It’s not long now until the clocks go back, and I for one can’t wait. I love the dark evenings, and having an excuse to stay indoors and watch Netflix and drink Winter Pimm’s (not that I need one). And of course, as with many delightfully hyggeligt evenings, the ideal way to set it off is with the cosy flicker of candlelight. That’s right – I’m asking you to turn the big light off, find every blanket in your home and read all about Skandinavisk, the purveyors of hygge in home fragrance form. I spoke to Shaun Russell, one of the founders of Skandinavisk, to understand a bit more about how the company came to be and what hygge really means to the Danes.
“Hygge for me is Danish DNA; a reflection of the Scandinavian art of creating intimacy, fellowship and cosiness in the smallest everyday moments,” said Shaun. Shaun is a Brit living in Copenhagen, while business partner Gerry lives in Stockholm (nope, I’m not jealous either). “All Danes hygge many times every day, from the ‘famous’ version where they surround themselves with candles and enjoy food and wine together, to simply a conversation on a bicycle trip, or a phone call between friends – you can actually hygge anywhere. It’s a celebration of life’s small shared moments and it’s the reason why the Danes are generally the happiest nation on earth.”
This is what really appeals to me about hygge – the fact anyone can find it, anywhere. But as the true home of hygge, I wanted to know more about what autumn in Copenhagen feels like. “My Danish wife is a compulsive gardener so we walk the garden appreciating the scent of autumn and the turn of the leaves. We still have a healthy last flush of roses and its like a last hurrah to summer,” Shaun said. “Of course, with the days getting shorter we are also entering the season of a lot more candles and hygge as Scandinavian minds move to indoor hibernation and cosiness at home. For Skandinavisk this means our lives get a lot busier!” This is something you can understand wherever you are – even if you don’t live in a place where you necessarily get cold, gloomy winters, the craving for spending time in a cosy home is universal. You don’t need to buy a cabin in rural Scandinavia to create your own little nest – you can make it happen wherever you are, whenever you need it, in the smallest of ways. “Everyone experiences hygge everyday all over the world. I think the difference is that most people don’t appreciate it or value it for what it can bring to their lives. And most people don’t have a word for it either.”
I asked Shaun why he thinks Scandinavians are such candle fanatics. “It dates back centuries and the need for Scandinavians to come together around a source of heat and light.” I love the idea that this is almost a primal instinct we have – way back when, humans relied on fire and light for survival, and even though most of us are lucky enough not to need it in the same way anymore, there’s still something endlessly charming and inviting about an open fire. And who doesn’t get a kick out of being in a pub when they change from the afternoon to the evening shift, and someone quietly slides a tealight onto each table mid-conversation?
The Skandinavisk collection is, unsurprisingly, irresistably Scandinavian. Everything from the beautiful, pared-down packaging to the names of the scents (‘KOTO’, meaning ‘Home’; FJORD; HYGGE) and the muted colour palette (very Farrow & Ball, very effortlessly chic), this is a collection that could fit into any home, from a traditional log cabin on a lake to a super-modern Manhattan loft. And that’s not easy to do, but somehow, Shaun and Gerry have hit the mark with every single product, from reed diffusers which last up to three months to giant candles to fill a room with Scandi-inspired scents. So what made the pair decide to launch Scandinavisk?
“To tell the story of how Scandinavians lead their lives and the nature that surrounds them. I think it’s a story few people know, but it’s one that defines an entire region and which shapes their view on the world and how life should be led. A view which I consider to be very progressive and admirable. Each fragrance represents a chapter in the story of Scandinavia, each fragrance represents an aspect that we consider unique to the region and precious to its inhabitants, but also exotic and intriguing to outsiders like ourselves.”
And each fragrance really does tell a story – especially the three most popular Skandinavisk scents. ‘HYGGE‘ blends notes of tea, strawberry cake, rose petals and wild mint, which totally sets the scene of a family busy in the home, sharing cosy moments and preparing for a long, dark Nordic winter. “The interesting thing with HYGGE is that while Danes can describe what hygge is, ask them what it smells like and they draw a blank. So when we worked on the HYGGE fragrance it needed to be something extra special – it needed to be cosy (of course), inclusive (the fragrance should not alienate anyone) and not-directional (it shouldn’t smell of something specific).” ‘HAV‘ (meaning ‘sea’) draws inspiration from the miles and miles of Scandinavian coastline, using water flora, driftwood, sea foam and fresh air to open the airways and bring a Scandinavian getaway to any home, anywhere. ‘RO‘, meaning ‘tranquility’, is inspired by the great Nordic outdoors, bringing together fresh grass, crumpled leaves and ambered woods for a sophisticated, earthy journey.
So, aside from filling our homes with the scents of Scandinavia, what can people outside the region do to bring a little more hygge into our lives? “Simply by valuing those small moments above anything else. I think we as Brits tend to look forward to happiness – to the weekend, the vacation, the new car, the big concert or event that we got tickets for, the bigger house… the list is endless. But the problem is we tend to defer happiness, when actually it is right there over the boiling coffee pot. It’s a huge mental shift that I think took me at least 10 years of living in Scandinavia to fully grasp, but it’s really worth it. In the words of John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.” So maybe it’s time for us to stop fixating on those big milestone moments, and to start living in the day. And that starts with creating a home where we can feel truly comfortable, safe and open to experiencing hygge, wherever it presents itself.
You can find out more about the range on the Skandinavisk website. Let me know what you think of the collection! Which products have caught your eye?