Letter from the Editor

Small Home Gazette, Winter 2009

Letter From the Editor: hygge in Minnesota

I was fortunate enough to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, in December. (Travel tip: Winter vacations to Europe are the way to go—cheaper airfares, cheaper lodging and fewer tourists. Yes, it’s cold there, but we’re hardy Minnesotans, aren’t we?) The last thing I thought I’d find in Denmark was coziness, as my admittedly sketchy expectations for the country were based on a mental image of Danish Modern furniture: sleek and streamlined, with little padding and lots of hard surfaces.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a capitol city that oozed warmth and charm. In fact, they have a name for it: hygge (pronounced “hu-gah”). Every definition of hygge I’ve read claims the concept is difficult to fully convey, but some words popped up repeatedly: comfort, warmth, fellowship, intimacy, simplicity, homeliness. As I understand it, hygge is the art of creating special spaces and times apart from life’s daily pressures. It’s about making the everyday special without it being fussy or costly. Hygge is about more than just physical surroundings; the word also describes conviviality among those present or a sense of serenity if one is alone.

The first sign of hygge we noticed in Copenhagen was candles. Loads of candles. Candelabras with real, lit tapers illuminated restaurant tables, fashion boutique windows and home interiors. Outside shop doors, damp sidewalks were cheered with candles in glass lanterns.

We had dinner in a Danish couple’s home one evening. Hygge seemed to be present there, too, as evidenced by the simple-but tasty home cooked food, plentiful wine and hours of friendly conversation.

Some writers claim the idea of hygge originated as a defense against Scandinavian winters, where the sun seldom shines, and when it does it never strays far from the horizon. They say the urge to create hygge is an attempt to stave off depression.

Any of this sound familiar to you? It all reminds me of winters in Minnesota, a place which, of course, has more than a passing connection to Scandinavia. Though we don’t have an exotic word for it, we Minnesotans seem to be pretty good at creating hygge. And what American house type perfectly embodies the concept? You guessed it—the bungalow. With their intimate spaces, warm woodwork, rich color palette and honest ornamentation, bungalows seem the very embodiment of hygge. It’s just one more reason to value our beloved bungalows.