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Danish 'hygge' philosophy drives NZ interior styling trends

8 June 2017

Building a cosy and comfortable property that withstands the winter chill is a major priority for all new homeowners.

While many of us love the idea of cuddling up by the fire with a warm blanket, New Zealand’s weather is comparatively milder than winter in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is the Danish word used to acknowledge or appreciate everything that feels cosy, sweet, charming, special or nice whether a person is alone or with friends, at home or out.

Denmark, and many other Scandinavian countries, adopted hygge – the concept of cosy living – wholeheartedly, embracing it as a lifestyle choice to survive the long, cold and dark days of winter. It’s also the ideal anecdote to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the mild depression that many people can experience during this period. 

In the United Kingdom, hygge has become a new lifestyle trend that is best described as: “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things”, according to the Daily Telegraph.  

“Candlelight is hygge…Bakeries are hygge. Dinner with friends is hygge. However you define it, hygge comes into its own when the nights draw in,” the Daily Telegraph declares in Get cosy: why we should all embrace the Danish art of ‘hygge’.

Like many housing trends to emerge out of Europe, hygge is making waves in New Zealand interiors and creating the perfect excuse to spend more time indoors during the cooler months, entertaining family and friends.

Generation Homes design consultant Michaela Churstain says the philosophy of hygge is winter entertaining in its finest form.

“It’s all about sharing experiences with people and spending quality time together at home. Rather than heading out, turn your favourite team’s next rugby match into a hygge night with family and friends,” she said.

“You can be less formal about food so make some delicious sharing plates that create a conversation, and encourage everyone to dress comfortably in their winter woollies. It’s almost like recreating the après-ski experience in your own home.”


The Scandinavians may have a head start, but there are many simple and cost effective ways for you to bring the hygge vibe into your new home.

Scandinavian style is epitomised by the use of lots of light wood and white tones teamed with primitive materials such as timber, stone, leather, fur and wool, living walls of plants and other textural items that exude warmth. 

“Our customers love the natural trend because it’s timeless and classic and it aligns beautifully with New Zealand’s eco-look and feel,” says Michaela.

“Natural timber-look tiles are being used on the floors and walls, in showers and to build vanities and in bathrooms. Stone is another popular material inspired by nature and we’re seeing it being used in bathrooms and kitchen benchtops.”

Minimalism is key element of hygge interiors, driven be the idea of creating calm, serene spaces that are peaceful and free of clutter. Schemes are usually monochromatic or a subtle mix of soft tonal shades.

In the lounge or sitting room, position large arm chairs or a comfortable couch adorned soft faux fur throws and textured cushions around the fireplace to create a soothing, central hub for relaxing and conversation. You can also create a similar setup in a formal lounge room to bring everyone together when watching sports or a family film.    

Displaying treasured memories in kitchen, dining and living area will help encourage an environment of happiness. Get creative and hang your favourite family photos, travel paraphernalia or art pieces in a decorative way.

Lighting is always an important consideration when designing and building a new home, but with hygge, it’s even more so. Think about installing light dimmers in bedrooms and other social gathering areas to help control the mood – or carefully position lamps and candles for an ultimate warm, peachy glow.

Hygge is all about getting close with friends and family in a relaxed environment so you can enjoy all that is cosy, warm and wonderful about winter – and don’t forget to finish it off with an indulgent mug of hot chocolate or spiced mulled wine.