Every year as winter slips into Colorado, familiar activities take place. Just as predictable as the heavy traffic on I-70 is a longing for comfy pants, warm fires and games of Risk that inevitably end in simmering, yet friendly, resentments. This is hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) life.
Alexandra Gove, owner of Hygge Life Shop & Café in Vail explains that “the concept of hygge was non-existent to me before I crossed paths with the Danish culture and began to explore what hygge could really mean. It’s an adjective (hyggelig) and a feeling, but also a way to live life; pursuing only the things and people that make you really appreciate the moments that make up your life.”
Colorado-native Alexandra and her husband Koen met and fell in love in Vail and a year later they moved their lives to Amsterdam, Koen’s hometown, so he could complete his education. According to Alexandra, “the Dutch use the word, gezellig, to describe the coziness and comfort of an ambience, a person or a moment. Very similar to the Danish hygge.”
Her first encounter with hygge would occur when she made her way to Copenhagen with a dear friend. “First, I felt hygge without knowing that the word existed and then I discovered the word hygge, which sent sparks flying. It was as if I had found my life match, thus Hygge Life began.”
But before there was Hygge Life the store, there was Hygge Life the van. In the summer of 2014, Alexandra and Koen bought an old 1971 Opel Blitz camper van, painted it blue, put the Hygge Life logo on the side and travelled Europe, bringing along a traditional poffertjes (Dutch mini pancake) cast-iron grill and making their way through France, Spain and Switzerland. Alex recounts, “this was our first Hygge Life venture. We were seeking and creating hygge with pancakes, soft textiles and our happy blue bus.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Alex and Koen opened the Vail outpost of Hygge Life with a collection of European home decor inspired by hygge moments. Most recently they opened the Hygge Life Cafe, boasting both indoor and outdoor spaces, coffee and homemade treats, and the ultimate hygge atmosphere to encourage friends to slow down and enjoy a delicious drink while connecting with one another.
Not that Alex herself seems to be slowing down; in September 2019 she publishedp Dwell, Gather, Be: Design for Moments, a book that explores how thoughtful, intentional home design can cultivate meaningful moments in life. The book is filled with suggestions about how to make your own home, whether a studio in the city or a cottage in the county, feel hygge.
For more ways to bring hygge into your own home, consider some of Alex’s favorite suggestions:
Soft Textures—Bring out your soft, heavy blankets and drape on the couches and chairs in your living room or place a basket of blankets near your fireplace for snuggling. She also suggests draping natural sheepskins on dining chairs, barstools, the couch and placing them on the ground on either side of your bed. The warming, comforting textures of natural textiles and sheepskins will bring hygge into your home without question.
Candle light—Lighting candles seems like too easy of an answer for this question, but it really is intrinsic to creating hygge in your home. The act of striking a match and lighting a candle can cultivate hygge in yourself and in your home. As you light a candle, you are committing to be in that space for an amount of time and slow down to relax and enjoy. Place candles around your home and make a ritual of lighting them when you arrive home for the evening.
Soups and roasted vegetables—Make warm, cozy meals for your family and gatherings with loved ones. When the evenings are cooler, it is so comforting to make big pots of soup and roast hearty vegetables. Alex says, “We like to invite our friends over to dig in—we place a board of buttered toast on the table and let everyone fill their bowls to the brim with the soup of the evening. We also love to fill our farmer’s market bags with vegetables perfect for roasting, like zucchini, beets, parsnip, fennel and potatoes. We drizzle olive oil and grind salt and pepper on imperfectly chopped vegetables and roast for an hour or so. So easy and delicious and perfect for lunch throughout the week.”
Slippers—Place a basket of slippers by the door in an array of sizes for your guests when they arrive. “We offer our guests slippers year-round but as the weather cools down, it’s especially comforting for our guests. They leave their boots at the door and have cozy, warm feet for the rest of the evening.”
Baking—Baking is fun no matter the season, but especially so during the cool months of the year. Pull a stool into the kitchen for your children to perch on and include them in the baking. Kids will love it and you’ll make memories that will last forever.
Hygge Life Shop & Café
41149 US-HWY 6 & 24
Avon, CO 81620
Dwell, Gather, Be: Design for Moments By Alexandra Gove
Available at Tattered Cover in Denver, online at hyggelife.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Elizabeth Kosar is a writer and communications strategist. She is fan of the hygge life, particularly when it involves fuzzy pink slippers and a hot cup of chai.
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