As the days become chillier, and the nights darker, we start to spend more of our time indoors. If a global pandemic forcing us to spend time at home wasn’t enough to make us consider our interiors more closely, this entry into the winter months means that we need our homes to be more nurturing than ever. Scandinavian designers have a genius for creating welcoming and cosy spaces as sanctuaries from the cold outside world, so it makes sense to take a leaf from their book.
In recent years the Danish word hygge, derived from a Norwegian word meaning well-being and roughly translating into English as ‘comfort’ or ‘cosy togetherness’, has been increasingly advocated as a desirable aim in many aspects of our lives, including interiors; after all, the Danes are frequently acknowledged as the happiness people in the world. Together with the Swedish term mysigt, also signifying cosiness, this mindset and behaviour extends from spending relaxed time with friends and family and being in the moment to practically making our homes cosy with candlelight, open fires and warm throws whereby creating a space in which we can escape to recharge.
For most Scandinavians with an interest in interior design it is a given to have both summer and winter wardrobes for the home. Colder months see the introduction of cosy throws, textured cushions, sheepskins and reindeer skins. Adding more texture to your home in winter is a sure-fire way to increase the cosiness levels. Even if your home isn’t cold, the tactile nature of wool, velvet or sheepskin works to make it appear warmer. The same is true of introducing natural finishes such as wood, ceramics or leather or decorative items such as twigs, pine cones and foliage.
Soft textiles have the added advantage of sound-absorbent properties. New-build homes and those with an open plan can often present a challenging acoustic environment leading to a cold, echoing experience. The heavier the fabric the more effective it is at sound absorption. Consider using floor to ceiling curtains to dampen sound; the tighter the weave of the fabric and the more pleats the greater the sound absorption will be. Shelves filled with books are also excellent sound diffusers; the materials and the irregular shapes break up the sound waves rather than bouncing them back. Upholstered furniture can also help to improve acoustics and furniture with backs can function as sound barriers in open plan spaces. Two sofas facing each other in the middle of the room will diffuse sound better than a single sofa placed against a wall. Deep pile rugs or wall to wall carpeting all contribute to noise reduction.
A love of small, cosy spaces stems from our past need to protect ourselves from dangerous animals and other threats. This feeling of safety in a small space persists for us today. We often feel more relaxed in a small space and with greater control over our situation. One simple way, therefore, to add a cosy feel to any home is to create your own hyggekrog or nook in which to snuggle with a blanket, newspaper and a cup of tea or a book and glass of wine. This could be a window seat filled with cushions and blankets, a comfortable armchair with a good reading light or a cosy reading nook next to a bookcase.
An open fireplace, or wood burning stove has got to be one of the best ways to introduce hygge to the home. Although far more common in Scandinavia than in the UK, increasing numbers of UK homes are installing stoves. Whilst certainly considered a cost-effective heating option the most commonly stated reason is to add a sense of homeliness. Available in a wide range of designs from traditional to contemporary, it is possible to find a stove to suit most design schemes.
In the darker months light is precious, it effects our inner wellbeing and our emotions. This is well known in Scandinavia where many parts of the region experience extremely short days during winter. The use of candlelight in winter is ubiquitous throughout Scandinavia, not only in homes but also offices and classrooms. Candles are lit on December 12th for the celebration of St Lucia to symbolise hope being lit again.
Getting lighting right in your home is key at any time, but in the darker months it is more important then ever. Where we place lamps, where the beams of light are directed and how we combine different strengths of light can make a huge difference to a room.
If the lighting in your room doesn’t give you that cosy feeling, take a look at its location. If light is primarily delivered from ceiling pendants, downlighters or tracks of spotlights you may need to consider adding lighting in different horizontal planes. Mid-level lighting can be added by a floor lamp, table lamp on a sideboard or picture lights. Low level lighting from low floor lamps, candles on a side table or spotlights inset in the floor.
A balance between diffused (or indirect) and direct lighting will provide the best overall balance. Light diffused through a shade will be better for atmospheric or decorative lighting. Directional lighting is best reserved for functional or work purposes, for example reading.
In general, the lower the temperature of the light, the cosier the feel. Daylight is around 6500 Kelvin (K), fluorescent lighting around 5000K, incandescent lamps around 3000K while sunsets and candle flames are around 1800K. Choosing a bulb that provides an ideal colour temperature can have a significant impact on the feel and functionality of any space. Different categories of lighting fulfil different functions. General lighting, which spreads light over the entire room, will appear cosier when using warm white (3500K) or very warm white (2700K) bulbs in a diffused manner (through a shade). Spot lighting, creating accents on a picture wall or artwork may be warm or neutral. Task lighting, such as a reading light or above a worksurface, will benefit from a cooler tone for greater visibility. Atmospheric or decorative lighting such as small dimmable lamps or string lights are cosier using lower temperatures.
Need some help developing a cosy design scheme for your home this winter? Contact us at email@example.com.