my eyes are super tired, how about yours?) and sometimes it’s hard to find a fun activity that doesn’t involve technology. Board games (or card games — I just taught my boyfriend how to play Go Fish!) are a great way to unwind and give our bodies and minds a break.

Get outside

Nature is a huge component to Scandinavian design. Enjoy a glass of wine on your deck, appreciate a room with lush plants, or even…go for a walk with a friend. This is actually, in itself, a form of Hygge!

Netflix and Chill

Believe it or not, curling up for a movie is considered Hygge. Comfort is the goal, so think fluffy blankets, cuddling close to someone else, and sharing a bowl of popcorn or having hot cocoa. Build a fire in the fireplace and flick on your favorite film!

2021 is still so full of uncertainty, loss, and anxiety, but I hope these cozy, Scandinavian and Hygge tips and tricks help you transform your space and transform your headspace. And don’t forget, Hygge is a mindset! Without any changes to your home, you can start whenever you’d like.

// Flannery Maney is an LA based screenwriter who is currently living in Europe. Follow her site or Instagram! To check out her band, click here!

History/Life/Travel. Featured on The Ascent & Curious. From Ohio, but currently call LA, London, & Italy home. Love histories, crime dramas, and kids animation!