Friday, October 12, 2018

What's your hygge style?

The seasons are changing and I'm taking whatever measures I can to keep the increasing gloom from infiltrating our household. Aside from spiritual inspiration, there are of course many ways to make an environment feel more cozy.

I think I've been putting "fairy lights" up since I was a teenager!
Good to know they're hygge-worthy. ;) 

I think it's partly nostalgia that triggers all those seasonal associations year after year. The sound of crunching leaves reminds us of a favorite fall recipe, or a Christmas song brings us back to the place we spent Christmas as a child. Along with that, there is more research nowadays to demonstrate that not only traditions, but a certain type of lighting and other details actually alter our brain, and arranging the environment the right way can help battle conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I can't remember when I first heard the actual term "Hygge," but it wasn't yet the hot trend it is at the moment. I think it appeals to a lot of us because it combines our cozy traditions (a favorite type of drink, music, aromatherapy, etc) with those household touches we have on our wishlist but maybe haven't been able incorporate yet: all-white furnishings, hand-made decorative pieces, etc.

I definitely think it's worth it to do all you can to create a comfortable environment, especially if you live somewhere with limited hours of daylight in the winter. But I also notice that Americans (and probably other Westerners too) tend to borrow an idea that's meant to make life SIMPLER (working with what you have), and turn it into a trend that becomes materialistic. For example, in rural Scandinavia it would make sense to use tree branches and other elements of nature in decorating, but are city dwellers meant to spend a great deal of time tracking down these materials? "Simple" woven baskets are presented as humble, but are actually quite costly to purchase. If we don't knit/embroider/ etc, should we covet those pieces, or rather turn to the artistic talent we do possess? In other words, do I want my house to look like a magazine cover/Pinterest article that features a house in another country with a different climate, decorated by inhabitants of another culture? Some days, my answer may be yes! On the other hand, while my IKEA list hangs out waiting for the biannual shopping trip, there are things lying around that I just may be able to use.

That's my introduction to what I thought would actually be a fun exercise. I've been comparing a few of these decorating trends/tendencies. Which one or combination would you pick? I'm undecided, but I'll share my thoughts.

1) Minimalism- decided to start with bare bones and move on from there! I followed a few IG "minimalist" accounts and ended up unfollowing because I couldn't bear the stark walls, spotless carpet, and monochromatic color schemes. What do you think, is minimalism mostly about reducing possessions, or does it have to include minimal decorations as well? It kind of bothers me that there's a catchword for having fewer things, when a lot of people live that way without having a choice or needing to purge ever...meaning, due to poverty. Can you tell this isn't my favorite approach? ;) At least, not in the interior decorating sense. Asceticism is another topic!

2) KonMari- this is another one that I think Americans have gotten carried away with. I like how Marie Kondo encourages the particular order of seeing what you want to keep BEFORE going out and buying a million matching containers for $$$$ (but not going to plead innocence here). As you go through your stuff, you usually find some containers that you can use. As far as decorating, I love the idea of using/displaying the things you love, instead of keeping them stored away. And it's very wise to comb through everything before you make a shopping trip. You will often find some treasures.

3) Hygge- you can Google this and find tons of little articles about what the basic elements are. Being in a northern location myself, many of the same principles apply to surviving the winter here. So in that sense it is very relevant. I also liked how some authors write that a bit of tasteful clutter as well as indulging in baked goods is allowed. :) However, I find myself wondering: how can I light candles all over the apartment and not set it on fire? How can I switch out all our lightbulbs to get the right ambiance? When can I save up the money to switch out our containers from plastic/synthetic to wooden/woven/etc? And this is where I will say that Russians are no different in wanting the latest trends in their home decorations. IKEA is big here and many have caught on to achieving a sense of Hygge with such products. It's very convenient for city-dwellers, but...are we missing the point?

4) Kalsarikanni (Finnish relaxation)- I recently ran across a funny article that actually prompted me to finally go and write this post. To sum it up, who needs fancy Scandinavian minimalist furniture when you can have Finnish "pantsdrinking" parties with no added frills? Apparently "kalsarikanni" is a term meaning to go home and drink alone in your underwear. This is not to condone a drinking culture on my blog here, but to ponder a more casual form of relaxation. What is your favorite way to let go and just be yourself after a long day at work? What would be the opposite of a fancy, straitlaced tea party or a long "together-ness" session around the kitchen table in the Hygge fashion?

5) American homestyle- What do you think a cozy home looks like in the "American" tradition? Although I have a hard time thinking of one particular trend, I know there is a "country"/farmhouse style that is sometimes popular. When I was googling some thoughts related to Hygge, I ran across a blogger who said she preferred the American way-patchwork quilts, china cabinets, photo albums, etc. Do other cultures decorate with pumpkins, rather than eating them? I think I've lived abroad for so long that I've forgotten a lot of the emblems of my native culture. It is only when I'm visiting the U.S. or the homes of other ex-pats that I remember about certain touches. Partly, the way the house is set up, such as a separate dining room or combined bathroom (toilet plus washroom) are more American. Certain woodworking styles, maybe. Not sure what else. Since I live in an apartment built in the 80s, of course I miss some of the elements of older American builds, but you wouldn't see that in an apartment anyway. Naturally we don't have a fireplace, front porch, etc. Mainly, everything is more compact here and a lot of the furnishings/building materials are cheaper. But I don't know if I really miss a certain American look that I would want to replicate.

6) Russian- Saved this one for last and of course it is the hardest. What is the Russian style? When you enter a gray apartment building with its rickety elevator and enter someone's actual home, the contrast can be stunning. Many homes are well-kept, but decor can have quite the range. When we had a Hygge-themed church retreat last year, I realized that the frugal version works quite well on a tight Russian budget, where you can (with a little effort) find some berries or branches to make a centerpiece, and cut out intricate paper figures to hang on some twine. I remember always being struck by the resourcefulness of Russian camp staff, pulling all-nighters to create elaborate costumes and stage decorations for concerts out of limited materials. Of course as in many cultures, a certain "old style" is often venerated/coveted here-porcelain or wooden decoration in a famous pattern, etc. Lots of beautiful handicraft through the years, that I won't discuss it detail here.

What is your style and which elements would you like to add? Do you think it's practical to try to emulate homemaking ideas from other cultures, or does it make more sense to stick to locally made/designed?


  1. Oh, my..... I just struggle to keep things from looking miserably cluttered. I realize that from a decorating point of view, my home has totally gotten out of hand - I think it is too many "grown ups" sharing one space. If five people all feel that certain things have to be "left out" then a smallish house is going to look pretty dreadful. My husband is not big on hanging up his coat, for example - thinking that the chair was meant for that. Greg believes the teapot MUST be out on the counter. Anastasia has a little table where she leaves out whatever she is working on.....and of course her computer is always on the couch so she can do homework "whenever". (Do any of those things tie into any of your decorating trends?) My husband and Monnie just decorated for Fall/Halloween yesterday. That included a half-filled orange balloon, hanging from the ceiling in the center of the living room, a large piece of paper, with the elements from a fall napkin, carefully cut out and glued to it; another napkin cut into pieces which are strung on twine and looped across the window. (Do her kindergarten Sunday School teachers have any idea they are determining the "look" of our living room? Bet not!) Though, of course we are also still waiting for the pink metallic birthday balloon to slowly descend..... So, that's my living room. Any suggestions?

    I am actually very attracted to that spare Scandinavian look....I'm always enjoying that whenever I get a chance to watch one of my "Nordic Noir" mysteries....

    1. Ha, I enjoyed reading this. Our house is very similar, I think I was asking hypothetically. Although I wish someone would "care" once in a while and pick things up instead of walking by them (especially the piles on the floor), it would be worse to have one neat person living with a slob! We both "leave things out" in our own way and I try to teach the kids good habits, but realize it's not fair to expect much of them if I don't clean up my own projects. Yet maybe if the house were cleaner, I would have a more appropriate place to do a project and then a designated place to put it away. I think there is just so much stuff coming into our house at all times that I can't think of a place for everything. "Having a designated place" makes sense, just isn't always possible! I do have some longer rants about general housekeeping coming up, just was feeling seasonal.

    2. We have plenty of half-filled balloons hanging around, some of them free-standing and others part of a larger installation.

    3. But in all fairness, I do think those craft projects look charming on more of a blank slate, when there is less general clutter. I'll let you know if I ever get there!


Just added word verification to reduce spam. Nothing personal!

You’re welcome to leave a link to your own blog here if it's relevant to this blog.

Please make sure that your comments are 1) relevant and 2) respectful (i.e. no cuss words, attacks on individuals).

5 years later

 After my latest  weird dream sequence , I found my mind wandering to an alternate scenario where our church never split up . I did the math...