Nurturing a Hygge Life
A new boutique brings hygge to the mountains
[Élan Photographie Studio]
When Alexandra Gove and Koen van Renswoude met at a Vail ski swap in 2011, they had no idea they would soon embark on a journey that would place them at the forefront of a lifestyle movement.
The future owners of Hygge Life home décor store in Avon, Colorado, fell in love that summer while working in the hospitality industry. After Koen returned to his native Amsterdam, they dated long-distance before Gove, raised in Colorado, joined him in 2012.
The owners of Hygge Life have poured their hearts into bringing their passion for hygge to customers, selling intentionally selected vintage and artisan-crafted pieces—from candles, candleholders and toys to sheepskins, linens and kitchenware—that encourage and inspire the creation of thoughtful, comfy, celebratory home spaces. [Élan Photographie Studio]
While van Renswoude completed a master’s degree in political science, Gove worked and absorbed Dutch culture. “I loved their ability to slow down and be present,” she says. “How cozy and intentional homes and cafes felt.”
On a trip to Copenhagen, while touring and admiring local design, she deeply connected with a similar quality. “I read an article about hygge, a cultural practice of cultivating moments of coziness and comfort. It spoke to a part of me that didn’t get enough attention. Sparks flew, and I thought—I have to do something with this!”
Hygge Life in Avon, Colorado, offers a variety of ideas for incorporating the increasingly popular Danish practice of “hygge,” pronounced “hoo-ga,” slowing down and savoring each moment. [Photo by Élan Photographie Studio]
Gove became captivated with finding products to create hygge spaces. In 2014 the couple fixed up an old camper van and traversed Europe, selling van Renswoude’s Dutch pancakes and hygge-inspired toys and textiles at local markets. “Alex kept a blog to inform friends and family about our adventures,” he recalls.
Their efforts took on a life of their own, trans-forming them into hygge pioneers. “Unintentionally, through the blog, it became a hygge story (especially when the trend started in the states),” Gove says, “jumpstarting our business.”
Candlelight, soft pillows and plush blankets help transform small spaces into comfy havens within which to practice hygge. Positioning a comfortable chair in a tranquil corner by a window or fireplace encourages reading and relaxation. [Ali Vagnini]
The couple stayed in Amsterdam almost two more years while Gove launched a website and online business selling vintage and artisan-crafted hygge pieces including candleholders, toys, textiles and kitchenware, occasionally returning to Colorado to sell at local markets. They moved back in 2016, continuing to sell at markets and pop-ups before opening their brick-and-click Hygge Life store of thoughtfully selected products.
They recently added an indoor-outdoor, Wi-Fi-free cafe where customers can unplug, savor coffee and experience hygge. They also host dinners with local chefs and musicians in various locations—“old warehouses, churches, schools; the Bread Bar in Silver Plume”—and dream of opening a hotel, shop and cafe in one.
Kristen Rodgers Photography
Gove, whose book Dwell, Gather, Be (Blue Star Press) was published this fall, says the couple incorporates hygge into their busy lives, intentionally pausing to nurture and connect. “We take time for coffee, sit on the bench outside and talk with a neighbor. You remember those times at the end of the day.”
Van Renswoude agrees. “Hygge helps you put things in perspective. Having that word, hygge, makes you take those moments more, notice and remember them.”
Hygge Your Home for the Holidays and Year-Round
CURATE TOWARD YOUR LIFESTYLE Design toward how you live and what and who you most treasure rather than trends or styles. Make your home reflect you and your family traditions. Enjoy baking Christmas cookies with your kids? Add a stool in the kitchen along with child-friendly utensils. THINK COZY NOOKS Light candles and transform small spaces into comfy havens. Nestle pillows and blankets in a magic spot near the Christmas tree. Position a comfortable chair in a tranquil corner by a window or fireplace to encourage rest and reading. HYGGE WHEN ENTERTAINING Use precious family glassware, tableware and candleholders to create ambience and make guests feel especially celebrated. Serve special wines and family dishes and dine by candlelight. Make time for coffee, tea, hot cocoa and conversation. UNPLUG AND SEIZE THE MOMENT Over the holidays and year-round, embrace hygge by leaving technology at the door. Place a basket at the entryway of your home for devices where they can be plugged into chargers. Make meals and bedrooms technology-free zones. MAKE EVERY DAY A HYGGE DAY Break out something cherished—glassware, dishes, linens—each day, rather than only on special occasions. Pause to partake in hygge every day.