Hygge ( pronounced hoo-ga) is Danish for cozy, but to Hygge & West founders Aimee and Christiana, it means so much more. Curling up by the fireplace with a great book, long informal dinners with close friends, goodnight hugs with your children- that is 'hygge.' Started in 2008, Hygge & West quickly became known for their bold and beautiful wallpaper designs (chances are you have seen their products on your favorite design blog) and better yet, all their wallpapers are made in the US and screen printed by hand.
Christiana and Aimee are currently on tour with their new book Home: Design for a Cozy Life, which tells the Hygge & West story alongside numerous interviews with other designers and creatives. We turned the interview table around on them to ask them how people can bring their company’s namesake hygge, a Danish word which translates to something like “coziness” or “satisfaction,” to their own homes.
In your book, you talk about how hygge can come from many places. What are your top ways to add more hygge to a space?
Music always, as it can really define the mood within your environment.
Candles are a hygge cliché, but there really is something about candlelight. When we were in Denmark, we noticed that they had lit candles on the table everywhere, at all times – from casual cafes to fancy restaurants—morning, noon and night. I try to do that at home now when we eat meals. It makes even a quick lunch together as a family feel special.
Surround yourself with meaningful things. I love incorporating family heirlooms, homemade art and vacation mementos into our décor. They’re a nice connection to people you love and favorite memories.
Pets are the ultimate hygge – our home wouldn’t be nearly as cozy without our furry family members.
Wallpaper! I had to say it, right? Wallpaper adds another layer of interest to a space, and we hope that our designs provide a comfy backdrop to our customers’ lives.
Incorporate texture such as wool blankets, soft velvets, warm wood grains. Anything that is either a visual treat or feels good to the touch creates more pleasure and coziness.
Drinks and snacks—being able to fix a simple cocktail or throw together a snack board is so welcoming and sets a cozy mood whether it’s for friends, family, guests or just a night in by yourself.
The two of you have known each other for many years and share an interest in design. Ostensibly, you could have gone many directions with a company that serves as an outlet for that interest. What drew you to wallpaper?
"We don’t think that we ever set out specifically to create wallpaper – instead it was a bit of an evolution. Wallpaper is the item that started our business, though. We discovered Ferm Living, which at the time was a Danish line of wallpaper, and when we learned that they didn’t have a U.S. distributor, we approached them with a business and marketing plan. Somewhat to our surprise, they accepted and we worked with them for a little over a year. During that time, we learned a lot about the product as well as the interior design and home décor industry. We also learned that being a distributor meant dealing with customs on a daily basis as well as primarily being a sales person, both of which neither of us enjoyed very much."
"We did discover, however, that there was a niche in the market for wallpaper which was just starting to see a resurgence in popularity. At the time, wallpaper was either very high-end, expensive and only accessible to the trade, or what we call “paint store wallpaper,” which was more accessible but didn’t have the same level of design. We felt that if we could make a well-priced, beautiful product that anyone could purchase, we may be on to something. It took a few years, but as it turned out, we were right."
Wallpaper is making a major resurgence these days after many years of unpopularity. Why do you think it fell out of style and why is it coming back with so much energy?
"It seemed to fall out of popularity when people needed to remove older wallpapers and it was a huge pain. Non-woven papers have come a long way in quality and in ease of installation and removal, which helps people feel like it’s less of a huge commitment if they eventually tire of the pattern they chose. We think it’s such an easy and striking way to change the feel of a space. And with so many options, almost anyone kind find a pattern that resonates with them. It’s been an interesting phenomenon to say the least. We were worried that it might be considered 'trendy' and only stay around for a while, but after 10 years in business, we feel fairly safe in saying that wallpaper is here to last!"
How can people use wallpaper to express their personal style in their own homes?
"Well, if they are anything like us, they can use it to express their personality on basically any flat surface! But really, just picking a pattern that they feel connected to and then installing it on an accent wall, a whole room, a small closet. Just going for it in a way that will make them smile when they see it."
Do different types, colors, or patterns of wallpaper work better in different rooms of the house?
"Yes and no. We really believe that there should not be hard and fast rules around how people use wallpaper or decorate. Your home should be personal and reflect who you are and what you love. That said, we do encourage people to consider color and scale depending on where they will use the wallpaper and what kind of effect they are trying to achieve."
What should first-time wallpaper buyers know before they buy? Are there any quick tips or tricks for hanging wallpaper?
"We’d rate DIY wallpaper installation about a 7.5 on a scale of 1-10. It’s not really that difficult, but it does take time and attention to detail. We also like to remind installers that while it’s rarely going to be “perfect,” any issues are either fixable or won’t be noticeable from a few feet away unless you’re really looking for them. One tip is to always make sure your craft knife blade is sharp!"