A Year of Living Danishly

Well, I am mad about Scandi interiors; I took my husband to Copenhagen as a surprise treat for his 50th, you can read all about it here; I have read all about Hygge and my son, who is 25 years old today, is living in Glasgow with his beautiful Danish girlfriend. I need to find out more about this amazing country, so I have had a good read of The Year Of Living Danishly by Helen Russell.

Helen, depicted above is London journalist who moved to Denmark in 2013, when her husband got a job with Lego. The book is an intriguing and often comical account of their first year there. Spoiler alert: they are still there.

The school system for a start sounds so formative: you call the teacher by their first name – to me that is SO radical. It is hard to explain why. I used to be an art teacher and in Britain the school system is very controlling, the teacher really needs to be in charge. I was only able to deliver any sort of art education once I had learnt to create a sense of order in the classroom, whereas in Denmark it sounds as if the connection between teachers and pupils is much friendlier and there is more mutual respect.

The image above is of Instagrammer, Alexis Miller’s home @our_rosemont_home by Douglas – her home is not in Denmark, but I thought it was very Hygge!

But home is where it all starts and I know that the average Danish home is very stylish and beautiful and I want to know more, so I emailed Helen and asked her some questions just to establish some facts.

Danish people do care about their interiors more than British people

Helen reports that 50% of Danish homes will have several designer lights, real classic pieces. A home without designer furniture is not normal – almost an oddity. Danish people love to conform and if designer furniture is the norm, then everyone buys designer furniture, they do not have that British eccentricity which leads to swirly carpets, sunburst clocks and flying ducks. All items, which in Britain, are considered ‘normal’. A Danish maiden aunt would only have stripped floorboards and cool contemporary art on the walls.

They have a lot of sheepskin rugs

They like to be cosy and honestly the winters here are very harsh and very long, so cheering yourself up with candlelight, cakes and gorgeous sheepskin rugs is rather essential. In summer they can be thrown on benches outside for outdoor dining on long summer evenings.

Parenting in Denmark

Helen descibes her own home is a mix of mid century, Scandi minimalism, and kids toys. The Danes sound both child friendly and parent friendly. Generous parental leave for both mum and dad and excellent state subsidised nurseries makes parenting and childhood a much more nurturing experience for many people. You really can drop off your child in the morning not feeling that you are a bad mother and pick them up at the end of the day without fear of damaging your career. Mums and dads both are expected to leave work early to pick up their children and if anyone is ill, they are supported if they need to take a bit of time off. A minimal interior makes tidying up at the end of the day a lot easier I am sure, and the pale colours are wonderfully soothing and help you stay sane during the chaotic toddler years.

Does good interior design make people happier? 

Helen is convinced it does, although there are high expectations here in Denmark. In her book she makes it clear that neighbours and spouses are expected to behave: anyone behind with their recycling gets a sharp telling off quickly by friendly but firm neighbours and errant spouses are told where to go equally promptly, so the divorce rate is pretty high. Anyone not experiencing the high levels of happiness routinely expected here quickly seeks help from their doctor. But at least all these little crises are taking place against a stylish backdrop and a lovely pale colour palette.

Another very hygge home, shot by Douglas, in Ardnamuchan – we need to go to Denmark for a shoot!

Anyone wanting to Hygge-up their home should buy a few sheepskin rugs pronto I reckon, there is definitely a chill in the air. Please try Jacobs & Dalton, one of my loyal advertisers, their products are gorgeous. On Monday morning we will watch the queens funeral, but I will make a cake first, then a friend is dropping by in the afternoon so we can cheer each other up with a cake and a walk – all Hygge essentials – three people is a party, I am hoping for top marks from Helen.


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