Hygge is a state of mind, a special mood, or even a worldview celebrating one’s being in harmony with the environment.
The surroundings both become a reflection of this inner peace and help make it happen.
In other words, things by themselves may or may not be perfect, but it is how we see them that truly matters. This is where light comes into play – and truly brings to life the magic of hygge.
Being a crucial part of tuning your home in to the hygge mood, lighting is probably the most challenging to implement.
Think about what an immense effect lighting has on people, nature, and everything around us! As flower buds open up toward the morning sun, as leaves fall at the end of the summer, so do we follow the eternal rhythm of night and day. With just 7 hours of daylight in winter Scandinavians know a thing or two about artificial light.
Hygge lighting is soft, warm and layered. Danes often say that it is the recreation of natural lighting which occurs at sunset or in the early morning hours, when people tend to feel the happiest (isn’t it so wonderfully true?).
Warm colors invoke the sense of comfort and relaxation, and it is the play of light and shade that essentially gives volume, texture and meaning to our surroundings.
This amber glow chiaroscuro is naturally achieved through fire light, be it in candles or logs in a fireplace. But if for whatever reason this is not an option for you – don’t worry. Here are a few top secrets from the Danes who have perfected the art of imitating this natural phenomenon at their homes.
Use several sources of light such as floor and table lamps and wall mounts. Replace the overbearing ceiling light with a cluster of pendants at middle line.
Mix ambient, basic lighting with accents on your favorite areas and design elements in the room. It can be a piece of artwork, a coffee table with a vintage statuette, or a plant.
It is a good idea to avoid direct light on seating areas – being under a stark illumination makes you feel anything but relaxed (remember that armchair at a dentist’s office?) You may also experiment with highlighting negative spaces – the gaps in-between objects – with diffuse, subtle light.
Layering divides space into zones and creates the sense of intimacy. It will transform a plain room into an engaging landscape with cozy nooks – hyggekrogs. For example, pendants above a dining table and a wall mount by a rocking chair signal functional autonomy: here we gather, share food and enjoyment together, while here one can retreat inwards and quietly read a book.
2. Warm up.
In order to achieve the warm glow ambience choose matt shades and warm-white LED and incandescent lamps.
Remember to look for a low lumen number, which indicates the temperature of the light. 2,700K is ideal for soft, candlelight effect, 3,000K-3,200K is still warm but closer to neutral.
Anything higher than 3,700K is in a cool range.
Old school Edison bulbs also do great in hygge style interiors: their soft light and vintage look are a perfect fit.
3. Shape it.
When it comes to design, hygge lighting has a lot to offer. Scandinavian design as we know it, in fact, dates back to the 1950s – a bustling period when many talented Danish designers came up with ideas that eventually defined the style for years to come.
Lighting design was particularly prolific – partly due to the importance of artificial light in Nordic cultures. Modern interpretations of these masterpieces can be easily recognized in many hygge interiors. They inspired several styles of hygge lamps and lamp shades, each possessing a distinctive character.
4. S is for Simple
There is a well-known look associated with Scandinavian design: clean, minimalist, succinct.
These lamps are elegant and simple, which makes them highly versatile and easy-to-fit in practically any interior. Often they come in basic white, black, or natural gray palette to blend well with the environment.
There are, however, bold color decisions when lamps become splashes of bright accents such as prismatic red, mind-blowing ultramarine, aqua blue. You can check out which one you prefer: the white version with wood trim, the rich black as a pendant here or as a floorlamp; the iconic grasshopper design by Greta Grossman, or the amazing feast of red.
5. Organic Shapes
When Poul Henningsen created his famous lamp artichoke light design in 1958, he was inspired by an… artichoke. Indeed, Danish design is often infused with deep sense of appreciation for nature.
Lamps representing organic shapes are a signature detail of hygge style. Pinecones, acorns, and even onions become the primary symbol of life bestowing light.
Sometimes lamp shapes also refer to inorganic natural world, for example, featuring a raindrop. Or, like in this pendant by Panton, design can evoke the image of iridescent pearls shining on the seashore, like the mesmerizing glitter of the tail of a mermaid.
6. Airy Clouds
Another distinct hygge style has developed out of the artistic invention by Poul Christiansen in 1971 – the original Le Klint design, which is reminiscent of a Chinese lantern, an airy cloud and a home-made marshmallow all at the same time.
Such models utilize plastic foil, paper, birchwood or even faux fur in order to create the sense of weightlessness, fluffiness or fluidity. They appear suspended in the air, giving an impression of effortless floating.
Nevertheless, the Scandinavian love of formal purity keeps them from turning into asymmetrical ephemeral clouds – they embody geometry of air.
One of the latest cravings among hygge hunters – Tom Rossau’s TR7 lamps with woven strips of wood – are a good illustration of this unique feature: naturally twisted as if ruffled by the wind, they are still perfect in their sculptural purity.
7. Rows of Lights
Geometrical chandeliers are another lighting variety typical for hygge style. They work great in more sophisticated interiors. Such chandeliers usually feature several bare light bulbs on an intricate configuration of rods. At first, it may seem as a violation of hygge principal – isn’t it too mechanical?
But take a closer look and it is nothing more than a bare tree branch in winter… Moreover, rows and clusters of light sources perform the same function – diffusing the light and creating a more intimate atmosphere evocative of church interiors with hundreds of candles lit.
Fairy lights, which are also extremely popular in Denmark, create a similar effect. Use these more informal rows of lights when you want to create a festive mood and the atmosphere of magic and celebration, whether indoors or outside.
8. Primeval Hearth
Finally, an interesting option to consider for accent lighting is artisanal alabaster onyx and salt lamps and candleholders. Even though they were not originally designed in Scandinavia, they will make a wonderful addition to hygge style interior. Everything about them is right: the warm yellow glow, the coarseness of design.
All of these hygge lighting ideas, however different, ultimately share one common feature: they create a sense of harmony and tranquility. They imbue the relationships between people and objects with warmth.
Comforting lighting can allude to the pristine and the original.
It can encourage us to embrace simplicity, to slow down and to appreciate life happening.
So that in the daily treadmill of never-ending tasks, calls, goals and races you can find your hyggekrog with a cup of hot chocolate and a favorite children’s book you have not read in ages.
Let go of the urge to run, fight and pull.
Savour that little marshmallow, close your eyes… hop on that fluffy cloud to feel the incredible lightness of being. Being is enough to be happy. Simple as that.