The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and temperatures are dropping into that “time to hibernate” range. Before you dive under the covers and pull the shades until spring, how about embracing winter and enjoying every bit that the season has to offer?
You don’t need to be a “winter person” or learn to love ice and snow to make the most of the next few months. All you need is help from one little word that encompasses a profound concept.
The word is hygge, and the idea behind it is to create a cozy atmosphere in an intimate environment that you can enjoy in the company of friends and loved ones. In essence, it is a quality that makes you feel content, comfortable and warm from the inside out – three things that would surely make winter more pleasant!
So how do you pronounce this mysterious word, anyway? And more importantly, how do you create the ambiance it inspires? That’s exactly what we’re tackling today, so grab your mittens and let’s talk about how to design a back yard landscape that will invite you outdoors this winter.
The Hygge Lifestyle
Hygge is a Danish word that dates all the way back to 1800, where its Norwegian predecessor was defined as “protected from the outside world.” And it’s pronounced “hoo-gah”, which is likely not what you expected!
Danish winters are notoriously long and dark, so it stands to reason that culturally, people have found ways to lighten, brighten, and enjoy the season.
Think about it in terms of creating a space where you can slow down and step back from the daily rush to spend time in the company of good friends and family. Think about it as an informal time where warm, fuzzy socks suit the dress code and comfort food is on the menu. Think about it as celebrating the small joys in life – a flickering candle, a mug of hot chocolate, the smile on the face of your child.
It’s about creating a feeling – one that invites you in, makes you feel welcome, and encourages you to stay for a while.
It’s a bit of an elusive concept, but don’t let that scare you. That just means you can interpret it in whatever way makes you feel comfy and cozy. Wondering how to do that with your landscape? Read on!
Lighting For Hygge
ure, you can experience hygge during the day, but few landscape elements imbue cozy ambiance like great evening lighting. We’re not talking runway lighting along pathways, but lighting designed to evoke warmth, comfort and pleasure.
Lanterns are a great place to start. They can be placed around a seating area, encircling a safe space where you can spend time engaging in conversation and laughter with your favorite people. They can be scattered on posts throughout gardens to accompany plants of winter interest, like tall grasses or hollies. Or they can be placed atop retaining walls to showcase beautiful stonework and define the perimeter of your gathering spot.
You probably already know how adding a string of lights to your indoor environment can instantly transform a plain room into one that evokes comfort and even celebration. So why not add year-round strings of lights to your backyard landscape? Stick to neutral colors like white or a calming blue so you don’t end up with an off-season Christmas effect, and hang them above patios, intertwine them through arbors and gazebos, even wind them into and between trees.
In fact, using string lights in bare winter trees can create a wholly charming effect, adding visual interest and making the most of a subdued landscape.
Spotlights are another great way to add that special ambiance that you’re looking for. Use them to play with light and shadow by placing them near interesting trees or plants – think Witch Hazel or tall, ornamental grasses – and watch their soothing shadows dance against a wall.
Lighting creates an inherent sense or safety and warmth, allowing you the comfort of leaving the world “out there” so you can spend quality time in an environment of peace and enjoyment.
Creating Warmth With Fire
What’s cozier and more charming than an evening by firelight? Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits might as well have been created for hygge!
You might already know the joy and comfort of snuggling up around a wood burning stove or fireplace inside your home. Why not do the same outdoors? Not only does fire bring literal warmth for those cold winter days (and evenings!) but it’s a great gathering spot for spending time with friends and family.
Fire pits can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose. If you have the space, you can build a permanent one with natural stone and surrounding patio. Not only will this afford you the opportunity of using it year-round but natural stone is another way to add visual beauty to enhance your enjoyment.
Section off the area with a retaining wall, add a few lanterns, and you’ve got the perfect setting for good times and good feelings.
If you’re not ready to commit to a permanent structure, try a patio fire pit, instead. It’s small, portable, and can just as easily bring warmth and a convivial atmosphere to your outdoor space.
Both fireplaces and fire pits can double as cooking elements, too. And what’s cozier and more comforting than sharing a hot beverage and some comfort food with the ones you love? Toast marshmallows, cook hot dogs on a stick, or get serious about your fun with some cast iron cookware designed for use over an open fire.
Fireplaces can even be built with an accompanying wood-fired oven! Bring out some fluffy blankets, a few colorful pillows, and we bet you’ll never think about the cold nipping at your nose again.
A Room With A View
Even we have to admit that there are some days you simply aren’t going to make it outside during winter. It might be dangerously cold, chillingly damp, or perhaps you’re just not in the mood to be charmed by the moonlight.
That’s ok, you can enjoy hygge from inside your home, too! The trick is to create a landscape with an eye toward the view from your window.
Think of each window in your home as a frame through which you can view the artwork composed by Mother Nature. Instead of pulling the shades, you’ll want to open them wider to take in the natural beauty of the world outside.
That can mean planting herbs or winter gardens outside a window. Even through the coldest months, you’d be surprised by how many herbs and winter plants can continue to beautify your gardens. Think of the rich purples and greens of kale and winter cabbage, and the intoxicating scent of sage and thyme.
Container gardens work well, too. Even when it’s too cold to grow anything, they can be filled with branches, pinecones, grasses and other décor to enhance your view.
Include a pond, but don’t hide it in the depths of your yard. Bring it right to the back door where you can watch and enjoy your waterfall all winter. Few things are as comforting as the sight of water, so why not enjoy it year-round, whether you’re sitting beside it on a lovely natural wood bench, or gazing across it from the coziness of your living room sofa?
Install a favorite piece of artwork or unique plant or tree where you can see it. And be sure to include lighting so you can illuminate it during all those dark, winter hours.
Finally, plant a few evergreens and grasses for wildlife. If you provide shelter and a food source, you can enjoy life and movement all winter long as birds gather berries and nestle into tall grasses.
Say goodbye to dreary winter days and long, melancholy nights. With a bit of imagination you can create and enjoy that magical sense of hygge – comfort, warmth, peace, joy, togetherness, coziness – all season.
If the idea of loving winter makes you feel just a little bit wistful, book a consultation with us and let’s explore ways to bring beauty and enjoyment to your landscape. We’ll listen to your dreams and plan a space that will create the ambiance and atmosphere that perfectly suits your desires and lifestyle.