The best novels tend to acknowledge and explore how complicated life can be. Love that, appreciate that! But sometimes you’re in the mood for something gentler. For a beautifully simple vision of the good life and how to live it, light a candle, snuggle up with your warmest throw, and enjoy the pleasures of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, by Meik Wiking. (For additional advice on happy living, check in with the authors and designers coming to Nashville this week for the Antiques and Garden Show and featured at the end of this post.)
The concept of hygge is actually the opposite of trendy, though. It’s all about cozy, comfortable, intimate social time and living spaces.
The Danes have elevated cozy to an art form, and in Wiking’s description, they are obsessed with it. Consider this statistic: according to Wiking, if you Google “beautiful restaurant” in Danish, you’ll get 7,000 results. For “quality restaurant,” the number is 9,600, and for “cheap restaurant,” 30,600. Search “hyggelig restaurant” and you reach 88,900. The author isn’t surprised…
I live in Copenhagen. Cafes are plentiful, and there is one right across the street from my apartment. Their coffee is an abomination. It tastes like fish (yes, I was surprised too) and costs five euros. I still go there sometimes. They have an open fireplace, so it’s hygge.
Crucial concepts associated with hygge? Atmosphere (“Turn down the lights”), presence, pleasure, equality (“‘We’ over ‘me.’ Share the tasks and the airtime”), gratitude, harmony, comfort, truce, togetherness, and shelter.
Crucial items associated with hygge? A fireplace, a hot drink, a candle, things made out of wood, books, ceramics, nature, blankets and cushions. Cake or sweets help, as do meals made with friends. TV is not off limits, but Facebook is.
Hygge is what Wiking calls a “key performance indicator” for social events. “Honey, do you think our guests hygedde themselves?” a spouse will ask the other. The word hygge takes many forms, including:
Hyggekrog: The nook of a kitchen or living room where one can sit and have a hyggelig time.
“Let’s sit in the hyggekrog.”
Hyggeonkle: A person who plays with the kids and may be a little too lenient. Literal meaning: “the uncle of hygge.”
“He is such a hyggeonkel.”
Hyggebukser: That one pair of pants you would never wear in public but are so comfortable that they are likely to be, secretly, your favorites.
Wiking goes on to describe other examples of hygge clothing and offers some very manageable recipes, and he might make you laugh with his description of hygge design:
Wood is not enough. Danes feel the need to bring the entire forest inside. Any piece of nature you might find is likely to get the hygge greenlight. Leaves, nuts, twigs, animal skins… Basically, you want to think: How would a Viking squirrel furnish a living room.
Why are we interested in all this? Because the Danes blow us all out of the water in terms of reported happiness, in spite of their truly crappy weather. The Little Book of Hygge is no scholarly tome, but it makes a convincing argument that hygge leads to happy.
All this being said, I did not completely disagree with one Amazon reviewer, who writes: “Generally a light read, a few interesting ideas worth adopting. The book was more like an extended magazine article which made it relatively expensive for what you got.” Perhaps the most hyggelig thing to do? Enjoy its charms and then pass it along to a friend while sharing a cup of coffee and a scone.
* * *
On the Antiques and Garden Show: Interior Design is always, to some extent, about a good life, a happy life – about creating a space where happiness dwells.
Here are some of the headliner author/designers coming to town and their books:
Friday, February 3, 11:00 a.m.
Book signing following lecture.
“Renowned interior designer Nate Berkus believes that our homes should tell our stories about who we are, where we’ve been, what we love most – all collected and assembled in one place. In this moderated talk, Nate will share his personal design philosophy about why the things we choose to bring into our homes matter, and how we can all live more beautifully. Nate will be joined by fellow style-maker and discussion moderator Tori Mellott, Traditional Home’s Senior Design and Markets Editor.”
Friday, February 3, 2:00 p.m.
Book signing following lecture.
“Brooke & Steve Giannetti will share the special journey they’ve traveled together working on spectacular projects as husband and wife – she the interior designer and he the architect. One of the Giannettis’ most notable collaborations was the creation of their idyllic European-inspired Patina Farm in Ojai, California – the subject of their best-selling book of the same name, Patina Farm.”
The Dream Team: Design Panel Lecture
Saturday, February 4, 11:00 a.m.
Book signings to follow lecture.
“Four of the top designers in the US today will engage the entertaining wit of author and design panel moderator, Robert Leleux. Robert will guide Mary McDonald, Nathan Turner and Jesse Carrier & Mara Miller through a spirited discussion of these style-makers’ sources of inspiration – where they travel for ideas, the influence of other designers, eras that color their designs and global style hot spots on the rise today.”
Saturday, February 4, 2:00 p.m.
Book signing to follow lecture.
“Tara Guérard will inspire us with the extraordinary creativity of her wedding and event design expertise sharing a few of her special tips for creating the one-of-a-kind event environments that have become her signature.”
For all speakers: Click here for more information and to purchase a ticket. To purchase a book through the A&G Show website – allowing a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Show and its beneficiaries – please click here.
* * *
Image at top of post (socks by fire): Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_yarruta’>yarruta / 123RF Stock Photo</a>