For the next instalment of our Eldvarm Encounters, we chatted with the lovely Hygge Life founders Alexandra Gove and Koen van Renswoude. Based in the Rocky Mountains resort of Vail, the Hygge Life store brings together the Northern European principles of slower, more intentional living with an American twist.
We learn about how the concept of their shop came about, what Alexandra and Koen’s favourite principles of hygge are and how they incorporate them into their daily routines. We love the idea that they discovered the hygge philosophy in Europe and brought it back with them when they settled down in the States.
Hygge Life all started in the Hygge Bus, a camper van that the couple drove through France, Spain, and Switzerland, traveling, cooking, and meeting people. These connections and moments that they shared gave life to the idea of bringing hygge back to the US, hence the birth of their concept store. The store has grown in recent years to include a cafe, incorporating an even cozier element to their venture, as people gather around food or simply take a moment to themselves.
We so loved chatting with Hygge Life and we hope that you enjoy reading our interview.
Can you give us a little background on your store and how your interest in Hygge came about?
After Koen and I met in Vail, we moved to his hometown of Amsterdam where I first encountered the Northern European way of slow, intentional, thoughtful living – what the Dutch call gezelligheid. People were actually sitting down to drink their coffee! When I travelled to Copenhagen, I found hygge and it quickly became clear that this way of life was needed back home in the US – hence, Hygge Life was born.
What do you think is your favourite principle from the European learnings of Hygge and Lagom etc?
Hygge is a verb in the Danish language so you can actively pursue these cosy, warm moments – invite your friends over to drink wine by the fire and hygge!
What are some small steps that you would suggest to people to implement a bit of Hygge into their life?
Pay attention to the moments that bring you joy and contentment – moments when you feel like there is nowhere else you’d rather be. Slow down to appreciate these moments and try to recreate them in your daily life. And of course, light lots of candles and gather around the fire with loved ones as much as you can.
We love your slow living philosophy that you highlight in your book Dwell Gather Be and it is definitely one that we subscribe to here at Eldvarm. What are some of your favourite ways to spend the weekend in a slow capacity?
We live in the Rocky mountains and are lucky to be surrounded by beautiful nature. In the summer, we love to go on hikes or sit in the sun on our mountain-facing patio. In the winter months, snowy walks and days spent lounging or reading by the fire are some of our favourite ways to spend the weekend. Nature has a way of fulfilling you just by witnessing its beauty.
Your little blue van trips seem idyllic, what has been your most memorable trip in your van?
After Koen’s graduation, we went on a three-month long trip throughout France, Spain and Switzerland. To pay for our trip we baked poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes) and sold them at markets along the way. This trip conjures up all sorts of happy memories that will be with us forever.
What is one book that you always share with friends and family, and what is your favourite book on design?
One of my favourite novels is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I love the way he tells history through the building of a Cathedral spanning several generations.
One of my favourite design books is A Frame for Life by Ilse Crawford. Ilse is a renowned designer that puts the human and emotion at the centre of her projects. Crawford says: “When I look at making spaces, I don’t just look at the visual. I’m much more interested in the sensory thing, in thinking about it from the human context, the primal perspective, the thing that touches you.”
We like to think that collectibles connect us to memories and people from the past. What is your most precious item that you have in your home and why?
In my kitchen, I have a small still-life painting of a golden onion sitting on a colourful, patterned textile. I remember having dinner at my Grandmother’s table and peering up at this painting with awe and delight as we dined together. I was so excited when she gifted it to me – it still gives me the same feelings of joy and reminds me of moments with my Grandmother.
What first attracted you to our range and what is now your favourite product?
I will always remember the moment we set eyes on the Fire Companion set for the first time. We were first attracted to its obvious beauty – the colours, natural materials and leather details. Then, we found out that it was just as functional as it was beautiful and made with love, thought and intention. It was love at first sight!
The four pillars of Eldvarm are Love, Beauty, Generosity, and Vulnerability. What do these words mean to you?
These words symbolise elements of authentic connection, whether that connection is with another person, nature or yourself. True beauty is found in relationships based in love, generosity and vulnerability.
We believe that the fireplace is the heart(h) of the home, where memories and stories are created and shared. Do you have a favourite childhood memory of being around the fireplace?
I grew up with a gas fireplace, but I will still always remember the feeling when the fireplace was turned on. It meant we were home and there was nowhere else to be. It would be a day of relaxing, resting, eating, and connecting as a family.
If you ever find yourself in Vail, be sure to go and pay Alexandra and Koen a visit. They’ll be delighted to welcome you to their Hygge Life.