Hygge Creates Warmth In Cold Places
Architects and interior designers are using the Danish art of happiness as inspiration for effective, attractive design solutions.
Alexandra Koretski, Associate, Spacesmith
Although the winter months may seem like a distant memory, there’s still great need for warmth in today’s stressful society. From the challenges of personal life to seemingly constant negativity in the world around us, everyone needs to find happiness and comfort in whatever ways they can. This is where the term hygge, comes in. Known as the Danish philosophy of happiness, this concept—pronounced huegah—is increasingly influential for architects and interior designers worldwide looking to bring a sense of safety, comfort, and togetherness into their building designs. As one of the happiest countries in the world, despite its temperate and often dreary climate, Denmark is exporting a valuable notion. Though not really a design aesthetic, hygge considers how overall happiness is influenced by environmental cues. For this reason, Spacesmith architects and designers have employed the idea for inspiration when designing workspaces, retail locations, and even educational facilities. Some ways of instilling hygge are fairly intuitive: adding a warm fireplace to a hotel lobby, using cozy fabrics on built-ins, or placing scented candles on the reception console. Yet countless other methods add coziness and security to building spaces in less-obvious ways. For example, buildings can boost well being by adding visual texture and natural materials, such as wood grain, because occupants tend to feel more at peace when connected to nature. Also, exposing historical building materials and adding antique focal pieces can enhance comfort as they add texture, create nostalgia, or connect individuals to pleasant memories. Similarly, handmade assemblies and finely crafted items contribute to the hygge philosophy. These concepts can benefit a wide range of building types, such as:
• Cozier workspaces. Using varied techniques, designers can incorporate hygge concepts into workplace designs to create subconscious feelings of well being and safety. For example, warm indirect lighting, free of glare, can mimic candlelight effects. At the new headquarters of Abrams, a leading book publisher in New York City, the Spacesmith design team used varied elements for comfort, specifically in the shared library and café. Plush, upholstered chairs and cozy reading nooks, positioned throughout, allow workers to escape from busy schedules and relax with a book or simply converse with colleagues in the café during lunch break. Each of these design elements add happiness during a hectic workday while ensuring employees have the tools needed to perform their jobs.
• Warmer retail. Shopping isn’t always the most relaxing experience. From harsh lighting to long lines, the retail experience can often become stressful. In Manhattan’s shopping- crazed Soho neighborhood, the luxury children’s clothing store Bonpoint creates an oasis of calm and comfort, a great example of a hygge-inspired boutique. With naturally finished wood for furnishings and a children’s playhouse on the center of the floor, shoppers feel a connection to nature and play. A small seating area, adorned with comfortable couches and pillows, simulates a residential living room, and classic childhood toys are scattered throughout, adding nostalgia and positive distractions.
• Welcoming schools. An example of hygge in an academic facility is found at The School of Visual Arts MFA (New York City); Photo, Video, and Related-Media Department. That design brings students and faculty together in intimate seating areas or for community gatherings in an adaptable, day-lighted multipurpose room, converted from a former loading dock. Original brick, wood, dark metal, and new natural-concrete finishes, along with warm colors and lighting, contribute to a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. There’s more architects can do with hygge. It’s not only a true design inspiration, but it gives project teams a set of criteria focused around end-user comfort and happiness. Spaces organized for intimacy and a sense of togetherness, with a thoughtful use of natural materials that evoke feelings of warmth and security, can become a powerful antidote to the chaos of daily life. CA
Alexandra Koretski is a designer, project manager, and associate with Spacesmith, an architecture and interior-design firm based in New York City and Hudson, NY (spacesmith.com) . Koretski is a key member of Spacesmith’s public-sector design team and a leader in the firm’s implementation of technical standards.
INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDRA KORETSKI
Learn more about applying hygge concepts in Alex's blog: Beating the Winter Blues