Nordic Know-How: Hygge, Lagom and More Scandinavian Concepts Explained

Scandinavian interior design is a great example of Scandinavian culture at work—we see it through the purposeful pieces it brings together in a home. But to fully understand where Scandinavian interior design is derived from, we have to look deeper into the elements of Scandinavian culture and in particular, the principles held by its people—after all, through its people is where you see a nation’s culture in action. Many people know us for the Vikings, Northern lights, and Lapland but there’s so much more to us then those well-publicized elements. Since many Scandinavian concepts don’t directly translate to English, we’re here to break down those cultural components that help shape our way of life and, in turn, the way in which we design our homes.

Women riding bicycles in Copenhagen

HYGGE

Perhaps the most well-known Scandinavian concept, hygge (pronounced hue-gah) refers to a sense of cozy togetherness or feeling content with the present moment. A Danish and Norwegian word, it also means finding joy in the simple things in life—enjoying a cup of tea in the afternoon, reading a book by a roaring fire, or spending time with close friends. Instead of looking at the mundane aspects of daily life as something to simply get through, Danes turn them into something to enjoy, recognizing that even the smallest moments in a day can have a big impact on how we feel. For example, you might create hygge by adding a woven blanket on your couch, candles on the windowsills or an uber-soft linen duvet cover on your bed.

LAGOM

Lagom (law-gum) is all about balance—not too much or too little but just right. Achieving balance is vital, balance between work and play, or time spent together and alone. Moderation and balance in every aspect of life is at the core of Scandinavian culture and we see this carried out in Scandinavian interior design concepts—balancing color, texture, and natural elements in a home helps achieve lagom.

Cozy white Scandinavian style living room

LYKKE

This one transfers pretty well to English. Lykke (lik-eh) means luck, good fortune or happiness, something Scandinavian people know all about.

FRILUFTSLIV

Spending time outdoors—friluftsliv (free-loofts-liv)—is a huge part of life in Nordic countries. Although the winters in Scandinavian countries can be harsh, that doesn’t transfer to a life indoors. Quite the contrary, breathing in the fresh air as you walk, hike or simply sit by the sea is an important part of daily life. We see friluftsliv transfer well to interiors through greenery, wooden accents, organic textiles and natural prints. Looking to bring nature indoors? Try our porse or agern Scandinavian duvet covers. Made from ultra soft organic linen, our modern duvet cover in porse features the beautiful Myrica gale plant; our agern duvet cover, with its bright green leaves and acorns, pays homage to Denmark’s King Oak tree.

Organic European flax linen duvet cover set with acorn and oak tree leaves pattern

SAMFUNDSSIND

Samfundssind is the word of the moment in Denmark, a rallying cry used by Danes in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly translating to ‘society mind,’ it means to think of others first, to put the needs of your community ahead of your own. This Danish value of collective responsibility, of showing respect to members of your community, is also seen in the way Danes design their homes. Instead of cluttering interiors with lots of items acquired over the years, Danish people edit, selecting practical items that serve a purpose. A rustic ottoman with storage, a hand-carved wooden coffee table or locally-sourced decorative serving bowls—putting thought into items you choose for your home shows respect, and that’s samfundssind in action in Scandinavian interior design.

FIKA

We all need a little fika (fee-ka) in our daily lives! A Swedish word, fika is a break in the day, a time to have a cup of coffee or tea and recharge. More than just a caffeine boost, fika is needed to reset the mind and be productive throughout the day. Mindfulness at work, fika allows us to feel better and be more efficient and purposeful. Work cozy spaces for fika into your home—add a reading corner with soft lighting, a window seat with built-in book shelves, or patio seating to help you breathe in the outdoors during those daily breaks.

Friends relaxing with coffee at cafe in Scandinavia

SISU

A Finnish word, Sisu (see-soo) is about determination, a drive to stick with something, to see it through. More than just a commitment to an idea, sisu means to fight for something even if the odds are against you. Sisu is seen in Scandinavian interior design in the way it incorporates personal pieces. Scandinavian design isn’t just minimalism, as we’ve discussed before—incorporating items that hold meaning to you is essential. Sisu reminds us to include those pieces—add a vase from your honeymoon in Morocco, hang your childs’ paintings or include a quilt hand-sewn by your grandmother. If these items are important to you, sisu reminds us to include them in your home.

Now that you know the lingo, you can bring balance to your life (lagom), take breaks when needed (fika), and create a cozy space to come home to (hygge). Above all else, focus on happiness (lykke)—you deserve it.