This Is What “Cozy” Looks Like Around the World
What does cozy decor look like to you? When I’m in Chicago, it’s cold sunlight pooling on the floor, wearing a thick fleece sweatshirt that goes down to my knees, and the clang and hiss of my hundred-year-old heater while I watch TV wrapped under a blanket. When I’m in Poland though, cozy looks a little different. At my grandma’s house there, it’s striking a match to light the wood-burning stove for making tea, the sound of leather slippers shuffling across floorboards, and the taste of my aunt’s homemade moonshine sipped out of a crystal aperitif glass. The notion of “coziness” knows no borders, but it can look and feel different depending on where you are.
In Nigeria, blogger and designer Oluwakemi Agbato feels coziest during the rainy season, especially during its peak when rains are torrential. “Rain makes Lagos messy, and there is a lot of traffic,” she says. “But if I manage to make it home before it rains, I can be in a sweater or under a warm blanket, reading a book or watching a show while drinking some Hibiscus tea. I love tea.”
Even the act of watching rain fall from her bed brings her hygge-like feelings. “Having a bed that’s next to the window means I can watch the droplets hit the window pane and everything in my view. Sometimes, I leave the window slightly open so a bit of rain falls on my face. Omou Sangare, Yebba, or some other music is lightly playing in the background. Sometimes there’s no music, and I’m listening to the melody of the rain. It’s a bit silly and a bit romantic, but I always feel cozy.”
Is coziness an aesthetic brought about by carefully curated things, or is it a feeling rooted in something slightly intangible? You just know it when you see it and feel it, even if it doesn’t meet your own classic definition of cozy. We spoke to designers, creatives, and citizens of the globe to see what coziness looks like around the world. Maybe there’s an idea or two you can borrow to beat the decorating doldrums, if they ever visit you.
The concept of “hygge” originated in Europe — Denmark to be exact — so Europeans pretty much have winter coziness down pat. It’s all about blankets, cuddly knits that feel like hugs, and flickering fireplaces. “Cozy to me in Germany means Kaffee und Kuchen — the local tradition of enjoying a slice of cake and a cup of fresh coffee with family or friends,” said Anna Jonas from Düsseldorf, Germany. It’s the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up, but how about European countries that don’t experience frigid temperatures? There, coziness looks a little different. In more temperate climates, cozy is more about domesticity and homey conviviality.
For Olympia in Corinth, Greece, coziness means the sound of the waves, her crochet project on her knees, a lovely chat with a beloved one, flowers in a vase, and the sound of laughter echoing through the house. When asked to hone in on a single favorite cozy activity, she said, “Listening to classical music while reading a book curled up on the sofa.” Designer Georgina Panagiotopoulou from DECOlife Interiors explained that cozy in Greece is a Sunday well-spent with family, sitting on the rug, grazing on food, and drinking glasses of wine as people talk over one another. For that reason, she’s decorated her space with vintage rugs in her living room, small rugs near the fireplace, and plenty of floor cushions for visiting friends and family.
In Portugal, cozy means being surrounded by nature, even when living in a bustling city. Mãe Jo and Tia Maf from Lisbon, Portugal, feel hygge-like feelings when they hear birds singing in the early morning upon stepping out onto their balcony. “Our favorite cozy activity is being able to watch the sunrise every morning from our balcony, being that on warm mornings during summer time or on cold ones drinking a cafe latte and with a blanket wrapped around me,” they share.
In Madrid, Spain, siestas bring about cozy feelings, says Alberto Bravo, the co-founder of We Are Knitters. “Some people think it lasts hours (maybe during the weekends,) but to take a little 10-minute nap before going back to work really does wonders.” What about when the temps dip in Spain in the winter? Then there’s nothing more cheerful than a churro dipped into a cup of hot chocolate. Coziness is what Bravo calls “JOMO,” or the “Joy of Missing Out.” “There’s a whole JOMO movement going on, where people prefer to stay home knitting watching their favorite show on a Friday night over going out for dinner or having a drink. If you have a fireplace at home then it’s probably the perfect scenario [for coziness],” he says.
In Africa, people feel peak coziness during the rainy season, when the pouring rain drives people to spend more time indoors. “Cozy is curling up by the fire on a rainy day during the rainy season,” says Jill Morse from Zambia.
For folks in Nigeria, coziness can be running the air conditioner. “To be able to come in from the heat and cozy up in an air conditioned room is paramount in a Nigerian home, just like it is to come into a well heated space in colder regions,” says Sandra Edoho, interior designer and founder of Vivabella Designs. Since it can get nippy with the A.C. running, having things like a big comfy sofa, lush throw blankets, soft diffused lighting, and scented candles puts you in a cozy headspace.
In Algeria, cozy is about gathering with family. “Our celebrations and family meetings are so warm and special. We enjoy as we say El Lema, which means the gathering of all of us in one home,” Asma Asma Mekki Daouadji shares.
The Middle East
Coziness in the Middle East means surrounding yourself with things that spark joy. “What cozy means to me is a combination of all these: rooms filled with gorgeous abundance; light and pattern; inspiration for both the eye and mind,” Qandeel Zahira from Islamabad, Pakistan, says. “Artwork that swells the wall. Color that celebrates a literal cocoon. Coziness for me is abundance of what I love and what I’m surrounded by.”
In Jordan, coziness for designer Nujoud Oweis is surrounding herself with souvenirs from places she visited. “I find myself collecting many shells and coral from Aqaba, our beach town, and I’ve displayed them in my space alongside aromatherapy and candles to make my space more cozy and inspirational — my cocoon if you will,” says Oweis.
In Asia, where temperatures typically stay high year-round in many areas, familial bonds, special foods, and even older architecture with character can create feelings of cozy contentment. For Sonia Pereira, who lives in a suburb in Mumbai called Bandra, her family home brings cozy vibes. “My home is over a century old and was built by my grandfather,” says Pereira. “So just the old wooden exposed beams, my wooden flooring, and cabin-like interiors is the epitome of cozy,” she shared.
Anah Shaikh is more of a cozy foodie. “To keep ourselves warm we eat Indian spices and hot, deep-fried food complemented with tea,” Shaikh shares. In fact, there’s one specific dish that brings about that bonhomie frame of mind for her. She explains that Bhajiya is only eaten during the colder months, as “it is perfectly made for the winter season.”
Over in Thailand, coziness is a total state of mind. “With tropical weather like in my country, I cannot light a fire or put on fluffy clothes to get cozy because it’s 38°C here,” Phaptawan Kongsomsawang says. Instead, coziness means taking a beat first thing to nurture well-being and get ready for the day. “Waking up at a good hour, making myself a nice cup of coffee, and sitting comfortably and enjoying it is cozy,” says Kongsomsawang.
Even though parts of Australia get cold, coziness is not just a winter thing down under. In nearby New Zealand, hygge-seekers like to gather around bonfires. “My partner and I like to hang out by our little fire pit outside, watching the sun set with our dogs curled up by our feet,” says Aida Smith. “Best way to end a long day working on the farm.”
Designer Jeremy Bull, founder and principal of Alexander&Co, believes the Australian brand of coziness has distinctly beachy undertones. “I think of our winter as a little more ‘coastal campfire’ than perhaps the Northern Hemisphere; it’s more driftwood and woollen sweaters, pale linen, and hot coffee,” says Bull. That said, some Aussies can channel cozy no matter the season, even in the hot summers. “As soon as we can, we are all a bit naked,” says Tess Glasson, an Australian marketing director. “Doors are open, and there is a simplicity and a sexiness to all of this. Summer in Sydney is showy and public. People live and play outdoors. So I think ‘cozy’ is more about that sense of privacy; that luxury of having your own special sunny spot in your garden. A towel or daybed and a good book — or even just a few close friends or family to share that intimacy and space with.”
Melbourne-based designer Lauren Li of Sisalla Interior Design thinks the Australian concept of cozy transcends seasons, but that coziness definitely is nuanced depending on the time of year. “‘Summer cozy’ is also about letting the mind relax and connecting — connecting with others, nature, or yourself,” she explains. “Summer cozy is when you spend the whole day at the beach,” she says. “You set up your speakers with some chilled tunes, fill an Esky [portable cooler] with iced tea and cherries under the shade of a chic umbrella. You stay until dusk when friends come to meet you and bring fish and chips wrapped in paper.”
Central and South America
In this part of the world, being cozy is about being comfortable, and all the better if there’s a hammock involved. It’s about soaking in the sun, feeling the breeze on your face, and taking in your surroundings. In Costa Rica, hammocks are peak cozy. “What people usually do on a Sunday is visit a nice area with a viewpoint with their blankets, hot coffees, and good company,” lifestyle blogger Valeria Holding says. Rain plays a factor here, too, just as it does in Africa. “Coziness for a Costa Rican is definitely having a nap while a heavy rain is pouring down,” says Holding. “That is what we call Costa Rican therapy! It is so relaxing.”
For Brazilians, coziness is a matter of warmth, happiness, and peace of mind. “Coziness is when I feel relaxed, like driving a car with the window open feeling the wind on my face, or sitting on a beach towel under an umbrella, watching and listening to the sea, drinking a coconut,” photographer Diana Cabral says. “Another thing that is super cozy is a hammock: We love this! At some places, we have hammocks even inside the water at the lagoons, like in Jericoacoara. A lot of Brazilians put them inside their living room or yard.”
If you live in a region in North America that experiences the four seasons, you might assume that people in perpetually warm areas never get cozy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “‘Cozy in the Desert’ may seem like an oxymoron to some,” says Instagrammer Casa Tui from Tucson, Arizona. “With blistering hot heat in the summer and prickly things around every corner, the desert isn’t always a comforting hug, but the heat of the day swiftly turns cool at night. I’m not sure if there’s anything cozier than watching the mountains morph into magenta pink while bundled up next to the fire in sweats.”
For some people in Las Vegas, coziness is airiness. “Based on where I live, cozy to me looks bright, airy, and uncluttered. Homes with many windows to enjoy the amazing desert sunrise and sunsets,” shares designer Monica Rivas of Enliven Interiors. San Francisco-based Hannah Johnson equates coziness to ease and feeling comfortable in her home, pictured above. “For me, coziness is about a feeling of safety and comfort,” says Johnson. “In a pandemic world where I’m working from home in a big city, I need my home to feel like a place where I can focus, but also decompress. When Karl the Fog visits, I love lighting candles, playing a record, or reading!”
In Mexico, being cozy is about being comfortable, and all the better if there’s a hammock involved. It’s about soaking in the sun, feeling the breeze on your face, and taking in your surroundings. “In Holbox, Mexico, there’s nothing cozier than chilling in a big hammock, reading a book or listening to music while you sway the heat away,” says Sarah Ceniceros. “Cozy to us is comfortable: an airy hammock where you can rest, a waterproof couch where you can read, a tall barstool where you can have a nice drink.”
For designer Lucía Soto, co-founder of design studio Comité de Proyectos in Mexico City, Mexico, coziness boils down to the layering and an abundance for the senses. “The elements that play a huge role in coziness would be the ones related to the senses: light, touch, smell, physical comfort, the sense of balance, order or harmony,” says Soto. “In Mexico, everything is about adding elements. We add avocado, lemon, and spicy chilly peppers to almost every dish. The best ones are those that have dozens of elements. The same thing happens if you look at the popular Mexican aesthetics. People feel warm when surrounded by objects hanging on the walls, over the cabinets, filling the bookshelves. Everything is about memories and souvenirs from familiar festivities. We like big windows, lots of light, plants inside the house, and a good mix of textures and visual stimuli.”
Seeing “coziness” take on so many different forms shows this concept’s more about a mindset than an aesthetic. I’ll never discourage someone from buying a scented candle or adding yet another shaggy throw into their cart, but when you get right down to it, coziness is about quiet contentment. It’s about slowing down, reconnecting with your favorite people in between errands and work, and taking a rare moment — a small pocket of time — to look around you and realize, yeah, life can actually be pretty lovely sometimes.