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Perfecting the Art of Cozy

One of my goals over the next few months (years?), is to bring some of what I learned in grad school to Row House Living. For two and a half years, I studied project management but for another year, I studied creativity. Part of this exploration included the background, motivation, and activity of creativity. The other part was the study of creativity from a research, trends and attitudes perspective. Both creativity and project management have a role to play, helping us to define and attain our perfect idea of home.

It seems odd to discuss cozy when it’s 90+ humid degrees outside for most of the continental United States. Where I’m located, in Philadelphia, Pa., it’s downright soupy. However, I’m also working on a new crochet project which will be ready by the time the weather has turned cold and dark. Sometimes, one has to prepare to be cozy in advance.

I researched the concept of cozy during my international creativity course in school and thought I would share some of what I discovered. In particular, I found that the Scandinavian countries had the practice of being cozy down to a science and used creativity amply to attain maximum coziness.

The first use of the word cozy, describing warmth, comfort, ease, and intimacy, appeared in the early 18th Century, along with the development of private space (see It is a uniquely domestic and personal concept; the workplace not needing to be particularly cozy and cozy meaning different things to different people.

In Scandinavia, Denmark has its own word for cozy, hygge, which “derives from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning ‘to comfort’ or ‘to console,’ which is related to the English word ‘hug’” (see The Scandinavian attitude towards the domestic arrangement is that it should be a place of comfort if nothing else. This comfort can either be something you provide for yourself or something you provide to others through hospitality and cinnamon rolls, perhaps.

We are big fans of hygge, pronounced hoo-gah, and always looking for ways to make our little row house, very snug and cozy. I made the following short list:

  • Fluffy and soft bedding, especially nice for those cold and drafty nights, unavoidable in an older home.
  • Candles and soft lighting. No one wants to feel like they’re being interrogated. Bright light is for work.
  • Soft textures underfoot and as upholstery. I will add that a well-worn leather sofa can be cozy.
  • Ability to relax. On one hand, I desire early American and Dutch 17th Century antiques. However, two things make furniture from these periods un-cozy. First, the idea that furniture should be comfortable didn’t really come about until the 19th Century. I have a Windsor chair and unless you add a throw pillow, your butt and upper legs fall asleep after 15 minutes. Second, I would be very anxious about anyone breaking something that’s several hundred years old. At a certain point, furniture becomes an artifact. Therefore, antiques are definitely not cozy. This is why I have a lot of reproductions and IKEA.
  • Delicious baked goods and tea/coffee. During the holidays, a nice warm cup of mulled wine or cider is also quite soothing.
  • Intimate gatherings of friends and family. We’re fond of board games and other activities that prompt laughter.
  • Being organized, which is a particular area of comfort for the ADHD person. It is definitely not cozy to spend 30 minutes looking around for one’s keys. It is also not cozy to feel overwhelmed by the weight of one’s possessions. There is a certain well-being that comes from a reduction in visual clutter, especially for those who are easily distracted. You can keep your things, just visually simplified in creative storage.

Cozy is definitely personal. What are some of your favorite ways to embrace cozy in your row house?

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