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. Stacy says:

    I have also read that hygge means finding the “cozy, charming or special” in the every day moments–wether they be ordinary or extraordinary.
    I think this is a concept many of us who live in mid century modest homes have embraced without having a specific name for it.

    Some of my personal hygge:

    The warmth and coziness of my paneled den–with its beamed ceiling, wood burning fireplace and plaid carpet. It is unbelievably cozy and a refuge at the end of the day.

    Collecting and using vintage Pyrex– it serves its utilitarian purpose better than most new kitchenware while also being a pleasure to use. Lovely colors and patterns that are even enjoyable to hand wash. I love to think of the wonderful things that the mid century wife who previously owned them may have made.

    Sleeping on vintage sheets–the softness is unmatched and I love climbing into a big bouquet of flowers every night.

    Displaying and using vintage items of all sorts— having items handed down from family members are some of my favorite things to display. It’s like getting a hug from them every time I see or use them. Even vintage items purchased from thrifts or antique stores give me the warm fuzzies because they have a “life” and a patina to them. I wonder what their backstory is…who had them before me..where did they come from?

    Warm wood, colored bathroom tiles, cozy kitchens… I could go on and on.

  2. ineffablespace says:

    Unfortunately the fully enveloping pastel bathroom of the past is something we can not recreate if we don’t already have it. The last truly pastel bathtubs started disappearing in 2012 over the next couple years at Kohler. (Sunlight, Skylight, Green Tea, Innocent Blush). So if you want an honest to goodness 3 piece full bath in pastels, you can’t do a new one. Ice Grey is the only pastel-ish color left from the period (although it replaced a different grey in 1990 or so). And I think I got one of the last cast iron Ice Grey alcove tubs for sale. (They have a few random large Tea for Two cast iron tubs available, but now the only colored tubs (all gray or beige in varying tones) are acrylic. And that doesn’t seem quite authentic, either.
    You will probably be able to create a pastel powder room for a few more years with limited sink and toilet options.

    I am really kind of surprised that since mid-century houses up to 1967 are now semi-antique and yet the color options are disappearing at the same time that more people are starting to accept mid-century as a legitimate historical style rather than something that just dated, and has a limited following. The newest faucet designed that aren’t ultra-futuristic are more Victorian-Edwardian influenced, which I am not quite sure I understand.

    1. Robin, WA says:

      While we would all love to have a matching set of pastel bathroom fixtures, plenty of mid century homeowners settled for white fixtures and colored tile.

    2. Heart says:

      I know, Right?

      I have a small round cobalt drop in sink from the 6o’s that I Adore!
      Haven’t found a place for it yet but I can’t seem to let it go…

  3. Geronimom says:

    LOL! Sounds like my family & friends were unwittingly “hyugging” (is that a word?) at our last get together – eating fondue & playing board games while sitting around my mom’s early 1960s colonial dining table and listening to Fleetwood Mac & Abba! Who knew we were right on trend?! It did all just seemed to go perfectly with our little granny ranch house, tho!

  4. Marilyn says:

    And then for me books add a lot of cozy to those braided rugs and pine paneled rooms. Remember the colonial homes with 1950’s built in bookcases for the L.R. or Study. I collect the ones with covers from the 1950’s and 60’s..

  5. Jay says:

    Wow, I finally hit upon an actual trend and didn’t know it. I remember reading that article and thought ok so what. But leave it to you Pam to make the connection. Thank you! Braided rug at sink, check. Afghans, check. Wood sort of, faux paneling in basement, check. Percolator, check. Why just about everything in the house has been handed down. While it was 90+ degrees yesterday I was holed up inside with AC cranked up, baking a banana and strawberry cake and realizing so many of the aluminum and Tupperware measuring cups and spoons were my mother’s.

  6. Lynn says:

    I am so glad you brought this up, Pam! I have never heard of it, yet it seems to be what I’m doing. I have felt very uncool because cool seems to be mid-century modern, and so many people think the things I have are old fashioned or grandmotherly. I have my grandma’s lamps in my living room and lots of family pictures in vintage frames. I love the wonderful warm wood of my house and the separate rooms. We added faux brick to one wall and a half wall with spindles on the other end to separate our eating from living area and now the living area is so cozy. I have a white chenille bedspread on my bed, which reminds me of those my grandma had on her beds. The same room has a quilt made by my other grandma and a white hobnail milk glass lamp just like my grandmother had. The kitchen is smaller here and when something wonderful is cooking, it can’t be cozier in there. I had a house with high ceilings and a huge, clinical looking kitchen and it always felt cold. I know it wasn’t always because of the temperature. I can’t wait to read more about this. I love it!!

  7. Lynn says:

    Oh, and sitting on my shag rug listening to records and playing board games with my kids in aforementioned living room.

  8. jani says:

    I think I have most of the things on your list too, except no fireplace. But, absolutely, my mom’s floral sheets are the softest. i love hanging clothes outside, except towels, which get too stiff. Most of my kitchenware is her’s too, with the red handles and nesting pyrex bowls. The 50’s lamps were amazing too, with their cool patterns and big lampshades. The rooms in my little beach cottage are small and very ‘shore-y’, like painted water pipes, square tiles on the ceilings, old porcelain sinks and stove, and back porch streaming with sunlight. very hygge. 😉

    1. Carolyn says:

      jani, you have to hang towels on really breezy days – the wind fluffs them and fluffs them while drying. I couldn’t fit them all in the cupboard that day since every loop was standing at attention!

      1. Mary Elizabeth says:


        I remember this technique also for cloth diapers as well as towels. It was my job as a six-year-old to hang out “Brother Baby’s” diapers, which were always washed on a windy day. Sometimes it was so windy that a few diapers or towels escaped their pins and I had to chase them across the yard. 🙂 I still use a rotary clothes dryer out back, and when it’s windy, the dryer spins around.

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