How to kick back, relax and get cosy

PHOTO: ST MARTIN'S GRIFFIN

WASHINGTON • Every Friday morning, Ms Cynthia Sanford gets to work early.

She is not there to sell more mid- century Danish furniture, although that is what shoppers can find at the Kensington, Maryland, branch of Modern Mobler, where she is store manager. Instead, she enjoys some quiet time with a friend before opening for the day. They drink coffee and knit among handcrafted teak sideboards, splayed-leg coffee tables and lounge chairs.

In other words, she explains: "We're having hygge."

It is a term she had not heard until about a year ago. Almost no one had - except for the Danes, who use it incessantly, according to Danish Ambassador Lars Gert Lose. "Hygge is part of our DNA," he says.

Roughly translated, hygge (pronounced "HOO-ga") means cosiness.

Too many colours can feel hectic.

SIGNE JOHANSEN, author of How To Hygge, on keeping to a monochromatic palette for bouquets to create a hygge experience at home

To Mr Lose, it is a mix of three factors: the space you are in, the people you are with and the intention "to create a sanctuary".

Nail the details and they add up to an all-encompassing sense of comfort and well-being.

In Denmark, which boasts eight months of weather forecasts that might make you want to stay in bed, hygge has served as the ultimate coping strategy. Now the secret is out.

Hygge has been anointed the latest lifestyle trend, inspiring luxury tea blends (hooglytea.com), designer wallpapers (hyggeandwest.com) and a Philly brewpub (barhygge.com).

It is also the subject of new books, which is fitting, given how hyggelig it is to curl up and read, preferably by the glow of a fireplace while wearing woollen socks and sipping something steaming.

A conducive environment is key to experiencing hygge, says Mr Lose.

In Washington, the Danish Embassy is hygge by design.

The building was the work of Danish architect Vilhelm Lauritzen, who inserted hygge-friendly touches, such as the chandeliers that hang throughout the residence. Their playful circles of bulbs, each inside a glass, can be dimmed to adjust the mood.

As Happiness Research Institute chief executive Meik Wiking points out in The Little Book Of Hygge, proper lighting is essential. That means there should be several light sources, scattering pools of warm light throughout a space.

When in doubt about how to achieve that, he says, just add candles.

Ms Kira Fortune, a Dane who now lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, frequently finds herself fielding questions about candles. There are 14 in her living space at the moment, not counting the ones inside lanterns in her yard. She lights all of them.

To her, that is hygge, which demands that "you go out of your way to be uber-cosy", she says.

When she has the time, she lights not only the candles, but also her two Morso wood-burning stoves. She prepares hot chocolate and glogg, or mulled wine, and bakes rye bread from scratch. Then she savours sitting around with no real plans - just board games, books and blankets.

"Living in Washington, we work long hours. This is one way to switch off, go down in gears," she says.

Tempted to do the same? Here are some ways to hygge at home.

1. KEEP IT SIMPLE

Nordic interiors are minimalist. So to prepare for going hygge, try the KonMari method, says Ms Sanford. The goal is to tame clutter by keeping only things that "spark joy".

To her, a sleek sideboard fits that bill - you can use it to display items and tuck away a few of your favourite things for easy access.

2. GO GREEN

Bring nature home with a houseplant. How To Hygge author Signe Johansen recommends aloe vera - it is a funky shape, low-maintenance and useful.

If you are picking up a bouquet, go monochromatic. "Too many colours can feel hectic," she says.

3. ADD A PERSONAL TOUCH

Mr Wiking has this tip on furniture shopping: "Consider not only how things look, but how they feel."

He prefers the touch of wood over steel and glass, and notes that his favourite pieces are a pair of stools he made with his uncle. Their value comes from his memories.

You can attach stories to your belongings even if they are bought. Just consider the source, he says. "You're in a flea market in Paris. It's already different from Bed Bath & Beyond."

4. USE CANDLES - WITH CAUTION

A few flickering candles on a table is fine, but for a cosier effect, use surfaces at varying heights, says Johansen.

Experiment with window ledges and bookshelves. Always use candleholders and be careful.

5. KNOW WHERE TO SHOP

Ms Fortune's strategy for creating "a Copenhagen house in Washington" involves knowing where to shop.

She visits Ikea every two weeks to restock her candle supply. For Kahler-brand striped vases and other ceramic accessories, she orders from RoyalDesign.com. And when she is desperate for other goodies from home, she turns to design emporium Illums Bolighus.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2017, with the headline 'How to kick back, relax and get cosy'. Print Edition | Subscribe