From what we think hygge actually means to meatballs and design, we Brits seem to have a real penchant for anything Scandinavian. Here we dive into our infatuation (and what we get wrong about it) with Bronte Aurell, founder of ScandiKitchen and author of six Scandi lifestyle books…
I was born just outside of Copenhagen, and when I settled down in London I missed my home comforts (as any immigrant does). So, in 2007 I set up ScandiKitchen as a place where Scandinavians in the city could have a place to meet up and enjoy our favourite foods and in so doing, broaden the appeal of our food in the UK.
That was before the Scandi wave (which I would say started in 2009/2010), and the difference now is monumental.
Loads of things came at once – the notoriety of Noma, TV successes like The Killing and The Bridge, fair isle jumpers becoming fashionable…
With that came a closer look at lifestyle. The Danish and Scandinavian way of living is all about balance – work/life balance (we start at 8:30am, leave at 4pm), parental balance (maternity and paternity leave are equal), the way we eat (salad for lunch if you want pizza for dinner).
Nothing is excessive. Instead there is a focus on connections and remembering to take time to enjoy the things that matter to you.
Ultimately, I think we tend to crave the things we may have forgotten about, and for the British, the Danish culture is a reminder of those things – a reminder that perhaps we’re working too hard, that we’ve lost our balance and are looking outward to find inspiration for things we feel are missing.
That, in essence, is why I think people are obsessed with the Danish way.
When it comes to style
As with most things in Scandinavian culture, the style is all about understated functionality and clean lines. You don’t have many flashy designers because the Danes dress for what looks good on them rather than trends. And we’re big fans of black.
It’s about feeling comfortable and confident in what you wear rather than chasing the catwalks. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with that.
The essential Scandi style kit:
When it comes to interiors
People think hygge is all about how you decorate a place, that it’s all about scented candles and blankets.
While I do light about 10-12 candles in a room, they’re definitely not scented and they’re not ‘hygge’. Hygge is a feeling of appreciation for the moment you’re in, whether you’re having a glass of wine with your sister or talking about your day with a partner.
Our interiors facilitate that; we don’t clutter rooms (even sofas are always elevated to give the feeling of more space), we keep colour palettes neutral (even painting wooden floors white) and TVs are never a focal point.
And while clean lines (again) play a big part, we also like to add singular statement pieces like a designer chair or an antique piece from a flea market.
Our homes are distinctly Danish, but they aren’t hygge until they’re filled with people you love being around.
The essential Scandi interiors kit:
When it comes to food
While Noma is one of the biggest drivers of Danish food, I can promise you we don’t eat ants at home in Denmark.
Danish food is very simple, hearty, workers food. We actually have a word for it – ‘husmanskost’ (working man’s food).
It’s actually not too dissimilar to the traditional British way of eating, but the difference comes in where we source the ingredients. It’s always local food that grows close to where you’re making it and we’re seeing a big shift in food trends back to this outside of Scandinavia.
We work on the basis that if you’ve got good ingredients, you don’t need to do much with them, and we serve things with love and care – simple flavour that make you feel ready to go back out into the world.
If you want a quintessentially Danish dish, I’d serve up smørrebrød (open sandwich). Rye bread with a beautiful protein like fish, finished off with herbs and spices. What you get is something really beautiful that’s good for you, too.
The essential Scandi food kit:
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