Allison Jaffe illuminates the holidays with the merry and modern Nordic design philosophy, hygge.

By Emily C. Laskowski, Photos by Reagen Taylor

“Are you familiar with hygge?” asks Allison Jaffe, the award-winning Austin-based interior designer. We had heard the term before, mentioned by former Austin Woman cover woman Meredith Walker at our 14th anniversary celebration in September, but wanted to consult the experts. According to, hygge (pronounced “hooga”), “translates roughly to ‘cosiness.’ ” Curious about how this Danish philosophy has influenced modern design sensibilities, Austin Woman asked Jaffe to replace customary Christmas trimmings with signature hygge style. As the holiday hullabaloo kicks off, try Jaffe’s tips for easy embellishment to warm up your own inviting spaces.

In This Room

Contempo Designs Diana sofa
2 Modern James DeWulf periodic coffee table
Thayer Coggin Milo chairs
Sonno Mongolian fur stool
Table lamp from World Market
Floor lamp and chair pillow from Target
The Future Perfect Ovis hanging chair
Black Sheet custom rug
Side table from Home Goods
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams log table
Robert Allen Brushstroke pillow
Stockton Hicks Laffey pillow
“Summer Light” art over the sofa by Caroline Wright

“In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family, that’s hygge too. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting ’round a table discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are the happiest people in the world?”

Allison Jaffe, the award-winning Austin-based interior designer

Less is More

“Decorating with smaller and fewer items maintains the holiday spirit without feeling overwhelming and fussy.”

Simple Styling

“Carefully select the accessories you bring into your home. Purchase items that bring meaning into your space. I like decorating with antique and vintage finds that remind me of my travels.”

Light Up

“Did you know Danes burn more candles than any other people in Europe? I love purchasing new holiday scents to fill the air when I am decorating my space for the long winter haul.”

Holiday Hangout

“Embrace the cold and fire up that fondue pot. Getting together with your friends and loved ones is one of the most important ways to share in the hygge way of life.”

Keep It Natural

“Decorating with organic elements is a great way to bring the outside in. … Pine cones or pumpkins are great and suitable options for the holiday season.”

Dress for Less

“Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to be expensive. Shopping at local stores for fun finds is a fun and inexpensive way to layer your space for the holidays.”

Get the Look

Birch bark candles, $4 to $13, World Market,

Silver standing deer, $48, Pier 1 Imports,

Star resin object, $34, West Elm,



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