By Jennifer Van Allen
Chilton owners Jen and Jared Levin offer tips on how furniture can help you Hygge up your home this winter.
In recent years, Hygge (pronounced “Hoo-guh”) — the Danish notion of coziness, comfort, and well-being — has captivated the national imagination. Books like Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living have become New York Times best sellers. Hygge-themed guides to cooking, fashion, décor, beauty, and even parenting have flooded store shelves. And hygge-branded retreats and Airbnbs now abound.
Jen and Jared Levin, owners of Chilton in Freeport and Scarborough, understand the appeal. They moved to Maine from Manhattan with their three kids in pursuit of a simpler, slower lifestyle and the space to find the kind of contentedness hygge embodies. “We wanted to enjoy more time together as a family and feel more connected with nature,” Jen says. “It seems like Maine is a destination for so many who want those qualities in their lives too.”
To help facilitate hygge vibes, the Levins have focused on developing Shaker and Scandinavian-inspired pieces “that make a living space into a snug, calm sanctuary away from the chaotic world, ” Jen says. As winter approaches and we all clamor for cozy, the couple offers tips on selecting furnishings that cultivate those snowed-in-by-the-fire feels.
Keep it simple. “The Nordic design ethos is characterized by a lack of pretension,” writes Signe Johansen in How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life, explaining why Scandinavian furniture espouses clean lines. “Understated designs are less intrusive visually and create a crisper backdrop for your life — a palette against which food and people stand out in clearer relief,” says Jen, pointing to pieces like the Union Dining Table, a modern interpretation of a Shaker-style trestle table, and the Ice Jam Coffee Table, which celebrates sleek, angular shapes, as examples. Another benefit of minimalist pieces: they tend to be easier to clean, Jen says, “leaving you with more time to savor a meal, read a book, and snuggle,” — a hygge trifecta.
Go natural. Heavily influenced by the harsh climate along the rugged Scandinavian coastline (we Mainers can relate!), hygge prioritizes the use of natural materials, like wood, to create warmth and preserve a connection with the outdoors during the long winter months, writes Johansen in How to Hygge. Jen recommends pieces with clear finishes that showcase the sweeping contours of the wood grain, such as the aptly named Hygge Table in ambrosia maple and the rich walnut Lokie Coffee Table. Layer on rugs, throws, and pillows in wool, cotton, and sheepskin for softness and texture.
Think function first. Utility and practicality are core hygge values, and an extension of the idea that form should follow function, the modernist credo that is central to Scandinavian design. Because it’s hard to feel comfortable in a roomful of formal pieces, the furniture you choose “has to be something that you’re not afraid to use every day,” Jen says. Your pieces should also be affordable, durable, and versatile enough to serve multiple purposes and/or pair with different decorating styles as trends and your taste shift — qualities that contribute to an overall sense of contendedness. Note the functionality embodied in the Mysa Nightstand, which can serve as a stool or nightstand, and the timeless look of the Modern Shaker Bed, Jen says.
Celebrate master craftsmanship. Furnishings that showcase the quality workmanship that went into them foster feelings of safety and comfort that are central to hygge, Jen says. The Levins look for solid wood joinery, such as the mortise-and-tenon — which connects wood to wood, typically at a 90-degree angle — seen on the Mysa Nightstand, Union Dining Table, Union Sideboard, and Union Bench. “Customers equate these stamps of craftsmanship with Maine-made products,” Jared says, noting that nearly 60 percent of the Chilton collection is handcrafted here. Buying local also provides a connection with the artisan community, creating a sense of kinship that just so happens to be a hygge value too.