A lot has been written about creating a home that inspires a sense of sanctuary, but these days, the idea has never felt more relevant.
Or should we say urgent?
Differentiating between sanctuary and isolation cell (as we shelter in place) could mean the difference between spending quality time with loved ones or being sentenced to time with a plea of temporary insanity. Just kidding. Sort of.
The lessons of household hygge (pronounced hue-gah), the Danish concept of simplified, cozy living, are front and center as most of us find ourselves forced to slow down and take stock of not only our pantry shelves and toilet paper stash but the way we want to live as well.
The good news — and yes, we can all use some — is that although there are things you can buy to elevate a sense of sanctuary in your space, the intangible gifts of a hygge-ified home often can be achieved for free.
Aimee Lagos, cofounder of the online retail site Hygge & West and co-author of the book “Hygge & West Home: Design for a Cozy Life,” said for her and cofounder/co-author Christiana Coop, means getting personal. “It’s not about this Scandi aesthetic with lots of lamb furs strewn about,” said Lagos. “It’s about figuring out what makes you feel happy and joyful in a space and then creating that.”
We invite you to light a candle, curl up with a throw blanket and read on for 10 tips to turn your home into a sanctuary.
“Hygge is about being mindful of small moments and really appreciating them,” said Lagos. “When we went to Denmark to do research for our book, the Danish had candles lit even during the day. It’s about doing small things to make a very mundane experience feel slightly more meaningful and special.” For a space with kids at home, consider opting for flameless, battery-operated candles for a safer sanctuary. Signature Candle, $35, hyggeandwest.com
Setting the mood and creating a sense of contentment also can be done by curating music and sound. New to working at home? Consider selecting a playlist to work by, then moving to a different playlist when work is done to establish boundaries and define blocks of time.
“I just ask Siri to play music based on my mood and change it up,” said Coop, who works remotely from home in Northern California. “If you forget to do that and it’s quiet for a long time, it really can affect how you feel.” On the flip side, work-from-home offices now sharing space may benefit instead from noise-canceling headphones. Bose SoundLink Revolve Bluetooth speaker, $159, bose.com
“Now is definitely the time to nurture a houseplant,” said designer and author Emily Henderson of the Los Angeles-based website Style by Emily Henderson, “and to bring nature inside — especially something sculptural, even if it’s just a branch.” The winning result? “A pretty, organic sculpture.”
Looking for something hearty and relatively care-free? Think cacti. Hedge cactus, $175, bloomscape.com
“Even though you’re not having guests over, and no one knows you may be living a certain way [raise your hand for barely controlled chaos], it’s important to keep things clean and tidy for yourself,” said Lagos. “Treat your house with respect by keeping things clean and organized — because you’re going to be there all day.”
Little luxuries like fresh sheets, a well-made bed, a clean tub for soaking and a kitchen with wiped-down surfaces create bright spots of calm and control. Queen-size Daydream duvet cover and shams by Hygge & West, $178, hyggeandwest.com
“Our dining table had pretty candlesticks and a big vessel with branches that usually look great, but right now, with four of us here 24 hours a day and doing homeschooling at the table, I just got rid of anything we didn’t need and it really did help,” Henderson said.
“Reducing the visual clutter from everyday surfaces like the coffee table and the dining table can definitely bring a sense of calm,” she added. This wood and cane coffee table adds useful workspace; just remember to straighten up at the end of the day to fully appreciate its minimalist look. $159.99, Hearth & Hand at target.com.
“We were struggling with how to deal with all the schoolwork [and supplies],” Henderson said of the papers and pencils and notebooks that threatened to overtake her dining room. In response, the designer repurposed an art caddy and a serving tray to corral the materials.
“Everything goes inside and they can be taken off the dining table,” said Henderson, “because the first couple of days it was chaos. We were taking everything off the table so we could eat lunch.” Look for caddies and portable storage carts to provide an organized place to stow work materials and school supplies while preserving precious surface space when not in use. Utility cart, $29.99, Ikea.com
“Indulge in the everyday comforts that you have,” advised Coop. “If you’re getting delivery or takeout, put it on your nicer plates. Elevate the everyday things that you’re doing.” That’s hygge.
“I think having matching sets [of dishes and cookware] in your kitchen adds a lot of visual pleasure,” said Henderson, “especially when you are setting the table or eating at home three times a day versus what may be normal in regular life.” Stackable, 18-piece dinnerware set in white, $40.49 by Made by Design at Target.com
When it comes to a cozy kitchen, Henderson said, “We’re definitely working our Dutch oven hard right now. We roast chickens and make broth and the smell of the broth simmering throughout the house all day is the coziest, warmest smell ever. I didn’t know how easy it was to make your own broth,” she added, “and it saves a lot of money because good broth can be expensive.” She wrote about her recipe on her website.
Just think how happy you’ll feel making big batches of soup you can portion out and freeze — and then eat on a night when time is short. Stainless steel, 5-quart Dutch oven, $30 by Made by Design at Target.com
Not everyone sees the quarantine as an opportunity for home improvement, but avid DIYers may find a silver lining in their sequestration. “There’s just so many things that you’re always too busy to do,” said Coop, “and now we’ve got a lot of time for projects. It’s nice to take advantage of that and really get stuff banged out.”
Like that bathroom in need of a dramatic makeover. Cards wallpaper in black by Charlotte Janvier, $155 per roll at HyggeandWest.com
In Southern California indoor-outdoor living is a way of life, and whether you have a balcony, a front porch or a big backyard, creating an exterior place to rest and relax is a big part of sanctuary style.
“Just being able to sit outside on a porch or a patio, getting fresh air right now, some sun, is so important,” said Lagos. Capistrano Outdoor Daybed, $2,798 by Serena & Lily at Serenaandlily.com