Home design is security and remembrance

In past years, a cozy trend has wafted over the Western world: the Danish practice of “hygge.”

It means a lot of things, but it was translated by many as the enjoyment of moments with people through comfortable living spaces, home-cooked meals, reading books by the fireplace with cookies nearby, and overall contentment.

Pre-pandemic, we were fascinated with “slow living,” which promotes serenity through detachment, whether it be more time in nature and less time with technology, shopping intentionally, or for some, moving to a “homestead” lifestyle. Slow living challenges what Carl Honore calls in his book “In Praise of Slowness” the “cult of speed” — the way we praise fast living — by reflecting versus reacting. Honore admitted in his 2004 book “decelerating will be a struggle until we rewrite the rules that govern almost every sphere of life.”

Then came 2020.

Last year, hygge moved over for the sake of “lagom,” the Swedish idea of an ultra- cozy atmosphere that isn’t overcrowded with stuff. Lagom means “just right” and “everything in moderation,” and it puts more of an emphasis on living with every home item being functional and practical. Author Niki Brantmark in “Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life” said everything in a Swedes’ home should be useful and beautiful.

While both hygge and lagom are philosophies, hygge is more about seizing the moment and enjoying lusciousness, while lagom sticks to frugality with just enough time and possessions. Environmental practices that might be used in lagom (upcycling, recycling, living sustainably, etc.) can also come from slow living — slow food, slow gardening, slow money and slow fashion are some examples.

And now here we are, a year and seven- plus months into the pandemic in a state of new normal. Our homes became multi-use spaces — offices, gyms, homeschools, escapes — in a changing world, and are now hosting spaces, too. Time seems more important, relationships more dear. Home and office experts in Jefferson City said those concepts of hygge, lagom and slow living are still around — and mean more to us than ever. They offer some tips and insight into turning your home toward a slower way of life.

Furniture, lighting and fragrance

Kim Quinn, founder of Bright Ideas for Home & Hospitality, started her business late last year and has realized creating safety, security and peace in a space has become increasingly important to people. Her goal of helping people create their ideal space through home/office styling, holiday decor, floral arrangements and event planning was “a dovetail” with the new growing functions of homes.

“I think a lot of people want to feel good about what they do, and creating a sense of community, making our homes and offices inviting is a way to do that,” Quinn said. “And it starts when you arrive at the front door.”

Home owners should first ask themselves what the goal is with the space, she said, then focus on three elements: comfortable furniture, lighting and fragrance. Start with making a welcoming front entrance with seasonal decorations that reflect what the inside will look like. Think about soft seating, like couches and sitting chairs, and switching out textures for each season. A quilt works best for the fall, while a chunky knitted blanket warms guests on long winter days.

“Thick and fuzzy (blankets) are good when you need them, but don’t get too premature,” Quinn said. “Pick out the right texture for the right purpose. I want things to look good, but I want it to be practical, too.”

Michelle Bernskoetter, owner of the Lavender Lily Gifts & Decor, advises collecting elements that feel like home, then go from there. She sells dough bowls, historically used by mothers to bake bread, then passed down each generation. The “lagom” is in its multiple uses: add decorations, like pine garland, glass cylinders and candles, and it becomes a centerpiece. Take them out, and it becomes functional cookware.

“This seems to be a big thing because you can do everything you like with it,” Bernskoetter said. “The key with decorations is that they don’t have to be big, just enough to make it feel like a home.”

Underlying elements

The feeling of an inviting room can be subconscious, too. Leslie Davis, realtor with Keller Williams Realty, said smell is a factor. Baking bread before a home showing can help a home to feel more inviting, she said, but it’s a balance.

“Not many people have time to bake a loaf of bread before a showing, so if you’re using candles or plugins, just go easy on them,” Davis said. “Sometimes the strength can overwhelm the buyer; it makes them ask ‘what are they trying to cover up?'”

Quinn agrees: Growing up on the floor of a flower shop, she can walk into a home and tell the element that’s missing is scent. Even the smell of freshly cleaned floors can make guests feel more at ease. Add a wooden wick candle to the center of a room to create a focal point and a hygge sense of comfort.

Davis also advises homeowners to declutter. Especially since the pandemic, we are more hyper aware of cleanliness — spread out decorative items, open up windows and create a “visual open space” so you can focus on the important elements in a room.

“I always ask sellers to leave the blinds up,” she said. “When people walk into a house with the curtains closed, it feels dark and unwelcoming. If you have dark spaces in the house, warm them up with lamps.”

One way to create a sense of home is to show the people in it. Bernskoetter works with customers to create family walls: Start with a few canvas prints of family members, then add canvas blocks or signs that relate to the relationship (i.e., a baseball flag if they play sports or a motherly expression around the children). Used on a main wall, guests can feel a sense of home as soon as they walk in.

“They can see your whole family and be able to see what they love,” she said. “A lot of people like that because you can’t yank it off a table, which is popular with those with little ones.”

The same will work for memorial walls, which can honor members of the family who have passed. Each home expert recognized the magnitude of loss from the past two years has melded into how we live and view the home.

Bernskoetter, who also works at Boone Hospital, keeps a corner of her store devoted to memorial figurines to remember those who have died. She said isolation and shared grief has done something to us: We try to make our home cozier to enjoy the people in our lives and the closeness some have developed.

“Working at the hospital, I’ve seen a lot of death,” she said. “Every day is not promised, so enjoy each like it’s your last.”

Davis said as buyers are looking at homes, they’re also looking for familiarity and a sense of safety.

“Everything is so uncertain, it feels good to come home and have a place to feel safe with a sense of familiar surroundings,” she said.

For Quinn, she hopes people keep seeking lagom, hygge and togetherness in general. She sees this as something homeowners and businesses are catching on to: It’s more than safety from a COVID-19 standpoint, she said.

“This movement of creating that look and feel of safety, security and peace is growing,” Quinn said. “It’s the backbone of family, the backbone to a community is that environment. I think it’s more than just existing, it’s belonging; not just rushing from one obligation to another. It’s about stopping to take a moment to relish a relationship that may be gone tomorrow. If we can capture that now, it will be easier to carry that forward.”

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