Create A Hygge Garden With Cozy Danish Design Ideas

A book, vase of flowers, glasses, and mug on a small table outdoors
(Image credit: LanaSweet)

Denmark continues to rank as one of the happiest nations on earth. If you want what they have, it’s time to learn about hygge garden ideas. Hygge is a concept that seems to escape Americans with our hustle and bustle and “go get ‘em” attitude, but it seems we could learn a thing or two from our Danish friends. They celebrate the concept of hygge outdoors or inside. A hygge outdoor space may include a hygge patio and hygge backyard, but don’t misconstrue the idea behind hygge -- it belongs with you wherever you go. Keep reading to learn about hygge and how you can incorporate it into your lifestyle.

What is Hygge?

Hygge is a little hard to explain. In 2017 this term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary, so it looks like it’s here to stay. Pronounced “hue-gah,” hygge loosely means taking pleasure from small things like coziness, togetherness, relaxation and the pursuit of everyday happiness with the goal of a better quality of life.

The modern meaning of hygge dates back to about 1800, but it predates this definition and can actually be traced back to an Old Norse word from the Middle Ages that meant “protected from the outside world.”

How to Bring Hygge Outdoors

In Denmark, Danes are taught to enjoy the outdoors from the time they are babies. Winter’s cold temperatures are no deterrent and most people spend some time outside even on the chilliest of days.

That said, Danes also like to cozy up indoors with plenty of food, drink and social gatherings. It is this concept that the Danish refer to as hygge. They also tend to bring the outside indoors by bringing in cut flowers, houseplants, or using their own produce, honey or herbs. When at all possible, the windows of Danish homes are situated to look out upon their gardens or other outdoor features, effectively bringing the outdoors in.

Hygge doesn’t just take place during the coldest months. When the weather is pleasant, indoor hygge is simply moved outside. How do the Danes move hygge outdoors?

Hygge Garden Ideas

As the days shorten, temperatures cool and winter is imminent, there is sometimes a tendency to hibernate, sometimes with seasonal sadness. The Danes have no use for this indulgence. Instead they focus on everything they have that will give them joy, comfort and camaraderie during the bonding experience of a deep, dark winter.

To this end, fire and uplighting are important features of creating hygge. Whether it's uplighting exterior features of the home or a stand of trees, or celebrating with friends and family over a rip-roaring bonfire outside, light is used to chase away the blues and the boogie man, to illuminate the dark and warm the chill from the air, all accompanied by close family and friends.

Along with a cozy fire or candle, you will need a place to curl up. This might be under a pergola, a patio or even under the stars, complete with layers of snuggly blankets and deep pillows.

To further warm our friends and family, provide a seasonal aperitif: a warm glass of mulled wine or thick, rich cocoa along with a spread that will warm everyone up from the inside out. Cooking outside on a fire, grill or outdoor oven fosters that cozy, friendly, casual feeling and also gives everyone a place to warm their hands or toes as the case may be.

Create your own Hygge

Hopefully you have some ideas about how to create hygge in your backyard. While hygge can be achieved more or less solo while reading a book, at its heart it’s all about sharing with loved ones – relaxing, talking, singing, eating, drinking together.

The pursuit of everyday happiness is the goal. Take what you have and with a grateful heart, and share it for the well-being of everyone. Focus on your work/life balance and learn to incorporate relaxing into your lifestyle making it as imperative as every other area.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.