I Sent a Hygge Expert Photos of My Drafty Living Room — Here’s What She Said to Change

published Jan 18, 2024
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White sofa in living room.
Credit: Heather Bien

I just moved into a fixer upper. “It has character, great bones!” they said (ahem, I said). It also has holes in the original wood floors, drafts coming through wavy glass windows, and roughly 35 layers of paint and wallpaper on its walls and ceilings. It’s teaching me a lot about patience, and, while I’d love to totally revamp my living room yesterday, I’m learning to love it in the stage that it’s in right now.

Which is to say, I simply threw furniture into this room and hoped for the best. My design had little rhyme or reason other than, let’s create somewhere to sit until I can get this room sanded, repainted, and replace that broken chandelier. But the reality is, I’m probably going to have to live with a living room like this for at least a few months, if not longer. So it’s worth trying to make it a cozy, comfortable place to spend time — especially if it’s in a way that can evolve with me as I transform this into the home I always envisioned. 

Credit: Photo: Heather Bien
My living room couch as it currently stands.

And, because it’s the middle of winter, it felt right to try to focus on hygge (pronounced like hoo-gah or hue-gah, in case you’re still wondering) and inject a sense of coziness into the space. To do that, I enlisted the help of Amber Brandt, an interior decorator and hygge expert at The Coziness Consultant

Brandt works with individuals to create intuitive, hygge-infused spaces that reflect their own version of what’s cozy, which she does using their existing pieces or bringing new ones in. Her goal is to create a home that reflects all five senses in a warm, comforting way, whether that’s through texture, light, scent, or a calming soundtrack.

Credit: Photo: Heather Bien
My living room currently, pre-hyggefication.

In my case, we had a mostly blank slate (well, as blank as those yellow walls get), which, according to Brandt, is a good starting point. “There’s a fine line between cozy and cluttered. I recommend that people ‘quiet’ their rooms first by clearing out shelves and surfaces, then sit with the undecorated space for a couple of days. Give yourself some visual rest to help you think critically about what belongs,” explains Brandt. Luckily, I didn’t have that issue, so we jumped right in.

Here are the six things a hygge expert would do to make my living room as cozy as possible. 

Swap in a lighter rug.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t even notice this addition when I first looked at Brandt’s mockups! And perhaps that’s because it simply looks like it belongs there. “While the texture of the current one is nice, it blends in with the wood floor, trunk coffee table, wooden legs of the armchair, and fireplace front. The lighter option allows the space to remain anchored, but stands out, brightens up the overall look, and serves as a good backdrop for those darker elements to be featured more prominently,” explains Brandt. Plus, the lighter color also adds a softer texture than the jute rug.

Anchor the TV.

“I recommend raising and anchoring the TV to the wall, then better utilizing the mantel space to repeat the pillow colors with a few books, and some greenery,” suggests Brandt. She notes that anytime there’s a space to bring warmth, texture, and the outdoors in, that’s creating more hygge. 

Credit: Photo: Heather Bien; Mockup: Amber Brandt
A mockup of my couch as Brandt would adorn it, complete with extra pillows and throws.

Add throw pillows and textiles.

Right now, I have an unintentionally minimalist look, yet I know soft textiles add to the soothing comfort and hygge of a space. So I wasn’t surprised Brandt decided to add a few well-placed textiles and throw pillows. “They also help tie the furniture together visually,” says Brandt. A woven basket creates a place to keep the blanket neat when it’s not in use.

Install sconces and a flush mount light.

Creating a twinkly feeling is a key element to a hygge-happy space. “I love sconces as an option above beds and flanking mounted televisions. They’re great for adding focused, intentional light while still maintaining a sense of relaxation in the evening,” explains Brandt. She recommends a flush mount ceiling light to add a glow without looking bulky or heavy. 

Credit: Photo: Heather Bien; Mockup: Amber Brandt
A mockup of my living room with Brandt’s cozy recommendations, including a new rug, stacked wood nook, new light fixture, and anchored TV.

Incorporate texture.

Texture doesn’t have to be limited to textiles. Brandt says, “I turned your current bookshelf nook into a stacked wood reserve. You wouldn’t need to stack it quite as high as this example and could place one to two floating shelves above it to add books. I just love this because it gives you some additional character and visual appeal.” 

She also suggests working in elements like leather, fur, and tassels to add instant warmth. “It’s a nice way to add some Scandinavian vibes without feeling out of place for the age and style of your home.”

Leave the wall color.

I understand the basic principles of hygge, and I know my way around a cozy blanket and a candle, but Brandt’s last tip shocked me. “I didn’t change the wall color,” Brandt says. Leave the yellow? And still have a cozy space? “I love the brightness of the yellow you have and how it plays off so many of the darker elements in the room.” Well, if she can save me from pulling out a roller and a ladder, I’m in.