Now that January’s tidying up and flimsy resolutions have come to a fin, the best antidote to winter’s gloom is hygge. Arguably Denmark’s biggest export, hygge was popularized by Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge.
Hygge is a concept that embraces the notion of slowing down, savouring relationships and, quite simply, becoming very cosy while curled up in soft layers in a candlelit room. It’s about enjoying life’s simple pleasures and appreciating the current moment.
This weekend, OCADU students are giving Torontonians an all-day lesson on hygge-inspired cosiness at the AGO on Saturday, Jan. 25. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. for the all-ages event where visitors will experience a lineup of young and emerging artists sharing the mission to help T.O. get cosy this winter.
For those you can’t make it to the art gallery event, here are a few pointers on how to hygge all on your own this season.
The first thing to narrow in on is light — a major component of hygge. Lighting a room correctly means casting aside all things fluorescent in favour of a soft, candlelit atmosphere.
“Warm-coloured lighting — a colour temperature between 2,700 K to 3,000 K — is ideal for a warm, relaxing white light,” says local interior designer Jane Lockhart, referring to the kelvin scale. Sunsets, wood and flames from candles all emit the most perfectly hygge form of light. Smartphone screens do not.
The rustic quality of candles helps make a space snug, removing the possibility of stress in favour of a supportive, soothing environment. At the Distillery District’s Yummi Candles, workshops see expert chandlers help the uninitiated flex their crafty muscles and create their very own scented, plant-based candles while sipping on a glass of wine. In Yorkville, the Kandl boutique offers a bespoke candle service, allowing patrons to choose their own scent, packaging and messaging for a highly personal creation.
For accompanying accessories, head to Mjölk — everybody’s favourite housewares shop with a Scandi lean in the Junction. It offers plenty in terms of suitable lighting options. Geometric candleholders are crafted in brass, enhancing the warm flicker of fire, whereas a carved wooden option is evocative of nature.
“Adding faux fur on the floor or furniture can help a space feel more cosy,” Lockhart says. “Cover a chair or add toss pillows in this luxury textile, and you will feel the warmth.” Wallpaper of the textured variety is another way to add warmth.
“Plain, flat walls aren’t as enveloping,” notes Lockhart. “Texture, as opposed to pattern, is not as visually busy and tends to fit nicely into the background providing a constant feeling of calm.”
Now that your space is ready, the next step is being head-to-toe cosy. Invest in some toasty socks knit in cashmere or ultra-soft alpaca. Or, better yet, knit your own. The grandma-ishness of knitting is incredibly hygge and brings with it a sense of calm. Knit-O-Matic on Bathurst offers an assortment of knitting classes ranging from a cuddly cowl neck scarf — ideal for beginners — to socks, for the slightly more established knitter.
While you’re cosied up knitting, be sure to wrap yourself up in a soft blanket. Parkdale’s North Standard Trading Post sells Swedish lambswool blankets from a historic family-run company and Canadian-made wool blankets from a brand based in P.E.I.
In addition to the blanket and the socks, hyggelig (a.k.a. “cosy,” the adjective) dressing involves many layers. Do away with tailoring and gravitate toward top-heavy, minimalist silhouettes. Curl up in oversized cashmere sweaters from Snapdragon Designs on Mount Pleasant. Owner Pam Willcocks has been using the same suppliers for the past 15 years for her cashmere pieces in tandem with environmentally friendly dyes. These dreamboat sweaters boast a cable knit design and are detailed with a detachable scarf at the neck, thumb holes at the cuffs and pockets.
If there’s one thing that hygge is not about, it’s carb cutting (hence the billowing layers.) What could be less cosy than a salad on a dark winter’s eve? Carbohydrates, sugar and fat are all part and parcel of a hyggelig dining environment. Imagine a family spotted through a window, bathed in candlelight as they share a hearty meal at a handmade wooden table. Lean into this vision — and do away with those New Year’s resolutions — with the help of a Danish pastry.
Hansen’s Danish Pastry Shop, found on Pape and at the York Farmers Market in Thornhill, has been making pastries by hand since 1963, with recipes dating back generations. Golden Danishes come with almond custard filling and a drizzle of chocolate on top or topped with cream cheese and a cherry filling. Over at the Danish Pastry House, found in the belly of Union Station, snail-like høj snegl house a custard centre, and addictive rumkugler are chocolatey marzipan balls with rum and coconut.
Danish food needn’t be the focus though — sharing is. Although there are plenty of eateries dishing ready-to-share platters, creating a cooking club with a set of good friends is the more hygge way to go. Rather than having a single person host and therefore cook, it is far more hygge for the club members to attach a theme to each dinner with everyone contributing a small dish. The result is a setting that is both egalitarian and informal — the perfect ingredients for hygge.
Coffee is pretty hyggelig, as is alcohol. (Again, we never said the concept places the onus on health.) In Kensington, Fika Café serves plenty of java, with cosy armchairs — just the ticket for curling up and reading in. In the back room, spread-eagle paperbacks line the walls, underscoring the message.
Both bar and reading nook for the literati, Famous Last Words, found in the Junction nabe, partners stacks of books with a roaring fireplace. Bookish events like trivia, a break-all-the-rules book club plus libations named after — what else? — books encourage you to wile away some hours.
For those keen to get more hands-on with activities, there’s a Hygge Tea Tasting at 717 Bay St., which sees a tea sommelier–in-training guiding sippers from tea to tea in an environment that invites relaxed socializing. With a few small tweaks and very little financial drain, your home and headspace can be transformed into a hyggelig nook. The beauty of hygge is that it’s for everyone.