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. 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.

  2. 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!”

  3. 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

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. RAnderson says:

    It’s neat to be able to put a word now to that feeling! To me the entire 1950s Early American Revival style of furniture and decor exemplifies the idea and feeling of Hyyge, with it’s warm color wood finishes, knobbly textures, beams, knotty pine, brick floors covered with braid rugs, fireplace with maybe a vintage shotgun and powderhorn hanging above the hand-hewn log-wood mantelpiece, copper and brass accents, painted primitive furniture in warm colors, pierced tin and kerosene lanterns, the whole ’50s EA look! It all just warms the cockles of my heart!

  6. modernT says:

    Rocking chairs are comforting to me. I don’t have one and I miss it. They seem to be ubiquitous in PA where I grew up. My parents always had “country” style but does anybody know where I can find a MCM one?

    1. Betsy In Michigan says:

      I have a 1920’s “gooseneck” style armless rocker that an uncle recalled picking up at Monkey Ward’s for his mother. It fits in well with my mid-century decorated living room. I used a more 1920’s-style upholstery (the only one that came up when I did an online search, and I liked it!), but you easily go funkier.

      1. kddomingue says:

        Oh! Monkey Wards! We’ve called it that since as far back as I can remember…..and I’m 57!

  7. Allison says:

    Ah, yes, the percolator!
    I recently threw away my 21st century coffee maker and found a sexy NOS, mid-century Oster percolator in smoked Lexan and black plastic on Ebay.

    When I get up in the morning, I plug in the percolator, feed the dogs and take them for a brief walk. By the time we come back in, the house is filled with the scent of coffee- surely the ultimate in cozy, comforting smells!

    Couldn’t resist another NOS MCM coffee pot purchase on Ebay this week; a Presto Superspeed. I meant it as a gift for a friend, but I’m not sure I can let it go…

    1. CarolK says:

      Allison, Boocat and Carol, A few years ago I spent a week in a cabin in the Adirondacks. The cabin had a percolator and it made delicious coffee. Eventually I bought my own. I use the percolator or that masterpiece of mid-century modern design, the Chemex, to brew coffee. I do have a French press, but I don’t like the coffee it makes. I do eventually want to get a nice vacuum pot. If you watch old movies, vacuum pots are in a lot of old kitchens.

    2. kddomingue says:

      Oh! The sound of the percolator making it’s cheerful bubbling noise alongside of early birds chirping their good mornings to the world is one of my earliest memories. Snuggled under one of Grandmama’s quilts, all snug and cozy, listening to the morning sounds of the house as Grandmama moved about the kitchen starting the coffee and the bacon and the biscuits. What wonderful memories!

  8. tammyCA says:

    Cozy is one of my favorite words. I recently started crocheting (hooray for YouTube tutorials) and working on my first granny square afghan in fun colors.
    Yeah, Not a fan of high ceilings..the kind that are like straight up tall empty boxes. I only like tall ceilings if they are mid century wood beamed, angled, slanted kind with other interesting architectural features, like big fireplace, large windows, bookcases, those are cool & still feel cozy.

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