Bring on the Hygge: Easy Lighting Upgrades to Make Your Home Feel Cozier this Winter

Brian Hogan
Dec 17, 2020 10:41:55 AM

HDC is headquartered in Geneva, an idyllic midwestern city that remains strongly influenced by its Swedish roots — and not just during Swedish Days, the cherished “midsommer” festival that coincides with the northern summer solstice.

As a Nordic nation that spends the long winter months submerged in darkness, Sweden wholly embraces the Scandinavian concept of hygge, or a quality of coziness, conviviality, and comfort that gives rise to feelings of contentment and well-being. 

Cozy fireplace setting with leather chairs set for conversation around a weathered wood coffee table, featuring warm lighting with modern star fixture and wall sconces

Simply put, hygge (hue-guh) describes anything — whether it’s a moment, a feeling, an object, or a space — that’s inviting, enjoyable, or pleasant. During the winter, achieving hygge at home often comes down to one thing: warm and balanced illumination.  

Nothing has the potential to make — or break — the mood and ambiance of a room quite like lighting. Here are a few brilliant lighting upgrades that can boost the hygge factor of any space. 

Illuminate Your Space in Layers

When it comes to achieving beautifully balanced illumination in any space, layers are key. The best way to create layered lighting is to include at least three sources of light:

  • General lighting (recessed, flush-mount, chandelier, or pendant fixtures)
  • Specific lighting (task lighting; table and floor lamps)
  • Ambient lighting (sconces, candles, or decorative illumination) 

Layered lighting is just as effective in windowless corridors, powder rooms, and other small spaces; just be sure to reduce bulb wattage and light fixture size to accommodate fewer square feet. 

Create a Focal Point of Light

Layered lighting can go a long way in providing balanced luminosity, but it’s equally important to establish a focal point of light. To draw the eye and create visual interest, a “star” fixture should be larger than the other lighting elements in the room, and it should be perfectly scaled to fit its space.   

A chandelier makes a stunning focal point in larger rooms, especially when it’s proportional to the space. In general, the diameter of a chandelier (in inches) should equal the length plus the width of the room (in feet): a room that’s 10x10 calls for a fixture that’s 20 inches in diameter.

Distinctive sconces, a pair (or trio) of compact hanging pendants, or a sculptural floor lamp can provide a focal point of light in smaller spaces.  

Aged,round contemporary chandelier featuring round glass magnifiers and exposed bulbs

Brighten Built-in Cabinets and Shelves 

Built-in shelves and cabinets can define a room and make it more functional, but they can also create plenty of dark corners that diminish the overall ambiance. Lighting adds instant hygge to cabinets and built-ins, whether they’re in the kitchen, bathroom, home office, or family room. 

Use under-cabinet lighting to illuminate kitchen countertops, or install flexible LED strip lighting above hanging wall cabinets (kitchen or bathroom) to envelop the entire space in a soft, warm glow. You can also use LED light strips to subtly illuminate open shelving or a built-in bookcase.    

Install Dimmers Wherever You Can

It may be simple, but it shouldn’t be overlooked: installing dimmer switches is a quick and easy way to gain more control over the lighting in any space. 

Whether it controls a chandelier, a pair of pendants or sconces, or in-cabinet lighting, a dimmer switch can take a room from full luminosity to a warm ambient glow at the turn of a dial. 

On top of giving you a way to instantly change the mood of a room, dimmer switches help you use less electricity and lower your monthly utility bill.

Embrace the Hygge of Lighting

Lighting may be functional, but it’s also an indispensable element of design that can illuminate a space and set the mood in unexpected ways. To truly embrace the “hygge” of lighting design, it helps to think of lighting as a way to create cozy zones of calm within a space. 

Incorporating pops of illumination around your home is a lovely, personalized way to add to the glow; it’s also a good way to highlight beloved elements of design. 

A vintage pendant over your bedside table can cast a jewel-like gleam across the wall at night, while a narrow, frame-mounted picture light can illuminate a favorite painting and provide a sense of intimacy for the viewer. You can even use a small spotlight to up-light a potted indoor tree with dramatic effect.  

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