Fake Hygge Things That Sound Plausible

If you read design blogs – and as a young single homeowner, I can assure you I do – you must have heard of hygge. Hygge is the Danish concept of – to quote The New Yorker –  a “quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”

Over the past few years, hundreds of books, articles and blog pieces have suggested ways to introduce some hygge into your life. Especially in the winter, there are suggestions for cheerful game nights, mulled cider in front of the fire, soft cashmere throws and the glow of candlelight.

There are also some very specific and strange suggestions, like the all-day Star Wars marathon at home with 5 kids that one blogger suggested.

The following are some totally made-up hygge things that I would somehow not be surprised to find during my design blog reading:

Go to YouTube and search for songs from your favorite musicals + “figure skating.” Make a playlist. Watch them all.

The other day I thought “you know, I bet you could search YouTube for ANY song from a musical plus the term “figure skating” and get a result.” THEN I thought “that legitimately sounds like something a blog would suggest as a hygge activity.” Then this whole thing happened.

As a treat, put on an extra pair of socks

Solve a decades-old murder using information readily available on Google

Nothings cozier than sitting in your favorite chair and finally getting down to business on what happened to JonBenet … only to see that three hours passed in an instant and you still DON’T KNOW.

Watch a birdfeeder from a window while you wear a big sweater

Have your boss over for a Dutch Blitz party. Serve those windmill cookies. You know the ones.

Since I wrote this draft, Dutch Blitz has shown up in my Amazon suggestions. I guess Amazon’s hygge activity this winter is tracking my every step on the internet. Hey guys! Loved Mrs. Maisel.

Play Hot Potato with an actual hot potato

Replace the harsh overhead lighting in your office with a bunch of candelabras

Skip the nightly news and have each member of your family read articles from the day’s newspaper out loud

It’s just how people had their existential crises in the 1800s!

Invite all of the stray cats from the neighborhood in and invite your pet-lover friends over for Hygge Cat Night

Go caroling, except with non-Christmas wintery songs

Your neighbors will feel very hygge when you sing them It’s A Marshmallow World In The Winter on a Tuesday in February, and you know what? So will you.

Sit around the fire and everybody has to say what they would name a baby right now.

Go to a small hunting cabin and have a soup contest.

This isn’t so much a fake hygge thing, as much as a real upstate NY thing my parents do with their friends.

Have a Friends marathon, but with reading the scripts out loud instead of watching the show.

And THIS isn’t so much a fake hygge thing, as much as a real thing we did on our school trip to Spain in high school.

Spin a globe and wherever your finger stops, you have to pretend you’re in that place for the night.

Put all of your blankets on the floor, one on top of the other. Now all your blankets are wearing blankets.

It’s hygge but for blankets.

Speaking of blankets: blanket fort.

Advertisements

Things I Think Every Time I Watch ‘Fixer Upper’

Fixer Upper is nailing up its last shiplap after the fifth season. Obviously Chip and Joanna have plenty going on, and somebody has to … fill the silos with subway tiles, or whatever it is happens in Waco… so we don’t begrudge them taking a break. But since Fixer Upper, along with the Great British Bake Off and Bob’s Burgers, is one of my Adult Sesame Street shows (gentle, soothing, predictable and sweet) – well, I’m happy I have one more season to think the following things every single time I watch:

Why does my house have walls?

A common theme in older homes: walls are used to divide areas into separate rooms. Which sounds obvious, but by the end of an episode of Fixer Upper I’m always questioning why some Edwardian dummy put a wall between my dining room and kitchen.

[Although, I don’t have to look at my dirty pots and pans while I’m eating, so I’m pretty sure walls are great.]

These people don’t REALLY want ‘the charm of an old house.’

Episode after episode, I see a homeowner wax poetic about the “charm” of old houses. I agree! My house is 108 and my parents live in an 1830s farmhouse. But more often than not, during the Fixer Upper reno process walls get taken down, moldings get swapped, a new fireplace is fitted, flooring is changed… y’all could’ve gussied up a 1980s cul-de-sac special for the same (beautiful) result.

Shiplap, huh.

The only thing I love as much as Joanna Gaines loves shiplap are my family and Jesus. I kid, sort of, but has anyone done a pie chart of how many Fixer Upper homes use shiplap? No, because it would just be a circle all filled in with one color.

Food for thought: dealing with the old owners’ shiplap is going to be to 2040s remodeling what dealing with old owners’ wood paneling is to 2010s remodeling.

What time is it? It’s BIG CLOCK O’CLOCK!

It’s always Big Clock O’Clock in a Fixer Upper house.

This is what 2010s decor will look like to people from the future.

You know, like how 70s looks like shag carpeting and orange/avocado/brown appliances, and 60s looks like mid-century Mad Men (but PSYCH! most suburban middle-class ’60s homes were kind of Colonial Revival-y), and the 90s looks like country geese and sponge paint?

In period films set in 2015, but made in 2035, it’s going to be light gray walls, shiplap, barn doors, subway tile, open floor plans, industrial lighting and exposed wood beams.

Easy, Chip.

At least once an episode. Different reasons each time.

I could move to Waco.
I  can’t move to Waco.

Maybe just a field trip.

What if Joanna Gaines and Nancy Meyers teamed up?

The Intern, possibly my favorite Nancy Meyers kitchen but don’t quote me on it.

Ain’t no kitchen like a Nancy Meyers kitchen cuz a Nancy Meyers kitchen is ABSOLUTELY CHARMING.

I would absolutely watch a show where Nancy Meyers and Joanna Gaines team up to give people kitchens worthy of a lead in a rom-com. The reality show could be kind of a rom-com itself, wherein the homeowner always finds love or herself by the end.

There is no way you cook that much.

Every time somebody needs a double-oven and an island this size of a literal tropical island and they have two kids.

There is no way you pee that much.

Every time someone needs 4 bathrooms and they have two kids. Maybe it’s because I grew up 6 people to one bathroom, but a bathroom per person is bonkers.

[Of course, I live by myself, so I DO now have a bathroom per person, and I can confirm that it is amazing.]

Can they sell one of these whole kitchens at Target?

I’m really excited about the Target Hearth & Home collab, but also I don’t want a sign that says “Farmhouse” or “Eggs 5c,” I want an entire Gaines-ified kitchen; too much to ask?

I wonder what’s under my floors.

My house is all hardwoods, except the kitchen and bathroom. But are there hardwoods UNDER the kitchen flooring?

I found out the hard way that the answer is yes, but it’s actually under a vinyl floor, sheet linoleum, a subfloor, other sheet linoleum, ASBESTOS I THINK, and then another subfloor. So I don’t actually think this when I watch Fixer Upper anymore now because I bit that apple. I bit it hard.

By the way, do you want to know what’s in my rafters? Very old haunted-looking newspapers that seem like they’re a clue or something. I assume someone name Bertha or Sherman stashed them there in 1911 just to mess with me.

Joanna has great hair.

At least once an episode I’m struck by how shiny and frizz-free Jojo Gaines’s hair is.

 

 

It’s 1988: Let’s All Decorate For Halloween!

Welcome to another edition of Let’s All Decorate! This month, we’re taking a look back at a creepy, garish, zany time, a time when people decorate their homes in the loudest, wackiest fashion imaginable … oh, and also Halloween.

It’s true- the 80s were a rough era, design-wise. So you’d think that incorporating the second-tackiest holiday of the year (after Valentine’s Day) would make things even crazier. However, that discounts one major development of the 2000s: the Halloween-industrial complex.

When we were growing up, the slate of Halloween activities was fairly limited. There were pumpkin patches, which were seriously just places where pumpkins were grown and sold. I thought I remembered a witch at the one we frequented in my childhood, but no: it was just a cauldron. Haunted houses and haunted hayrides existed. You’d have your classroom party, and you’d trick or treat. That sounds like a full month of fun to me, but as someone who’s recently taken kids to a “pumpkin patch” that features pumpkin catapults, a zip line, and go-carts, I can vouch that times have changed.

The simpler Halloween celebrations extended to home decor. My mom was notably Halloween-obsessed, and we had Halloween candles throughout the house, molded to look like ghosts and Frankensteins. We had a windsock that wailed whenever there was a loud noise, which meant that every family argument in October was punctuated by plaintive moans of  “ooo-OOOO-ooo.” There were stretchy cobwebs, plastic graves, and probably some fuzzy spiders. We hung a string of pumpkin-shaped lights in the window.

And that’s it. That was extreme in the late 80s and early 90s. It was before every family had a bin of fall decor that came out after Labor Day. Trick-or-treaters weren’t greeted by animatronic witches, and googley, glowing eyes didn’t peak out from the attic windows of half the houses on the block.

Wall hangings were pretty popular at the time. My mom was a teacher, and those bulletin-board shapes from Teacher’s World were tacked up around our downstairs. I think some non-teacher-kid friends had them too, though. By the way, Teacher’s World smelled like cold coffee breath, exactly like you’d expect.

Just like this. In fact, I’m positive we had the cat one – I was a 6-year-old cat lady, and I loved it the best.

Then there were the candles. In one of my earliest Halloween memories, my brothers were bickering over candy. As things escalated, my mother erupted at them – and just as she started yelling, all of the candles in the room flared spectacularly.

We lost our best vampire candle that day.

The survivors are in my house now, nestled among succulents which I imagine are the spookiest members of the plant kingdom, fly traps notwithstanding.

The survivors are in my house now, nestled among succulents – which I imagine are the spookiest members of the plant kingdom, fly traps notwithstanding.

If you were the kind of family who had an elaborate Christmas village with glittery cotton snow and tiny Victorian people, then you probably had a Halloween village, too:

In a lot of houses, Halloween treat buckets were sort of decor unto themselves. As I said, the options were more limited. Before so many parents proudly declared that their kids NEVER have McDonald’s, the Happy Meal bucket was the gold standard:

In another instance of combining form and function, we gathered our leaves in plastic bags that looked like pumpkins. Now more and more municipalities have moved to collecting loose leaves – which makes sense, because they can decompose a lot better when they’re not in bags – and these are becoming a thing of the past:

I’m sure they existed long before the late 80s, but crafty moms were especially into tissue ghosts:

The tissue-paper honeycomb industry was red-hot in the 80s, and there were standup decorations for every holiday, Halloween included:

The suction cup market was doing okay, too, as evidenced by these spider webs that were in my home and classrooms every October:

All of the coolest characters got into the Halloween spirit, and in a time when people weren’t as into integrating holiday decorations with their grown-up decor themes, these seemed like a legit thing to hang in your kitchen:But clearest in my memory – nay, in the memory of everyone growing up in a pack of argumentative siblings – was the dancing, wailing ghost windsock, which I’m now realizing my parents probably hung in our living room to mock us during our October fights.

It’s 1997: Let’s All Decorate With Sponge Painting!

Welcome to another edition of Let’s All Decorate! It’s 1997. Maybe we’ve discarded our bonnet-wearing geese, and maybe the last of our weird pastel southwestern stuff has been shipped to Goodwill. If we’re really cool, we might even own a giant tv armoire. But if we are creative, artistic, and like to amp up our home decor using household cleaning products, we have some serious sponge painting going on. It’s like when Elaine Benes wondered who was sponge-worthy, we as a people said “NO. The question is what is sponge-worthy?” And then we collectively answered: Everything. Leave no wall un-sponged!

If you’re too young to remember, or just preferred your walls to be one continuous, non-spongy color, let me explain sponge painting. First you’d paint your wall a base color. In modern times, that is where we leave it. But it was 1997, you were blasting Hanson or Jewel on the radio, wearing one of those shirts with one big stripe across the chest, your curled-under-with-a-round-brush bangs hadn’t drooped yet – you were feeling good and you wanted to keep going. Did you have a sponge and a second paint color? Well then you were ready to create a home decorating masterpiece trainwreck! You’d get a bigass sponge – not a flat kitchen sponge but a big old textured mofo. You’d dab it into paint color number two, then you’d just freaking blot it all over your walls. I mean, you’d re-up the paint when it ran out, which was often because it’s a SPONGE whose job is to absorb stuff. Like, the sponge tried to prevent this decorating atrocity from even happening, but we just kept at it.

You could have more or less overlap depending on how much of the “base” you wanted to show. You could leave the sponge ghosts loud and proud instead of overlapping, like these brown kitchen people. Yeah, that was not how you were supposed to do it.

Also, it helped if your base and sponge colors were variations of the same color instead of… this:Sometimes sponge painting made it look like your house was overtaken by a mud-tornado or a sewage explosion:Sometimes it looked like you chewed up paint and then regurgitated it atop other paint, which doesn’t really make sense, but then again neither does painting your walls with a cleaning implement:But be careful not to press too much paint into your corners! Or actually who cares, it’s all terrible:But hey, if you sponge painted your counters, maybe they’d look like marble!

NO, oh my God just kidding, it would look like your cat walked through tar then trip-trapped across your sink.

You could even sponge up your dresser even though looking at it kind of triggers my vertigo.You could combine your sponging with solid paint and wallpaper, too. It was a way to “mark your territory” for all future homeowners, because this mixed-media masterpiece can’t be easy to remove.

Okay, but why? Look, I’m not an outsider. I was all about the “texture” and “interest” that sponge painting provided. I sponge painted a table and a guest bedroom at my parents’ house. So this is not the perspective of one of those “flat-painters” or “wallpaper people”: I was THERE. I remember. I just don’t totally understand.

Like most members of my generation, I cannot pass up an opportunity to shift the blame to Baby Boomers. Their kids were growing up and they had more time to sink into household projects. This was their answer to a childhood in post-war houses that were painted in solid colors, I guess. Always the rebels, those boomers. Obviously I sponge painted as a child, so sure, my generation was in on it. And after a lifetime of “everyone is special” and “you all get a trophy” we believed that maybe we were decorating savants. But with most decorating trends, “so simple a child could do it” isn’t really an endorsement.

Maybe there weren’t generational factors at play. Maybe it was just the final gasp of 90s DIY culture. Maybe El Nino led to an explosion in the sea sponge population. Or maybe we just all lost our damn minds for a while there.

TV Characters’ Bedrooms That I Covet

As a kid, your bedroom is an important place. It’s the only place that’s really YOURS – or maybe shared with one or two other people, but still. It’s a no-grownup zone, and though your parents probably made you clean it and set some parameters, you had a bit of free reign as far as decorating went. I seriously went with it – in fifth grade, when I got a new bedroom, I went antiquing to pick out the right accessories, and pored over catalogs for months until I found the right bedspread. Even now that I’m older, I love seeing character’s home spaces on tv. Like a child’s room, the way these people decorate their bedrooms – the place in their house that outsiders wouldn’t usually see – tells you a lot about their character. Plus, the set designers just make them look really, really cool. Until I was preparing this post, I didn’t realize that set decorator would probably be my dream job. Here are some of my favorites.

Clarissa Darling Obviously, right? Clarissa’s bedroom had everything! Her own computer game system. An amphibian named Elvis. Multicolored, hand-painted furniture. Mismatched quilts. A hat collection. Partially painted-over wallpaper. Hubcaps. License plates. SAM.

Carrie Bradshaw

I know Carrie’s apartment is pretty unobtainable, but I love how her bedroom wasn’t TOO perfect. It was cozy, with bookshelves and a big comfy duvet. Even her radiator was cute. I remember reading an interview with the set decorator back when Sex and the City was still on, and she said that Carrie’s apartment was done in the shades of a bruise, since she was a little brokenhearted when she moved in. While that sounds grody, it’s actually a really pretty color scheme – soft gray, light green, and shades of blue and violet.

Jess Day

While the word “adorkable” could go away forever, this bedroom kind of IS adorably dorky. I love the bright teal wall contrasted with the brick, the clustered prints over the bed, and the fun printed bedspread. I could actually see Jess picking out all of these items. While Jess has some ditzy moments, she’s a teacher so we know she isn’t dumb. I’m happy to see some books in here to remind us of that.

Literally All of the Main Teens in Pretty Little Liars

I like how dark Aria’s room is, actually. Plus the gumwood gives it a craftsman vibe, and all I really want right now is to own a pre-1940s bungalow. My dream Arts and Crafts house is on the market now, about 10K too high and 4 months to early for me to buy it, so this is all a little fresh for me. Anyway.  The window seat is to die for. I’m usually not too into bedroom wallpaper, but this is so soft and pretty with the light furniture and white  french doors. I wish I could find a picture of the whole bedroom, because while the decor is pretty dainty, Spencer has a hardcore desk/bulletin board situation. So Type A! I know at some point we’ll all be over gray as a neutral (we got there with taupe, after all), but Hanna’s bedroom is just so nice. I’m less jealous of the bedroom and more of the adjoining bathroom with a clawfoot tub. I’ve always sort of wanted a white iron bed, so of course I love Emily’s bedroom. Plus an alcove AND a window seat!?! Between that and the cheerful, but not to bright, yellow and green color scheme, this is a winner.

Cora, Countess of Grantham

This image is from http://chameleon-interiors.blogspot.com/2012/02/downton-abbey-putting-downton-to-bed.html, which has a great analysis of Downton Abbey bedrooms, if you’re so inclined.

Really, I love all of the bedrooms in Downton, but I especially like how, despite the heavy furniture and being in a stone castle, this feels breezy and airy. I love the fireplace, too – so cozy! I expect that this bedroom comes fully equipped with a lady whose job it is to brush and braid my hair before I go to sleep. It goes without saying that I picked Cora’s bedroom over Mary’s because a Turkish houseguest didn’t pass away in the bed.

Based on the above list, I think I have some criteria for a perfect bedroom. Sloped ceilings or an alcove, mixed prints, giant plush bedding, books, and some kind of windowseat or built-ins. When I was a kid, I loved kids’ rooms with multiple sets of bunkbeds or rows of beds. Like Madeline, except that I don’t want to live with a dozen French orphan children. Basically, if I end up in a tiny house with a ton of kids, I’ll be all set, decorating-wise. Otherwise, I’m screwed.