I’m 1/16th Danish. In the 1870s, great-great-grandpa Detlef came to Australia, married an English-born woman and more than 100 years later I came along. It’s hardly anything, really. Certainly not enough to say I have strong Danish heritage. But Danish history and culture intrigue me. One thing about Danish culture that I’ve been hearing a lot about recently, that stirs up something deep within my ancestral blood, is hygge. I’m not even fully sure how to pronounce it (I hear it’s something like hoo-ga). It’s difficult to get an exact translation into English, but it’s something to do with being cosy and peaceful. Whether with other people or alone, it’s about intentionally creating a space for cosiness and peace. Finding contentment within the simple things of life.
In Denmark, hygge is used to bring warmth into the deep, cold winters. Think people gathering together in candle-lit rooms, cradling hot mugs of tea or coffee. Think soft, woollen textures and warming colours. It’s been suggested that the hygge concept helps the Scandinavian countries reach the top of the happiest nation lists despite the bitter winters. I love winter, and the idea of hyggelig activities makes me love it even more. But, what if I took the concept of hygge and applied it to summer. Summer – the hardest time for me to get through, when the weather outside is inhospitable and my best option is to hibernate and make the most of the indoors. Sounds a bit like a Scandinavian winter!
So, keeping in mind that my tiny bit of Danish heritage makes me in no way an expert, this summer I’ve tried to add a few hygge touches to my home:
Light, cool colours
Colour has a surprisingly big impact on the perceived temperature of a home. In winter, you could warm up the place with touches of burnt orange, burgundy or forest green. Those colours instantly make the place feel warmer – lovely for winter but not so great for summer. My favourite colour for summer decoration is mint green or light aqua. Cool, refreshing and it reminds me of water. The list of mint green/aqua items I have at home is quite extensive – cushions, my bed spread, a little side table, notebooks, candles and even my Bible.
I remember coming home from work one day, just as the hot weather was starting to make its presence known. My husband had covered our lounges with white sheets and put a white tablecloth over our dining table. As it was nearly Christmas, he’d put blue and silver tinsel around the walls. It looked like a scene from Frozen! Colour schemes really do help. Keep the colours light and cool with as much white as you like.
I love drinking tea. Whether it’s by myself, with my husband or with friends, I love the ritual of boiling the kettle and then brewing and pouring the tea. It has to be pretty hot for me to cut out tea altogether, but in summer it doesn’t seem to have quite the same relaxing effect. But taking the time for that specially prepared drink is such a hyggelig thing for me, I’m so happy to have found a summer-time alternative. Fruit infused water. Very simple to make, just a matter of slicing a few different pieces of fruit, adding them to cold water and letting the drink sit in the fridge for a few hours (half an hour minimum). The water, apart from being deliciously cold, has the subtle, refreshing flavour of the fruit. The jug also looks very pretty, infused with fruit slices, spices and mint leaves. Sharing a fruit infused water with my husband is one of my favourite parts of summer hygge.
I always feel more at peace when I’m surrounded by nature. Even on my tiny balcony, I’ve managed to create a herb garden. But when the weather outside is stifling and oppressing, it can help to bring some nature indoors. It doesn’t have to be much, just maybe a few sprigs of leaves in a small vase or some cheerful flowers. I brought in some coleus leaves from my garden and used that as the centrepiece of the dining table. They added a burst of freshness to the table, with their vivid green and muted pinkish-red. Now they’ve faded away, I’ve added some maiden hair fern. It’s these little touches that help to create that hygge atmosphere. Also, my study (where I’m sitting right now typing) looks out onto some eucalyptus trees. Even if it’s too hot to be actually outside, or even to have the window open, sitting with my husband looking out at the trees can be lovely for relaxation and connection.
So, these are my little ideas on trying summer hygge in my home. In my opinion, it’s so much harder to achieve then in winter, but every little bit helps. Take these ideas as they are, or adapt them to reflect your favourite colours, plants, flavours – those things that bring peace to your soul and a smile to your face in the heat of summer.