Design dilemma: The art of cosiness

Take your design cues from the Scandinavians if you want a warm, inviting interior, says Medy Navani

Medy Navani. Courtesy Medy Navani
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What does the term “hygge” actually mean, and how does one achieve it?

Creating a sense of intimacy and homeliness in small spaces is among the things that Scandinavians do best. In fact, they even have a name for it: "hygge".  It's a Danish term and the closest translation is “to be or make cosy".

There is an undeniable art to making a space feel "hyggeligt", but it's not unachievable, even in the most lacklustre of spaces. And while we endure scorching Middle Eastern summers, the Scandiavians endure freezing Nordic winters, so we're about equal when it comes to our need to optimise the qualities of our indoor habitats. How then can we bring that sense of hygge into our homes? Here are some simple interior design tips to create a cosy space that you'll never want to leave.

One of the key elements of a snug space is the use of soft, plush accessories. Consider rugs, throws and cushions as key in the curation of cosiness. Even an age-old sofa can be revived with the right selection of warm scatter cushions. I prefer fabrics such as velvet, suede, wool, or heavy-weave cotton, and would avoid cold, shiny materials such as polyester. Drape a luxe knitted or plaid throw over the arm of your sofa, reading chair or chaise, and frame cosy spaces by laying down a textured rug. Throw in an ottoman for a final, cosy touch with Middle East nuances.

A plaid wool knit throw, like this one from Lime Lace, will help create a feeling of cosiness in your space

Walls can make or break your space, and if you're in a position to make changes to them, luckily the solutions are cost effective, easy to apply and can transform a dull, emotionless room into a rich and sophisticated space. My favourite technique is to install 3D-pattern wallpapers; they bring your walls to life by adding drama and can bring loads of character to your room. Believe it or not, wallpapers are super quick and easy to install, with various reputable suppliers offering this service in the UAE. Of course, there is also the option of an accent wall painted in your favourite colour. But don't forget to repeat the colour in accessories, cushions or artwork, to make it a complete and coordinated concept, without being contrived.

Take "hyggeligt" to the next level by creating a private nook to curl up in. I like to create nooks in larger rooms to provide a separate cosy space that can be used for reading, speaking on the phone, resting or simply pondering. If you have a quiet corner in your home that currently serves little purpose, think about installing a built-in banquette or twin bed to serve as a day bed that you can enhance with cushions and a lovely throw. Other cosy nook options include canopy chairs or another style of hero chair that you can snuggle into. Complete the space with a bookshelf, potted plant, soft reading lamp, a scrumptious rug and some candles. Add other personal touches like framed photos or items that have special meaning.

Next, try to bring the outside in. This doesn't mean you need to install a 3 metre by 4m living wall or convert your space into an indoor rainforest, but simple injections of live greenery can do wonders for your  space. For low maintenance plants that you needn't water daily, a opt for succulents displayed in beautiful pots from your favourite homewares stores, unique ceramic pots made by artists or DIY pots you have decorated yourself. I always suggest directing your attention beside the sofa or lounge chair, because these are often areas that can be neglected and left looking a little empty.

Also rethink recycled furniture. There are countless DIY clips and videos online and on various social media sites, offering great tips on how to use and improve old  household items. I am always surprised with what you can do with a little bit of creativity and some basic skills. Scandinavians love to do the same with their furniture. For example, let's say you have an old wall shelf with dents and scratches. You can get some great PVC leather and cover it to look like a new and expensive designer piece. And you would be surprised how you can turn some Euro pallets into a cool centre table by spray painting them in matte gold and placing a piece of white marble on top.

Natural materials and wood are another excellent way to enhance the cosiness of your home. Seek out neutral tones in linen and cotton, and bring wood, suede and even leather into the mix to create a warm atmosphere. Introduce one  metal into the equation, such as brass, to ensure details throughout the space are consistent. In combination with a beautiful potted plant, plush lounge with cushions and throw, and the amber hues of soft low lighting and candles, your hygge levels will be through the roof.

Medy Navani, creative director and founder of Design Haus Medy,; Instagram: @designhausmedy

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