Hygge: How the Danish lifestyle choice is finding a home in Cumbria

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Imagine the perfect winter’s night... candles flickering, log fire blazing and a glass of red warming in the hand. The darkness of Scandi-noir drama is on the telly while that home-cooked dinner bubbles away in the oven.

Or you could be sitting with a cup of coffee, favourite book in hand with your woolly jumper draped across your shoulders.

Get the picture? Well to the Danish these are moments of hygge; gentle soothing times which allow you to appreciate the little things in life.

The Danes are said to be among the happiest people in the world – and apparently they burn more candles than anywhere else in Europe.

Moments are to be cherished for what they are. That meal with friends; everyone sitting round the kitchen table sharing stories and laughing at old jokes.

It’s about shutting out the day. Forgetting those problems at work or the fact that the car needs a new exhaust.

Hygge – pronounced “heur-gha” with a sound a bit like clearing your throat – is apparently that fuzzy warm feeling of taking pleasure from the simplest of activities. It’s a lifestyle choice which has been embraced by the Scandinavians.

Danes enjoy their homes immensely. Candles aside they appreciate the beauty and practicality of natural materials with sofas and chairs strewn with cosy throws and cushions. It’s about taking time to slow down in an otherwise hectic world and enjoy your home comforts.

We may all tend to hunker down and hibernate during the long winter months but the Danish have turned it into something of an art form to help get through the endless cold damp days of winter. Spring is almost upon us but home and hearth are still oh so tempting.

Come summer Hygge is that leisurely beer in the garden or an ice cream on the park bench while the kids play on the swings – just enjoying life for the moment.

Ali Vaughan is owner of Mucky Ducky in Carlisle’s Corporation Road and knows all about making your home your haven.

An illuminated sign “Be Happy Be Hygge” greets visitors to Ali’s emporium of the shabby chic. Candlelight illuminates the upstairs room with its industrial-look bare brick walls interrupted here and there with bright wallpaper bearing a gold overlay.

Thick, sumptuous quilts adorn chairs with plump cushions and flamboyantly floral lampshades vying for space among the room lights worked from old pipes. In the corner a phrenology head and on the shelf a couple of stuffed ducks.

Candles flicker on every surface, a reflection of Ali’s home in Cumwhinton near Carlisle where she lives with husband Adam, daughter Ella, nine, and three-year-old Max in a 17th century cottage.

 Ali Vaughan

Ali Vaughan

“I have candles burning all over the house and always light one when I go in the bath. It’s all about making the home cosy and welcoming,” says 33-year-old Ali, known to her friends as Ducky.

“I totally get the Danish idea of Hygge. I love my home and making it as comfortable as possible as a place for relaxation and enjoyment after a day at work.”

Ali is from Portrush in County Antrim and first came to Carlisle to study graphic design and photography at what is now the University of Cumbria’s Institute of the Arts in Brampton Road. She went on to become head of the art department at Carlisle’s Richard Rose Central Academy before leaving to pursue her love of interior design.

“I’ve always had a massive interest in interior design,” says Ali.

“It is one of my passions. When I was a child I used carpet cut-offs and bits of wallpaper to decorate my doll’s house.

“People have latched onto cosy and comfortable living. When it’s cold and dark outside it’s good to make your home warm and inviting. The Danes call it Hygge but I suppose it is what everyone does in winter.

“On dark days there is nothing like the welcome glow of candles. Entertaining friends at home and just enjoying where you live.

“I can hardly get on the sofa at home for all the throws and cushions. We have a box of throws which is there for the winter so everyone can just grab one and snuggle up. Bliss.”

Ali started Mucky Ducky as a hobby after moving into the family’s cottage when Ella was just six months old.

“It was damp and needed a lot of work. Money was tight and I started going round second-hand shops buying old furniture to do up.

“I’m mad about ducks – we have seven as pets – and I was always called Mucky as a child so I started a Facebook page under the name of Mucky Ducky. The business developed from there.”

She is always ready to advise and help those who want to re-style their homes.

“I just love helping people transform their homes by personalising old items of furniture giving them a new lease of life,” she says.

Ali opened her first shop at High Hesket for a short period before moving into Corporation Road in November 2015 and now spends her time looking for pieces of furniture and oddments which take her fancy.

At the moment she is working on the interior design of a new bar being developed in Stanwix by Ilka Rhoades and Alex Murrell of The Thin White Duke in Carlisle city centre.

“I’m loving it,” says Ali. “The project allows me to use my design skills with nice, rich colours and pieces of my furniture.”

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