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Ideas about Landscape, Design and Life

Hygge, Life and Design

What is ‘Hygge’? It’s not a spelling mistake, but a Danish word that sounds something like ‘heu-guh’. Over the years, I have asked a number of Danes to explain its meaning and the answer is usually “Well… It’s a hard thing to translate into English.” Danes have a sense of ownership over this word as if only they can fully appreciate its sacred qualities and associated rituals. One thing I do know about ‘hygge’ is that it lies at the heart of the Danish attitude towards both life and design.

Being half Danish, I grew up with a sense of what ‘hygge’ represents. My Danish grandmother would invite the family over to her home where the candles would be lit, the fire would be laid and as soon as we were old enough, a drink would be placed in our hands. We would gather poolside before dinner at her table decorated with Danish flags and fickering tea lights. For most Danes, ‘hygge’ is a coming together of family and friends with warm conversation, good food and drink, in intimate and beautiful surroundings. In my family, these Danish influences were a way of life. My Grandfather was a business man, self-taught designer and avid gardener. In the 1950s, he imported and sold Danish modern furniture during the heyday of West Coast Modernism in Vancouver. At his home on Southwest Marine Drive, he created one of the most memorable gardens of my childhood. Playing in this magical garden and visiting my grandparents modernist home influenced my sense of design from an early age. My mother is a painter and my father a cinematographer and photographer. I grew up observing, creating and experimenting with various art forms. My childhood home was always a beautiful place to be – ‘Hygge’ was part of our lives everyday. Even to this day when I bring my own children to visit my parents, there are always candles, a beautifully set table and a drink in our hands, as the tradition continues.

‘Hygge’ represents the good life – those irreplaceable and often impromptu moments with family and friends that give life meaning. It is an integral part of design and in turn, good design facilitates the right conditions for ‘hygge’. In my work, I strive to create landscapes where the physical arrangement of space and subtleties in detailing resonate with people. When simplicity, functionality and beauty are present in our surroundings, an atmosphere is created that is intimate, memorable and that speaks of ‘hygge’.

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