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From time to time we hear someone in Denmark describing a vintage light – usually one that gives out a warm glow, such as Claus Bolby's Veega (pictured here) – as "hygge", and over the years we have come to understand that to Danish people this word means something culturally specific that is difficult to translate in a single word. "Cosy" or "comfortable" are the translations most often given, but these words don't convey the whole meaning.
The 1960s publication Design from Denmark, forerunner of the Design from Scandinavia series, attempts a more comprehensive definition. "A Danish word which you will never be able to translate," it says, "is hygge. It means ease, comfort and contentment all added together – yet somehow a lot more than that. The recipe includes fun, food, fairy-tales and friendship. How can such a snug little concept fit in with memories of the violent past and with the demands of the modern world? Can a country be both cosy and competent in this bustling century? People here are sure it can – people who work hard to high standards and yet know how to relax and be cosy in their free and easy democracy where you can cycle right past the King's front door."