How To Make Your House (And Life) More Hygge, Sustainably

Hygge was one of the first Danish words I learnt from Rosetta Stone after a handsome Viking caught my heart in Australia when I was young. I practised “det var hyggeligt at møde dig“(it was lovely to meet you) countless times, forming my mouth and throat to move around the guttural language in hopes of impressing his grandmother on our first encounter. 

When the ‘hygge movement‘ took the design world by storm, it always made me smile. Sparking memories of the years I spent living halftime on the Danish island of Jylland before #theartofslowliving was a hashtag, just an anciently practised principle. A Scandinavian way of life. 

Danes live at a completely different pace than the rest of Europe, and snail-like compared to the speed at which people stress through their days in North America. Though they suffer the same draws to consumption any Western society does, when it comes to their homes, they realize both individually and culturally that the way the rest of the West defines wealth – with obsessive overconsumption – doesn’t actually relate to wellbeing.

They believe after basic needs are met, neither more money nor more stuff will lead to greater happiness. That true quality of life comes from the little things: taking the time to be present with your surroundings and appreciating each details of simple objects that bring you that wholesome, cosy, hygge feeling of home. 
When my husfriend and I moved back to France we furnished our apartment with the basics. Opting for second-hand furniture, shite Ikea kitchenware, and cheap linens to get us through our first few months. Despite our apartment’s small size, it always felt cavernous and cold. Nothing about it reminded me of home. 

Nevertheless, I was grateful for it. At the time hundreds of refugees were camped across the street from our building, creating a startling juxtaposition which acted as a much-needed daily reminder to keep myself in check. Aesthetics are a privilege most of the world doesn’t have the luxury to consider. An after thought allotted to you once you’ve got a roof over your head, food in your belly, an income, and the legal right to live in country free of genocide and war.  

Despite it all, the feeling of alien-ness persisted. My French was pretty abysmal and I had very few friends to share my woes with. We were broke, I didn’t have a job, and I spent a lot of my day at home feeling a bit helpless and depressed about my life and the world. 

During that time, I would frequently take the bus to England to see my family. Whenever I visit my father’s house (you can take a glimpse at it here) the emptiness I felt in my own home dissipated. His modest cottage in Kent is full of relics from the past; all mismatched, refurbished, forgotten, and found again. Items passed down through the generations, covering everything with an indescribable richness that has nothing to do with the monetary value of any one thing. The collation of it all creates a credible cosiness: warm fire, cosy candlelight, soft woollens, woven textiles, cool marble, hardwood, hot tea, soft cushions, worn carpets, and hand painted ceramics. Each thing brimming with artistry and sentimentality.  

Anything new, made in the modern era he curates carefully. Saving up to focus his purchases on affordable quality. He lives with the intention of buying things once. A Smeg kettle, a handwoven blanket, enamel dishware; items with a story and meaning behind them, made with the intention of longevity.

So I started, slowly, to shop similarly. Gathering items with meaning whether they be old or new, and as time turned so did my relationship with my ‘home’. It started to feel more ‘hygge‘, even the crap stuff seemed to earn its place. As I invested in nesting with intention, I reduced the speed with which I was living. Making room for a cosier mental state in which to dwell as well. 
The adjustments were simple and change was slight, until one day I noticed just how peaceful I felt. More at home in France and in myself. The formula stemmed so subtlety I hardly felt it arrive, like inserting an Oya into fertile soil, I was irrigating the seeds of change without conscious effort. Just by pulling back the throttle and creating an environment in which both my husfriend and I could thrive.  

Changing my rising relationship from a place of pulsing panic to a healthy hum began to create a foundation to my day that transformed it. We had never invested in bedding, choosing instead to use the cheap pilled sheets we’d individually brought into our marriage. Ones I’d hand dyed to cover stains from other stories for the sake of aesthetic. 

Though purchasing things shouldn’t necessarily be a go-to for enjoying an extra 15 minutes from your morning, some simple additions – admittedly unnecessary but very much enjoyed – aided in revolutionizing our relationship to our bedroom, and inadvertently, to ourselves.

As the slowdown commenced, we were given a set of 100% GOTS certified, 200 thread count organic cotton bedding from UNDER THE CANOPY; it surrounded us like a soft second skin, cool in the summer and warm as the winter arrived again. I had never owned a set of sheets of such quality and I immediately became quite possessive over them, hiding them away from Airbnb guests like some jerky yuppie Gollum.
I switched again from coffee to tea, attempting to subdue any dormant anxiety from waking up to greet me first thing. I started to relish in the time it took for my tea to slowly brew in my (CASA VERDE ‘s) fairtrade Japenese tea set. Transporting myself out of the land of sleep with the warm tones of a friendly voice speaking affirmations from an aptly named podcast called #LiveAwake as it brewed.

Such simple, subtle changes. Yet they effortlessly lead to a more serene state of mind and conscious appreciation of my place and space.

Throughout my TV-less childhood, books were a sole source of entertainment and comfort for my sisters and I. We spent countless evenings curled up under a blanket on my mum’s big green armchair devouring one book after another, woollen feet rested on an ancient rug.  
Last year I wrote a blog post daily. Nearly 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 12 months straight. It was an incredibly self-educating experience, creating the foundations on which I could build a career. Yet because I was almost completely concentrated on my own exportation of the written word, my rhetoric began to run dry. I’d all but stopped absorbing the words of others which is a sure fire way for creativity and inspiration to die.
So this year, as part of my subtle slow down, I started to carve out time in which I could return to that curled up position of days gone by. As part of this story, I was offered a blanket by Karrie, the creator of HAPPY HABITAT, a collection of beautifully designed upcycled cotton blankets I’d had my eye on for the past few years. It arrived while I was in Canada, and I found myself on that same green chair wrapped up under it at night, or splayed out on top of it during the day in my mums backyard; devouring a bad ass book called Sapiens like the veracious reader I once was. 

When I brought it home, the (happy) habit continued. As the days passed an evening reading routine began to form, positively affecting my sleep patterns until once again I felt like a functioning and articulate human being once more. 

I’m not much of a girly girl, nor is my mother, so ‘spa-ing’ has never been a thing for me. It always seemed like luxury well beyond my reach. As I discovered; however, spa-esque things aren’t just about vanity. Self-care is an important part of mental and emotional health, allowing you to regain a bit of balance inside and out. It’s yet another  stress management tool, allowing you to steal back a bit of time by creating an atmosphere of calm, however brief, around yourself. 

I’ve got a fairly simple roster which I (try to) break up into my week, adding an extra 5 – 15 minutes to my daily ‘sanitation’ routine. It’s a time for quiet self-reflection and focused concentration, and should be as peaceful as any other active meditation, simplistic little tricks like these which allow you do reduce your speed:


ECO + ETHICAL HOW? I have known about this brand for a while and admired their bright beautiful designs from afar before I finally got my hands on one. They’re cosy, big enough for you, or you plus one snuggler, and they look good just about anywhere you drop them. They’re made out of recycled cotton, giving a second life to pre-consumer fibres and clippings that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Using only a smidgen of the energy and water needed to produce new cotton. We bought ours camping in Norway, used it as a picnic blanket in Canada, and keep it in our reading corner or on our bed while home in France. It ticks every box you’d want a throw blanket to tick: aesthetically beautiful, environmentally friendly, ethically made, deliciously diverse, and easy to clean and care for.  


ECO + ETHICAL HOW? As the Canadian newbie on the block, HOPE & TWINE offers a carefully curated selection of ethically made homeware goods which are absolutely stunning in person. Each piece beams with the vibrancy only handcrafted goods can exude, fairly made and gathered through conscious travels by Bree, HOPE & TWINE‘s founder. 


ECO + ETHICAL HOW? Based in the U.S.A, UNDER THE CANOPY makes affordable bed linens with a plethora of certifications signalling positive intention. They hold certifications across the board: GOTS, Oeko-Tex, and Forest Stewardship Council linens all produced under Fairtrade conditions. They produce cradle-to-cradle, with the planet and its inhabitants in mind, utilising a vertically integrated supply chain, meaning they control the supply chain from manufacturing to end sales, which drives cost down. I can’t stress how truly incredible their bedding is. I’ve genuinely never attributed serene sleep to sheets apart from the odd stay in a swanky hotel room but this brings your linens to that kind of level. Perhaps I’m under experienced in the world of bedding awesomeness, I have deep feelings of love for these particular textiles as does my husfriend who has experienced far more bountiful beds than I have. 
ECO + ETHICAL HOW? Run by an honestly lovely husband and wife team, Casa Verde is an online marketplace dedicated to ethically-sourced global home goods and accessories. Products are either sourced from small-batch handmade artisans in the U.S, or fairtrade craft collectives globally. When sourcing their products, Travis and Karli aim for heirloom quality items which are made with natural ingredients or dyes or recycled or vintage materials. With each sale, they donate 5% of their profits donated to organisations making a difference in the local and global communities from which they source their products. With each purchase you’re encouraging social change with a focus on social and environmental progress!


ECO + ETHICAL HOW? Holistic skincare line PARA APOTHECARY is one of the few brands I’ve discovered who meet all the eco and ethical stipulations I’ve developed: cruelty-free, not tested on animals, palm-oil free, philanthropic, organic, ethical, sustainable, unisex. I did a blog and vlog review HERE on their collection of handcrafted conscious concoctions made from sustainably sourced bioactive botanicals.

ECO + ETHICAL? A sister brand to the conscious company, Matter Prints, BANYAN TREE is the spa essentials branch of an environmentally responsible retreat hotel chain. I collaborated with them to create ‘ the sanctuary bundle‘, consisting of sustainable, ethically made items I specifically selected (with the help of my husfriend) for our slowed down cosied up lifestyle. It’s valued at $130 but they’re offering it for $100 along with a 20% off discount, if you’re keen to get your holiday shopping done early. Each item has truly been a treat for our home, enhancing the senses (apart from taste). We keep the collection dotted around our home: the incense in the toilet, the candle in the living room, the oil burner and massage oil in our bedroom. 
WHAT I’VE GOT? The Sanctuary Bundle 
WHERE TO BUY?  // ** You can get an additional 20% off until 31st October 2017 with discount code HOLLY20 


ECO + ETHICAL HOW? Cree Ryan is a small but successful female indigenous-owned business of plant and epically detailed macrame wonderment. I met Nicole, its creator, while home shooting this story, I had messaged her (stalked her) on Instagram asking if I could borrow some of her plant babies to aid in the visual telling of the transformation I wanted to share. She generously brought over a collection of flora for us to use (which you can see below). I was struck by the contagious kind of warmth she exudes. Hours after she dropped off the plants the brightness in the air that she’d floated in with her remained, her plants carry the energy she’s blessed with, undoubtedly enhancing the vibrancy of her creations. 


ECO + ETHICAL HOW? Also based in Winnipeg, Canada, MUD + STONE creates unique, functional, modern ceramics for everyday livin’ using a variety of stoneware and porcelain clays. They’ve created the tableware for some of the most popular restaurants in Winnipeg and beyond from the cosy studio, they share with Cree Ryan. 


ECO + ETHICAL HOW? I’ve written often about the beautiful podcast called #LiveAwake by my friend Sarah – a podcast I’ve not yet found fitting words to describe. Her soulful insights have warmly motivated me to be mindful, as her words gently guide me towards a greater state of wisdom and awareness, allowing me to listen and embrace the parts of myself which need attending to. This masterpiece of hers inspired this blog post in many ways and has had its part in gently guiding me through this year and maintaining any growth I’ve made time and space to welcome. 

SPONSORED POST: This post was sponsored by multiple brands, each of which I personally selected and approached for this collaborative post. The story, including all content, experiences, suggestions and opinions, are my own. I was gifted or borrowed the majority of what was pictured and all was shot in my friend, and photographer, Monique Pantel’s home.

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