There comes a moment every winter when reality sinks in that the cold, dark days and long nights are nowhere near over.
You can hardly remember a time when your apartment did not feel tropical, the unfortunate result of an overly ambitious radiator. And your relationship with that Amazon coat, which seemed so on-trend last winter, has definitely soured. That moment, reader, is upon us.
But rather than grind through the dreariness, perhaps it’s time to celebrate or surrender to it and turn your space into a cozy cabin. Winter enthusiasts insist that with the right mix of candles, mirrors, alpaca blankets and hot tea, hunkering down can feel downright blissful.
You’re not a recluse, you’re embracing hygge, the Danish cultural outlook that likens life to a favorite woolen sweater, minus the itchy collar.
“There is no getting around winter,” said Meik Wiking, author of “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” and the chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, a city where the sun currently sets around 4:40 p.m. “The only natural resource we have in abundance here is darkness. So it’s just something you have to embrace.”
Coziness is as much a state of mind as it is a collection of soft throw blankets. There’s an art to it, at least among those who do it with gusto. It’s about creating a space where your friends show up long before the stew has finished cooking, polish off a bottle of wine while it simmers, and leave well after the pot is empty.
“No matter what we’re going through politically, socially, culturally or economically,” Laura Weir, the author of “Cosy: The British Art of Comfort,” told me from her home in London, “the fundamental cornerstones of the British Isles are literally putting the kettle on, putting on the fire, or having a bowl of stew.”
Embrace the clutter
While minimalism may be the current design trend, coziness is the antidote. Call it the anti-Kondo method. Why recycle the newspapers when you can stack two weeks’ worth by the fireplace and read them until you use them as kindling?
“The good thing about the cozy trend is it gives us permission to have possessions and clutter,” Weir said. “It’s almost like an easy out. I don’t want to be a superorganized person because I’m supercozy.”
You’re not a pack rat, you’re a trendsetter.
But there’s a fine line between cozy and chaotic. To find that happy place, be intentional about what items you lay out and where you put them. A pile of books stacked by your favorite chair signals that this is a reading nook.
But once the stack teeters or begins to collect dust, it’s time to return the books to the shelf.
To do cozy right, be willing to “use your space differently,” said Liz Caan, an interior designer in Newton, Massachusetts. “Sometimes, when I know we’re going to get a snowstorm, I take all the things I’ve wanted to read and put them near the fireplace.”
Designate the coffee table or a side table for board games and puzzles. If everyone knows where to go to play Scrabble, a quick round or two just might happen.
Add comfort where you might not naturally think of it. Drape a sheepskin throw over a wooden chair to soften the seating. Toss a scarf over a lampshade to add a bohemian atmosphere to a room.
Place a sisal rug in the mudroom or entryway so your bare feet land on a warmer texture as soon as you’ve taken off your shoes, and make sure your slippers are waiting in a basket for you. “Instead of creating a perfect night out, it’s an attempt to create the perfect night in,” Wiking said.
Consider the textures
Just as you layer clothes to go outside on a cold day, a home should be layered, too, so it feels like a space that might envelope you. Natural fibers and fabrics like mohair, leather, wool and wood are inviting. Synthetics, not so much.
“You can immediately look at something synthetic, and it’s not going to hug you back because it’s made of plastic,” Caan said. Natural materials tend to age well, gaining character over time.
A space need not feel dark, heavy or kitsch to seem cozy. Caan recently designed a house for a client near Boston who wanted a cozy space. But the house had high ceilings and large windows, and the client preferred a light-gray color palette, not necessarily an ideal recipe for what might be homey. To achieve the look, “we used wood, we used cashmere, we used alpaca,” Caan sad. “All these things are light, but you want to just dive into this house.”
Area rugs can be layered, too. Caan often uses a sisal rug as a bottom layer with a wool one on top.
A rug need not be the star of the show. It’s often better if it isn’t, but when aiming for cozy, look for materials that feel good underfoot and invite you into the room.
“You want to create a pleasurable tactile experience for people,” said Catherine Connolly, the chief executive of Merida, a rug company in Boston. Will the rug feel soft beneath your feet? Soft and welcoming enough that you might want to sit on the floor and read or watch a show? That’s the goal.
Layers of light
Lighting sets the mood, and to achieve a sultry one, you need dimension. Use a mix of sources: floor lamps, table lamps, sconces and overheads. Set fixtures to dimmers and choose bulbs with warm hues. Avoid fixtures with exposed bulbs, as those can be harsh to the eye. Consider the shade cover, too.
“A paper shade is really good,” said Michael Amato, creative director of the Urban Electric Company, a lighting company in Charleston, South Carolina. “You can either do it so it’s opaque and allows light through, or it’s completely blackened and it allows light from the top and bottom.”
Above all, don’t forget about candles, the mantra of the cozy aesthetic. Tapered ones on the dining table. Scented ones in the bedroom and bathrooms. Votives scattered on surfaces throughout. Set out the candelabra at dinner time, and you might be tempted to linger longer.
“I don’t think candles are going to change the world,” said Wiking, who is also the author of “The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments.” “But it’s interesting how changing a little thing around the dinner table can change how people interact.”
Enjoy the moment long enough, and there’s a chance you may even feel a tinge of regret when the season ends. Or maybe not.