Howdy hygge: 11 midcentury modest home features that deliver hygge galore

I recently read about “hygge”, a very au courant decorating trend, and realized: Howdy hudee, midcentury modest and granny ranches deliver the hygge galore. “Hygge” — pronounced hoo-gah — is the Danish word for cozy. I quickly counted 11 things in my own house that wrap me in a warm fuzzy blanket — errr, afghan — of hygge. Can you help me to identify more?

Hygge features and decor in midcentury modest and granny ranch houses:

My list for midcentury houses — including from a few categories:

      1. Braided rugs — Any woven textiles are hygge, I think. Braided rugs are so old school. They are super durable. And get them in medium-dark-natural colors and they hide dirt and stains like nobody’s business. Here’s a source for braided rugs made in the USA.
      2. Pinch pleat curtains and sheers, too — To be cozy you must be warm. Cover up those windows to cut down on drafts! Cover them up with pinch pleat draperies on traverse rods and open and close the drapes every morning and night. Such a lovely ritual. We do it every day! Welcome, morning! Goodnight, moon!
      3. Wallpaper — Wrap yourself in comforting pattern. I will suggest: The renewed popularity of wallpaper in mainstream decorating today is a hygge thing. Our wallpaper category is full of ideas and resources, vintage and new.
      4. Low ceilings — The high ceilings so in demand in contemporary houses are, to my taste, overrated. Low ceilings are cozy. They make you feel protected. I speculate that the feeling is built into our DNA. In cave man days, high ceilings would be skary. Ya know what’s up there: Dirty, disease-ridden rats! Give me low ceilings most any time! 
      5. Natural wood including the EPITOME of hygge, knotty pine — The wood wainscoting, trim and cabinetry in my living room dining room was always painted. Now, I am faux-bois painting it. That is: Painting it to look like wood. The transformation has been amazing. My husband loves it. He immediately could feel the rooms were much richer, yes: much more cozy and inviting to sit in. If you have natural wood trim and/or cabinetry, please think twice before repainting it. 
      6. Wood-burning fireplaces — We put in a gas fireplace downstairs, because we really needed to add a heat source to your basement family room that could be flipped on and off with a switch. But upstairs, we have a wood fireplace. There is nothing to compare with the smell and crackling and you-*must*-sit-in-front-of-it-til-it’s-burned-out-or-you-might-burn-down-your-house loveliness of a wood-burning fireplace. Warming drinks and snacks and board games may also become involved, and these home-based activities that force you to slow down and laugh and play and talk with friends and family are very hygge, too.
      7. Pastel-colored bathrooms — Soft enveloping color is cozy. (Large expanses of white tile are cold, and who wants a bathroom to be cold?)  18 places to find pastel-colored bathroom tiles.
      8. Percolators — Slowing down and savoring is hygge, I’d bet. 
      9. Afghans — My #1 favorite hygge item: Afghans. The granny square above was made by my grandmother for me when I was about 10. It’s beloved, and I sleep with it every night, summers included. Over the years I’ve also collected a number of afghans from estate sales. The creativity! It’s even better when you get a tag that says who made it.
      10. Pretty much anything handed down from parents or grandparents — Beloved family treasures keep us connected to the past and remind us to take care of what we have.
      11. Patina: Lots of things that may have lasted from your original midcentury house — Old stuff is hygge. *BUT environmental and safety hazards are not hygge: so be sure to Be Safe/Renovate Safe, of course*

Read more:

That’s my list…
What else is hygge in our old homes, dear readers?

  1. AnnF says:

    I wish you hadn’t included wood fireplaces. My neighbors use theirs almost constantly — even through most of the summer. Fine for them, but I can’t stand the smell and it triggers my asthma. You could check out coal — no creosote.

    1. Missy says:

      Totally agree! Woodburning is linked to an increase in lung diseases of neighbours near a woodburning home. There’s a reason China bans all woodburning during high pollution days in Beijing. Folks don’t understand that the particulate size of woodsmoke causes them to be easily ingested and get imbedded in human lungs. Our lungs react identically to inhaling woodsmoke as they do to cigarette smoke… No difference in terms of harm, either.

    2. Sharon says:

      Coal? Seriously? I live in ozone layer deficient Australia. No way would I burn coal if I could help it. Looking at solar panels shortly.

      Everyone in my house gets mild asthma: all from damp weather, not the fires.

    3. Sharon says:

      Actually I suspect the type of wood being burned might make a difference. We only burn hardwood from eucalypt trees. Pine and other softwoods smell bad when burning and leave a lot of residue. Quality wood is harder and harder to get but because we have a firewood business we get access to it. Only wood that has been naturally felled too. We don’t cut trees down.

      PS: we all had much worse asthma when we lived in a place with only a gas fire.

      1. AnnF says:

        I know someone who only burned hardwood and had their chimney cleaned regularly (they were very careful), and they still had a chimney fire from the creosote. It seems weird that gas fires would trigger your asthma. Maybe you are all more susceptible to spores and dust that thrive in a super dry environment — the opposite of my living conditions. One of the big triggers of my asthma is definitely fireplace and fire pit smoke. I admit, fires seem cozy, but I can’t stand them.

        As far as I know, hard coal burns cleaner than wood, but I would advise anyone to do research before changing over. The coal companies have a ton of “info” out there, so it is difficult to find real comparisons.

    1. kddomingue says:

      Chenille bedspreads and Candlewick bedspreads (I think some people called them Martha Washington bedspreads?)! Plaids and gingham checks and dotted Swiss fabric!

      1. Mary Elizabeth says:

        Regarding the Martha Washington bedspread, I thought I remembered that it wasn’t a generic chenille spread but a specific pattern made in the US. So I looked it up. It was a pattern made by Bates Mills in Maine that George Washington chose for his wife. The pattern, originally woven by hand, was reworked for machine weaving and is still reproduced today. See https://www.batesmillstore.com/products/martha-washingtons-choice-bedspread?variant=15193921863

        1. kddomingue says:

          Yes! That’s what they looked like. Not that particular pattern perhaps but that weave/technique. The Martha Washington style puts me in mind of candlewicking while chenille puts me in mind of crewel embroidery. I can remember taking naps on my Grandmama’s and waking up with a constellation of tiny indents on one cheek from the knots of the bedspread, lol! Although I like the Martha Washington style, my​ heart belongs to chenille bedspreads.

  2. J D Log says:

    To me cozy is plenty of books an old clock which chimes and my glowing fibreglass log heater, knowing that when I retire I have the chenelle bedspread

  3. Carol says:

    Don’t forget a cozy screened-in porch! (And an out-door clothes-line for just-washed laundry!) My grandparents’ beautiful custom ranch-style 1950’s house had both, plus a classic broken tile front porch, one pink and one blue bathroom, oodles of knotty pine paneling, and more built-ins than you could shake a stick at: cabinets, closets, drawers, shelves, a pantry, even an ironing board! Add the percolator, the ice pick, and the ice cream churn, and you’d never leave…my favorite place on earth! “True Love Ways!”

  4. boocat says:

    I so miss percolator coffee!

    My father-in-law has promised to leave me his ancient FABULOUS percolator in his will. It’s just like the one my folks had when I was a kid.

  5. Jan says:

    Finally all my favorites are actually in style. I’ve been living this way for many years now! My young friends, (20 somethings) feel like they are in grandma’s house when they come over! “Style” has never bothered me I live with what I love!

  6. kddomingue says:

    I live in the deep, deep South and low ceilings equal hot and claustrophobic to me! High ceilings, lots of windows with white cotton curtains and wide window sills to sit plants on, a fireplace with a raised hearth and deep mantle, a screened in porch with a porch swing, cool wooden floors to walk barefoot on, a rocking chair a caand a in your lap with a dog at your feet, shelves full of good books to read, an oscillating fan whirring, a pot full of rich, dark coffee and biscuits baking in the oven, the smell of bacon frying, a cool bath on a hot bath in a deep, clawfoot tub…..

  7. Sharon says:

    I love high ceilings and big windows – I think that is part of a passion for architecture inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. For me, ‘living’ in a home is about bringing the outside in and having big open spaces. It’s hard to do that well in homes with all low ceilings and boxy rooms. But then I live in what is a warm climate for most of the year. The importance of seamlessly moving from the inside to the outside can’t be overstated.

    ‘Cozy’ for me simply means being warm in winter, and for that crochet rugs, animal skin rugs and wood fires are the best (no coal! And the gas fire I had in another home made the house damp and everyone had asthma – we rarely get it now)

    No pinch pleated anything though: yuck. I don’t even like curtains at all, although we have them (or a blind) in the bedrooms to cut out light. My kitchen window has a curtain made of lace doilies stuck together. I put that up because it looks onto the neighbour’s bathroom window, otherwise I would’ve left it bare. No curtains or blinds in the living room.

  8. Amber says:

    Hey! I know I’m jumping into this post late, but for anymore reading this later I just want to add that if you are concerned with smoke or particulates polluting the atmosphere you can get fireplaces that burn gas or ethanol. These fireplaces can produce actual regular looking flames, they’re not blue like your stove flames. So if you like the idea of a fireplace and watching the flames but a concern about smoke is what is stopping you, consider looking those up.

    I have both woodburning and propane burning fireplaces in my house. They’re each nice in their own way, but I have to say the propane is certainly easier to use and more convenient! And it doesn’t put out inferior heat either, it is the only winter time heating source for the living room. My experience is that it’s the fireplace/stove itself that really determines how efficient something will be at heating, not just the fuel source alone.

    1. Mary Elizabeth says:

      Amber, I agree! I have had in my life several wood burning fireplaces, a pellet stove, and more recently, a propane fireplace. My husband and I fell in love in front of a wood burning fireplace, and the propane fireplace, with its fake logs, is just as romantic but easier to run. No more splitting wood, bringing it in, and jumping up every few minutes to tend the fire.

      When we want a wood fire on a summer or fall evening, we use our chimnea outdoors.

  9. Cathy says:

    Joining late, but I have to add pieced quilts to the list! My grandmother made several for me over the years and I still use them each winter. There’s something very comforting about snuggling down under a handmade quilt, each one with its own history sewn in through the colorful pieces. I love knowing that these contain fabric from dresses and shirts that had been worn by my ancestors and then recycled into something beautiful and warm. You can just feel the love wrapping you up!

  10. Deborah says:

    My Hygge consists of grandma’s Colonial maple furniture, oak floors, braid rugs, bookcases and bookcases, wood paneling, a cast iron heater stove (gas fired with realistic logs) with a fat chimney going all the way up to the ceiling, old kerosene lamps, “gone with the wind” style hanging lamps, and for coffee I use an old West Bend Kwikdrip coffee pot. And more bookcases.

    For window treatments I went with wood interior shutters and for the upper part of the windows I have a collection of salvaged stained glass windows. Those and the bookcases give the house a somewhat academic look.

    Outdoors cozy includes a front porch with a swing and nice shady trees.

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