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Hygge, Why is it Important?


 
An intimate hygge gathering at home with friends!

An intimate hygge gathering at home with friends!

 



It's been a couple of years now since my wife and I have embarked on our journey into the hygge lifestyle and I must say, it has been such a rewarding experience! Today we want to share with you why we think hygge is important and how it has impacted our relationships. For those of you new to the blog you can read about what is hygge here. Now without further adieu, let's get into it.

Focusing on the "Quality" in "Quality Time"

One of the biggest impacts hygge has had in my life is that it has pushed me to be more present in the moment; a skill that we need now more than ever in the digital age. I've been with my wife, Lindsay, for 10 years (wow, time flies) and she can attest that this has been a real struggle for me. Do you try to multitask any chance you get? Do you spend half your time with friends and family glued to your phone? I know I have definitely been guilty of both of these habits over the years. Now that I've been to the other side though, I can safely say the grass is much greener.

Lindsay is a cancer researcher by day and I am a professional saxophonist by night; our schedules are the complete opposite. As you can imagine the few hours we do have together need to be cherished, but for years I had a terrible habit of doing work on my computer or phone while we spent time together. This was an obvious point of contention between us and really degraded the quality of our time together. I would forget what was being discussed or miss what happened in our favourite Netflix show. The reality is, multitasking doesn't make you more efficient, it just makes you worse at both tasks (If the science behind this interests you, you can read more about it in Adler’s & Fich’s study, here). Once I (mostly) stopped dividing my attention, I noticed that I was more aware of things she likes, our conversations became more enthralling and our time together was far more fun. If there are tasks you need to accomplish, set the time aside for them and try to give your relationships the time and attention they so readily deserve.

Hygge Lighting or Bust

I know we spend a considerable amount of time on the blog talking about lighting, but I can't stress enough how important lighting can be. Lighting greatly affects our mood, actions and can make or break an atmosphere. When the lights are turned on in a nightclub, what effect does this have on the party? It kills. I see this happen every week (I'm not a party animal, just a party saxophonist). Everyone becomes self-conscious and stops dancing. When you want to take a special someone on a dinner date, do you find yourself gravitating to the restaurants with white, bright sterile lighting? Almost never. If you're like me, you subconsciously gravitate towards the establishment with low, warm lighting because it sets an air of romance and intimacy. Why do we watch scary movies with the lights off? Because it instantly becomes scarier and you want to be completely immersed  in the experience.

 
Mezcal, a must visit in the Hamilton area!*

Mezcal, a must visit in the Hamilton area!*

 


Hamilton, our home town, has recently entered into a bit of a culinary renaissance. There is no shortage of trendy dining experiences for visitors to explore. Despite the plethora of options, my wife and I always take first time visitors of the Hammer (that's Hamilton for those in the know) to one of two spots; Mezcal or Fairweather. One of the main reasons for this is the atmosphere. Mezcal is a Mexican dining experience that transports you to another world. The lighting is always low, warm and welcoming; the perfect combination for meaningful interactions. Low lighting instantly makes us engage others in our immediate vicinity because it blocks out distractions and forces us to be present. Everytime we bring guests to Mezcal, it's a hit and the hygge lighting is a large part of it.

The Hygge Watering Hole

They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. While this may be true, there are certainly things you can do to increase the odds. If you are really struggling to create that hygge experience with friends, one trick you can use is picking a smaller communal space for your gathering. A home is always a good option, but if everyone insists on going out, try picking a space that really limits the number of patrons and has communal bench style seating. Bench seating seems to prompt for fun filled interactions with strangers,and lends itself to memorable experiences that keep everyone present in the moment.

 
Adolf Wagner's, arguably best schnitzel in Frankfurt!

Adolf Wagner's, arguably best schnitzel in Frankfurt!

 


When Lindsay and I visited Frankfurt for the Ambiente Conference, we made dinner arrangements with an acquaintance of hers who lived in the area. She took us to what was arguably the number one schnitzel joint in the Rhein region, Wagner's. In classic German style, the establishment was set up like a beer hall with long bench style seating, which forced us to get cozy with strangers. Approximately five minutes into our visit two middle aged German men sat next to us and before we knew it we were deep in conversation about what seven herbs make up the Frankfurt seven herb sauce. The conversion caught the attention of the chef who, without a word, sauntered over slapped a piece of paper on the table and slowly began scribbling the ingredients of the sauce, handed us the recipe, and then walked away. We had a lot of good laughs and lots of apfelwein (apparently you must drink at least three; it's tradition), with complete strangers. It wasn't what we had planned for the evening, but it deeply enriched the experience. You can bet the next time we visit Bavaria we are going right back to Wagner's for another fantastic, and intimate, experience!

Full Disclosure

I'll be the first to admit that being present and engaging is hard and I often fall short of this pursuit. As I write this I'm thirty-five-thousand feet in the air with my brother in-law travelling from Halifax and I'm working while attempting to engage him in conversation (sometimes deadlines bring out the worst in us). Yes, it's challenging, but it is worth the effort because hygge is important to meaningful interactions and a fulfilling life. Our lives have changed for the better and we hope these practices do the same for you and your friends!

 
Homemade sandwiches on a plane with a glass of red, and shortbread cookies? This is hygge.

Homemade sandwiches on a plane with a glass of red, and shortbread cookies? This is hygge.

 

Sources:

*ignitenews.ca (image only)







Same Yet Different: What Europe Can Teach North Americans About the Hygge Lifestyle

Part 2: Invest in Living, Not in Resale

Verdun Ivory Chunky Knit Throw Hygge Home

Last week we introduced part 1 of our 3-part blog series titled “Same yet different: What Europe can teach North Americans about the hygge lifestyle”. We focused on one of the key highLIGHTS we took away from the Ambiente trade show: Europeans care more about lighting than North Americans! We covered some of the trends we saw at the show, and talked about how you can change up some lighting in your home, and to make light fixtures an integrated part or style feature of your space.

This week we want to talk about something quite different. While still involving style and the hygge way of living, what we really want to focus on this week is the motivation behind how and why we decorate our homes. During our time in Europe, and conversations with friends and new aquaintances, we learned that Europeans view the home differently than most adult North Americans


1. The age old debate: own or rent?

The North American mentality on renting vs owning your home. Note that “fluffy” can’t be legally excluded from your home in many places!*

In Canada, roughly two thirds of properties are owner occupied**. (67.6%). Several European and Scandinavian countries like Norway (82.8%), Finland (72.7%), Belgium (71.3%) and Sweden (70.6%) sit comfortably above that percentage, while others, notably Austria (55%), Germany (51.9%) and Switzerland (43.4%) have a larger portion of the population renting their homes. In countries like Germany, it seems the pressure to own property is not as big of a priority, and many young adults and adults alike prefer to rent over purchase their property.


Comparatively, in North America, home ownership is treated as the pinnacle of adulthood - if you are not feverishly saving for a down payment on a home or already in possession of one, it’s almost like you haven’t quite made it yet. This is primarily because owning a home is less about having a home, and more about having your first real financial investment. Although the housing market goes up and down in cycles, owning a home is considered the ultimate goal of adulthood after one lands their first “real” job. Rent longer than you need to? “Why are you throwing your money away?” parents often ask. While this attitude persists, there is a changing trend in larger cities, where the rising housing market is pricing out the younger generations of homeowners.


2) North Americans get around - geographically


Despite higher rates of renting apartments and flats, it seems the commitment to geographic mobility isn’t as common among Europeans. In North America, those who live in apartments often do so knowing that they will not be there for long. This affects how one views this space as their home - if you live in a space knowing you will leave in 1 or 2 years, you’re far less likely to really settle in, decorate, and design the space to be exactly as you want it. Why paint a room if you aren’t sticking around? Why change out light fixtures (if you are even allowed to!)?


Work is a common reason for frequent moves in the North American workforce

Further, while North Americans typically sign up for leases a year at a time, in countries like Belgium, that is considered a “short term” lease, with most apartments offering 3 or even 9 year-long leases. Now that is commitment to an apartment! However, if you are agreeing to a space for 3 to 9 years, it may be easier to put the time and effort in to make it personalized and to your liking.


While concept of home ownership is so ingrained in North American culture, if you do own a home, it is also a financial investment. Many adults buy homes with the intent to eventually sell them - either to build equity and move up the housing chain (condo →  small home → large home), or because the likelihood of moving (either by your employer or to take a new opportunity) is high. Often, this leads homeowners to be less inclined to really decorate the home for themselves, but rather, keep everything clean and neutral for the next potential buyer; whenever that may be! So neutral walls, basic fixtures, and boring lighting is the standard. That is what often sells - a clean slate.


3) Committing to your home, any way you can

If neutral walls are a must, use your unique style to bring your personality to your home by hanging art and nostalgic items.

One of the core concepts of hygge is making your home a space that you feel at complete ease in. Using lighting, furniture, textiles, and personal items and artwork, you can create your space to meet your needs. So, do you really think you have committed to your living space, or are you ready to pick up and move at a moment’s (or a month’s) notice? Do you see yourself living there in 5 years? It doesn’t matter! You should put all the energy and efforts into your space as much as you are able to. Regardless of the temporal nature of your living situation it is YOUR HOME, and you should strive to be as happy with it as possible.


Invest in your home to LIVE in it, not to maximize its resale value!

Sources:

* Kamloops property for sale (Image only)

** Wikipedia: List of countries by home ownership rate