Can You Say ‘Hygge’?

By Lisa Fremont

It’s pronounced ‘hoo-ga,’ and a local company’s aim is to make this Danish lifestyle cool here, too.


Hygge bedroom Photo by Alison Vagnini

When Colorado native Alexandra Gove was living in the Netherlands with her Dutch boyfriend, Koen van Renswoude, in 2013, she was struck by something that initially she couldn’t put a name on: “When I first got there, I noticed that I would feel this need to buy a picture for a blank wall, or some kind of item for an empty corner. I was finding things just to fill a space, but then I realized that in so many European homes, it wasn’t about that; it was about finding something that you love and bringing it into your space and not overdoing it. The homes are very curated, and the people are very selective about what they bring into their spaces.”

Eventually, Gove was able to put a name on that feeling—hygge (or “gezellig” in Dutch)—and decided she wanted to share it with the folks back home. So Gove and van Renswoude launched Colorado-based, a site of carefully curated, mostly European goods (sheepskins and rugs, Turkish towels and pillows, blankets, alabaster candleholders, baskets and bowls) that they hope make their customers as happy as they make the young couple. In addition to their website, the couple does pop-ups, sells their goods at local fairs and hosts occasional hygge dinners. And in July, they, appropriately enough, had a “hygge wedding.” Skal!


Koen van Renswoude and Alexandra Gove Photo by Maria Levitov

Explain the concept of “hygge.”
“Hygge, to me, represents a moment when you feel completely at peace, content, safe, restful. You can walk into a café or shop or someone’s home and immediately feel that comfort. And you can create these types of moments and spaces by being very conscious about what you bring into your life.”

How did a Colorado woman from Castle Rock decide to start a hygge-focused lifestyle company?
“It all began when Koen and I were living in the Netherlands; I would see spaces, especially Scandinavian homes, cafes and stores, and immediately get that feeling, that ambiance. I was intrigued by the northern European way of really slowing down and getting comfortable and cozy and creating warm ambiances. I was living in Amsterdam with Koen and decided to travel to Copenhagen to explore Danish design and was blown away by how they took that cultural concept to a new level. While I was there, I heard the term ‘hygge,’ and thought, ‘That’s it! I really want to bring this concept to the U.S.’ I had always been passionate about interior design and creating comfortable spaces.”

Take us back to the beginnings of Hygge Life.
“Koen and I had just decided to start the company when we bought an old Opel Blitz camper van in Amsterdam. We decided to call it the Hygge Bus and in the summer of 2014, we drove it around Europe—from the Netherlands through Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland—for about two months, making Dutch mini-pancakes called poffertjes on a portable grill and selling them. We put the ‘Hygge Life’ logo on the side, blogged about our trip and shared not only the poffertjes but also hygge.”


To Life! At hygge dinners, the emphasis is on enjoying the small moments in life. Photo by Maria Levitov

Were you selling products?
“Afterward, I continued to travel and source products—I traveled to Turkey and discovered the textiles there. In northern Europe, I found a lot of eco-friendly sheepskins. In Denmark, I sourced the highest-quality pillar candles—all items that were really just my interpretation of hygge. Then we started the website and I would travel back to Denver a couple times a year to sell my products at places like the Denver Flea.”

And now you host hygge dinners, too?
“Yes. We decided that we love our products and sharing them with people so much that we also wanted to actually share a hygge experience. So we’ve had a series of dinners. It’s really just about sharing a family-style meal together, but we style the events with our products to get people familiar with the concept and invite a chef to do the meal. It’s also about letting people know they already have hygge in their lives—it’s those moments when you feel totally at peace and content and happy.”