You know that corner of your home that really needs some help, but you’ve been too scared to go there? Us too. But rather than avoiding the issue for another month (or three) we decided to challenge ourselves to transform these spaces by taking the Danish concept of hygge and applying it to our messiest, most lackluster corners. In the end, not only did our spaces look more pulled together, they all took on a more personalized, cozy feel that matched each of our lifestyles and tastes.
What Is Hygge?
You may have heard the word "hygge" tossed around a bit in the last few years. Pronounced "hoo-gah" (not "higgy"), hygge roughly translates to "coziness". It's the feeling that's evoked when you think of being curled up inside a cabin nestled deep in the woods surrounded by candles, chunky knits, and a crackling fireplace. Hygge is all about surrounding yourself with people, objects, colors, and an environment that brings you comfort and contentment, which means it can be different for everyone. It's intentional living at its finest—and coziest.
The Hygge Your Home Challenge
With most of our team living in the New York / New Jersey metro area, the outside world often feels loud, cluttered, and hectic. This means our homes, more than anything, need to be sanctuaries for respite and relaxation. Because hygge is all about making comforting spaces, we challenged The Spruce, and our pals over at MyDomaine, to take a corner of their home and give it a touch of hygge without spending more than $50. To help determine who did it best, we tapped influencer Dee Campling, interior stylist and master of making any home look hygge, to assess the before-and-after results.
Ahead, see how our editors transformed their spaces to give off the comfiest Scandinavian vibes and pull some inspiration for infusing some hygge into your own home. Bonus: Find out which space Dee thought was the most hygge-fied and why. (Scroll to the bottom to see the official results!)
A Cozy Bedroom Corner — Margot Cavin, Photo Producer of The Spruce
"I call this 'you're never too old for a teddy bear.' I chose my dresser area because it was getting a little out of control with clutter, and since it's right next to my bed, it's a space that should be cozy. I bought a throw pillow ($20, Target) to break up the ocean of pinstripe, and added my childhood teddy bear that I can't bear (pun intended) to throw away. I removed things from the dresser that I don't use daily and dusted the surfaces. Creating this hygge space was more about decluttering than adding. I did purchase a small gold votive holder and bud vase ($8, Target) to add some levels on the shelf above my dresser. I think it's important to go to sleep and wake up to a space that isn't out of control. I think this a process I should make into a routine, because I'm sure it'll need to be done again!"
Total Spent: Just under $30
A Green Thumb's Glowing Haven — Allison Bean, Editorial Director of The Spruce
"The corner of my living room has been a bit bare since my husband and I moved in last August, and after we took down our Christmas decor that empty feeling seemed to triple. The rattan shelf was a Goodwill find from early last summer—I had been struggling to find the perfect spot for it as my apartment skews a bit modern and the shelf is so boho. Once I added the larger potted plants and the bench to the corner of my living room it created the perfect shelf nook.
A lot of what you see here are items I already owned, just styled in a new way. The plants (Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil' and Pothos ‘Marble Queen’) were already part of my collection. On the second shelf I have a geode ($20, Homegoods) and my plant books; two are vintage and the other is Hilton Carter’s “Wild at Home, a must-read for any new plant parents. While I love the look of rattan furniture, these particular shelves are a bit wonky and prone to wobbling, so I got a tray ($15, Target) to display a few more decorative objects including the funky af hurricane (on clearance, $7, Homegoods) and a vintage brass parrot (if you’re ever in Asbury Park, NJ stop by Salvage Angel!)
The watering can was a Target clearance score from a year or so ago—the copper color is no longer available, but they have other options that are just as pretty. (Confession: It’s just for decoration. My pots all have drainage holes so I just water them directly in the sink or shower.) I picked up the basket ($6, Homegoods) to store miscellaneous plant lady paraphernalia (fertilizer, growth hormone, extra planters). Lastly, the string lights ($10, Amazon) add a lovely, hygge glow to the corner and are remote controlled (!!) so I can avoid the nightly ‘Can I unplug this without knocking the shelf over’ saga.
When it comes to styling any area of your home, look to incorporate items you already own first. While it’s tempting to run out and buy all-new everything, your design will feel much more authentic if you’re working with items you already own. Remember that a “finished” design takes time and is ever-evolving. If you focus on collecting or buying objects you truly love throughout your life you’ll create a design that is 100% your own, and that’s something really special."
Total Spent: $58
A Welcoming and Chic Front Entryway — Candace Madonna, Visual Editor of The Spruce
"I chose my entryway because it’s the first space you’d step into so why not make it warm and inviting? A cozy entryway can really set the tone for the rest of the home. I knew I wanted the tried and true hook and bench combo so I started there. The addition of one old and one new basket ($19, Amazon), plus a few of my most-wearables topped it all off.
I ended up spending around $50. I was surprised and delighted to discover that H&M has some amazing, well-priced housewares, like chic wooden hooks ($13, H&M) and Craigslist was a great place to search for gently-used furniture. Now that the space has been transformed, I mostly like that I have a place to sit and put my shoes on. But I also love what a cozy nook this has turned into and the feeling I now get when I enter my apartment.
Throughout the process, I learned that I don’t need to break the bank to revamp my space. Especially in NYC, people are constantly moving and discarding items in a hurry so it’s a thrifter’s paradise. If you’re clever and think outside the box, you might find that item you’ve been searching for."
Total Spent: $50
A Breathtaking Scandi-Inspired Dining Room — Kim Carvalho, Associate Social Media Editor of MyDomaine
"I wanted to hygge a small space in my dining room that felt empty and lacking in life. I am a huge fan of whites and neutrals, and while I didn't plan on adding more color to my space, I did want to add some new life with textures. I relocated this white bench that I had in my bedroom that was serving little to no purpose under my windowsill as decoration. And on top of that, I added a faux fur pelt for added comfort that used to be on my desk chair, but looked a lot nicer on the bench. While I liked the minimal look my dining room had before the hygge challenge, I know the small changes I made have added warmth and coziness to the space.
Along with that, I think it's so important to use what you have and move it around. Sometimes the slightest changes in and around your home can make such a difference, without having to spend anything at all!"
Total Spent: $0
A Minimal and Clean Bedside Table — Melissa Epifano, Associate Lifestyle Editor of The Spruce
"Typically I try to keep my space clean and organized, but sometimes life gets overwhelming and oftentimes my bedside table takes the brunt of it. I decided to clean it off once and for all and make it an intentional space with only a few select items I appreciate and feel good about. I removed the clutter and kept only a few books that I'm currently reading. I also kept a few energy-clearing black tourmaline crystals (Namaste Bookshop). They're supposed to remove negative energy, ground you, and support your immune system. Whether or not it actually works, it's something a sensitive introvert like me desperately needs living in New York City. The candle was also added to really make my room feel warmer and cozier. My silk pillowcases and puffy, cloud-like comforter also boosted the hygge appeal. I wanted to keep things simple and not overbearing, while still sticking to things that are inherently 'me.' Books, for example, are something that mean the world to me. Thankfully, my partner has the same mindset towards them, so our apartment is full of books and I never feel pressure to have to get rid of them (sorry Marie Kondo). That being said, it's easy for one too many of them to start piling up around my home or a disheveled pile of them to accumulate on my bedside table.
I didn't really spend anything to clear and curate my little space. Other than my books—which are already a recurrent monthly spending category (oops)—the rest were gifts. One was a gorgeously scented candle ($20, PF Candle Co.) from my all-time favorite candle company. The air plant and rock vase were gifts from my mom and sister and everything else are products I had already owned."
A Perfectly Curated Wall Niche — Sami Allen, Lifestyle Editor of The Spruce
"This is one of my favorite little corners in my home because even though it's the furthest from natural sunlight, it's a bright area that catches the eye (thanks to the painted white brick and the wall niche). We had been using it as a place to throw all the cat toys, but this corner had so much more potential. I approached the hygge challenge by swapping out just a few things. First, I switched out the red pillow covers on the couch for white furry covers I found at a local store to give the space an extra cozy vibe. Then, I replaced the framed art print with a muted vase and filled it with some dried flowers my roommate picked up a few weeks ago. I took a few books from the bookshelf and sat them against the vase for some contrast. We moved the cat toys to another corner and added a big wicker basket ($48, Wayfair) filled with our comfiest throw blankets to the corner. For a final touch, I placed the cats' bed next to the basket to encourage my cats to hang out in this area—they deserve some hygge in their lives, too!
Between the dried flowers, the pillow covers, and the big wicker basket, my roommate and I spent just under $50. I love that this space has some softer textures and doesn't feel cluttered even though we've added a bit more to the corner. I learned to think about every piece I was adding and taking away from a room and the weight that piece held in tying a room together. One small change can actually transform an area of your home!"
Total Spent: Just under $50
A Cozy Reading Nook — Mélanie Berliet, General Manager of The Spruce
"I chose to hygge-ify an abandoned corner of my bedroom that seemed like the exact right place for a reading nook. Books are important to me, and I like to read in cozy spaces. I spent $22 on a tasseled throw because a good blanket is key to feeling comfy-cozy while diving into a book. The throw, you’ll note, is tossed onto the chair rather than folded and deliberately placed because The Law of Hygge Living demands as much. I also grabbed a few accents from around my home that felt like they belonged in a reading corner, including a few coffee table books and a scented candle. The framed photo was placed intentionally to add a personal element to the space. And the half open book and tea mug were meant to evoke a lived-in feeling. What I learned through this process is that it's really tough to style an Instagram-worthy environment, but you don't need an Insta-grade styled space to feel at home."
Total Spent: $22
A Stylish Sunday Coffee Corner — Jamie Abarca, Editorial Project Coordinator of The Spruce
"This is my Sunday coffee corner. This bench has been around since my first apartment. It has graduated from storing extra sweaters to storing extra toddler shoes and winter accessories. To make it more hygge, I added a simple throw—the same color as my dog to hide dog hair—a serving tray ($20, Target), and a decorative pillow ($19, Target).
I spent just under $50 to decorate the space and I love that I’ve brought so much character to my little nook. I have a pillow to give my back support and the throw helps with the chill since this nook is right next to a window. Bonus: it's an extra cozy area for our dog, Daisy. With this challenge, I learned that anything can feel new again. This bench is about 7 years old and it's utilitarian in every way. It provides extra storage and extra seating whenever it's needed. Bringing it back to life did not require a new expensive furniture purchase and I am very grateful for that!"
Total Spent: $50
A Comfy Sun-Soaked Corner — Bridget Mallon, Associate Editorial Director of MyDomaine
"This empty corner has been the bane of my existence for the approximately 1.5 years I’ve lived in my current apartment. Everything felt like it was taunting the design editor side of my personality: The router and modem just sitting on the floor surrounded by cords, the windowsill covered in half-used candles and an empty vase, the sheer amount of dead space just waiting for some love. It was all an afront to my aesthetic. And yet, I let it sit there untouched for months. Until this challenge, of course.
I have to admit that my collection of home goods is pretty extensive, which meant I had plenty of pieces to pull from to style this corner. My bedroom closet is stacked sky high with throw blankets and I have a collection of accent pillows that I switch out seasonally. But what truly came in clutch this time around was one of my Acapulco chairs that has been gathering dust out on my back balcony. I’m lucky enough to have two balconies—which is almost unheard of as an NYC dweller—but I tend to use the front one a lot more. So, I’ve been plotting a full redesign of the long, skinny back balcony for the spring. That meant I had two perfectly good chairs just waiting for a new home.
I decided to relocate one into this empty corner to create a lovely little reading nook. Because the rest of my living space is pretty much devoid of color (what can I say, I just love a good neutral) I also added a few blush accessories. The chenille blanket is an old West Elm find, and the pillow is from Article, though it admittedly sat forgotten under my bed for close to a year. I also removed the sad collection of candles in favor of two that were in better shape, one from FVITH and one from Brooklyn Candle Studio.
Once I had the base of the vignette set, it was time to finish off the look. I picked up a white and copper basket ($8, Dollar General) to stash my cords and router, and while it’s still a bit of an eyesore, it’s so much more palatable. I also stopped by my local flower shop, Petals and Root, to pick up a bundle of Pussy Willows in the prettiest blush shade ($25). I used the marble vase that had previously sat empty to house the new blooms. Finally, I decided the space needed a little art. Since I envisioned the corner as the perfect place to read, I decided to hang a print of Joan Didion’s beloved Vogue essay, “On Self-Respect,” that my older brother gifted me a few years ago. Because it used to sit propped atop my bedroom bookcase, I also bought a set of Command picture hanging strips ($7, Target).
And now that I see the final product, I can’t believe how long I let it sit empty. It’s proof that a little bit of rearranging, some creativity, and yes, a little cash, can do wonders."
Total Spent: $40
A Chic Indoor Garden — Caroline Utz, Associate Lifestyle Editor of MyDomaine
"My ledge above my radiator has been chronically underused. I realized that while I have succulents and candles strewn about my apartment, I had an opportunity to consolidate them all into a mini garden right under my large window. I didn't spend a dime as I just filled my ledge with things I already owned (candles, succulents, and a few sentimental tchotchkes), and now I have a little green oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle."
Total Spent: $0
Now that you’ve seen what we've done, we encourage you to transform your own corner. You don't have to spend a lot of money or completely revamp your space—it's simply a matter of turning a particularly messy or dull area into one that brings you joy and comfort. If you decide to take on the challenge, be sure to tag us in your photos @thespruceoffical as we'd love to check out your hygge-infused spaces.
Winner: A Perfectly Curated Wall Niche — Sami Allen, Lifestyle Editor of The Spruce
After reviewing each space, Dee decided on the wall niche. "I absolutely loved reviewing and reading about all the hygge your home transformations! I appreciated that everyone involved learned that you can totally change your space just by moving things you already own around, adding a few inexpensive accessories, and sifting through thrift shops. All the makeovers were brilliant. I especially liked the entryway because cozying this area sets the tone for the rest of the house and encourages you to unwind immediately as you enter the house. I also really responded to the use of chairs from outdoors to hygge up an indoor corner because I love blurring the boundaries between outdoors and indoors. My official pick for a winner (though I hate to pick just one!) is the curated wall niche. This quote really moved me: 'I learned to think about every piece I was adding and taking away from a room and the weight that piece held in tying a room together.' Plus, incorporating the cats' coziness was the clincher for me as they deserve some hygge too."