Danish concept of 'hygge' needed in the U.S.

Millennials as a group are likely living in more nontraditional patterns than any other American population group. They are young, but many are well on their way down their professional path. While some have not yet landed their dream job, others are working two jobs to make ends meet, as they live independently. They face challenges and are often maligned in ways that seem unfair when one examines their practical survival skills.

These young Americans can be much more frugal than their own parents. They live within their means and still manage to put cash away in savings. Perhaps watching some of the pitfalls that plagued their older relatives taught them to be more cautious, or it could be that their reality is forcing financially conservative lifestyle choices.

Many millennials who are lucky enough to purchase their own home are required to have roommates, a wave reminiscent of the Great Depression days, when it was not uncommon for a family to take in borders to make ends meet.

No matter where these resilient young people are, they search for their own nest, just like any other age group. So how does one accomplish this in a rented room or studio apartment? This is where the Danish concept of "hygge" has earned notice for those of us who are tired of crass commercialism.

Pronounced "hoo-ga," the concept cannot be translated to one single word but rather the woven phrase "a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life."

While it might be hard for us Americans to understand, hygge is an attitude and a mindset that is an integral part of the Danish national identity and character. Numerous books on the topic have made their way onto the market in the past several years, and social media is crazy for the concept of a cozy, happy and simple concept derived from a Norwegian word for "well-being." The Danes are noted as some of the world's happiest people despite the long and miserable winters they endure.

Imagine living in a frozen, gray landscape for most of the year. What would bring you comfort and solace as you cling to your interior space? Warmth and snuggling; pleasant aromas; rooms with corners that invite, relax and restore.

There are specific items that can be added to any room to elevate the sensation of safety and protection. It could be the introduction of an electric fireplace that transports you to your happy spot. For an investment of several hundred dollars, you could locate an infrared wall-mounted fireplace or an LED electric model to hang up like a painting.

Perhaps a splurge on what you conceive as your perfect reading chair and Ottoman will transport you into a calm zone. Down pillows arranged on your favorite love seat might make you feel pampered. Give your bedroom a fresh coat of color, and make it one that sends you into a particular emotional zone.

Coordinate colored sheets and coverings with your new coat of paint. Pay special attention to the way the sheets feel, as tactile pleasure is a part of this philosophy. Look for sheets that are noted as "microfiber" because they are actually softer than thread count over 600. Generally, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet, and the more likely it will wear. Good sheets range anywhere from 200 to 800.

In order to retain the softness for 100 percent cotton sheets of even high thread count, you will find that you have to iron the fabric, and that is not the definition of hygge!

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at

© 2018, Creators Syndicate

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