Umage is the new hygge: how to work this Scandi trend into your interiors

The Danish word 'umage' means 'make a bit more effort' and it's the latest in a long line of Scandinavian lifestyle trends that's influencing home decor

14 October 2018 - 00:07 By Jessica Doyle
Umage is the new Scandinavian lifestyle trend in town.
Umage is the new Scandinavian lifestyle trend in town.

First, there was hygge, the Danish term for cosiness, wellbeing and a fuzzy feeling of contentment. Next came lagom, the Swedish word meaning "just enough", which espoused living with less, shopping mindfully and decorating sustainably. Now there's a new Scandinavian lifestyle trend in town, and its name is umage (pronounced "oo-may"), which loosely translates from the Danish as "make a bit more effort".

Not such an appealing concept on the face of it. Where hygge was about pulling on a pair of cashmere leggings and lighting a candle, and lagom evoked visions of wafting elegantly around a clutter-free home, umage calls to mind HIIT classes, ironing bed linen and working late.

Yet perhaps there's something to be said for making a bit more of an effort with your interiors. We all have that part of our home that isn't quite working for us, whether it's the cupboard door that won't shut, a chaotic bookshelf, or the paint colour that hasn't lived up to expectations. By addressing these niggles, and putting a little work in, we could end up with a home that helps us to feel more relaxed.

Danish designer Soren Ravn Christensen is so on board with the concept that he has changed the name of his furniture and lighting company, formerly Vita Copenhagen, to Umage. For him, it's a key element of the Danish character, particularly design.

Reorganising a shelf can be a calming, relaxing experience.
Reorganising a shelf can be a calming, relaxing experience.

"It's in our DNA," he says. "Denmark is a small country with few natural resources, so we've always had to go above and beyond to make things. Growing up as a Dane, you learn that you have to be better than the rest."

This, he suggests, is what helped to propel Danish furniture design to the forefront of the Scandinavian modern movement from the 1930s on: think of a design classic and it's likely a chair by Hans J Wegner, Arne Jacobsen or Verner Panton will spring to mind.

Christensen's take on the concept is to make a new collection of flatpack furniture - and that, you might think, is the very essence of making an effort. Yet the pieces are simple and quick to put together, he insists, and come with extra design details, for example chairs without visible screws. Its unique selling proposition is that everything is flexible and multifunctional, so the furniture itself works harder for your home, making the effort on your behalf.

"Our philosophy is that if we're going to make another piece of furniture, we've got to bring a new angle, a new functionality to it," he explains. The collection includes a coat hook that doubles as a shelf for holding keys and wallets; a coffee table with a leather "hammock" beneath, into which you can shove stuff when you need to clear the surface; and a comfortable three-seater sofa with seat cushions that can be flipped over to reveal trays, and accessories such as side tables and reading lamps that can be clipped on.

Pictures can instantly add character to a space.
Pictures can instantly add character to a space.

Other ideas include side tables with concealed charging hubs; a curvy cabinet with a tambour sliding door that can reveal or conceal its contents; and chairs with interchangeable upholstery so you can change the look when you get bored.

As the Danish product designer Henrik Sørig Thomsen, who exhibited at 100% Design in London, puts it: "Design is successful when the product continues to surprise and provide pleasure long after the purchase."

All of which suggests that when thought and care are put into a piece of furniture, the results are hard-wearing, long-lasting pieces that add beauty to an interior. A philosophy that, when extended to the design of a whole home, will surely result in a comfortable environment that feels good to be in. So maybe it's worth putting in that extra effort after all.


1. Take your lead from another Scandinavian design tip and have different textiles for different seasons. Cushion covers, throws, bed linen can be easily stored when not in use. Changing your textiles in autumn and spring will instantly refresh a room without you having to do - or spend - too much. Some Scandinavians change their curtains seasonally, but that might seem a bit too umage.

2. Make a list of any small jobs that need to be done in each room of your house. For example, redoing damaged paintwork, or clearing and organising a kitchen drawer. Then set aside a day each month to do one or two chores on the list.

3. A sure-fire way to make a difference to a room is by adding greenery. A tall, floor-standing plant will add height to a seating area, while a smaller, trailing plant adds interest to a shelf. Most plants will need a bit of looking after, but the aesthetic and air-cleaning benefits are worth it.

4. Create a shelfie. Writer and stylist Martha Roberts has written a book on the subject called Shelfie: Clutter-clearing Ideas for Stylish Shelf Art, and maintains that clearing and then reorganising a mantelpiece, bookcase or kitchen shelf is a calming, relaxing experience. Plus, once you've done it, you'll be looking at a thoughtfully arranged collection of objects, rather than a stress-inducing jumble.

5. You don't have to buy something new to change your interior. Think about moving your furniture around from time to time; rearranging it can completely transform the look of a room.

6. Put things up on the walls. Pictures can instantly add character to a space. Frame a collection of inexpensive prints, family photos, even children's drawings. Lay them out on the floor to come up with an arrangement you like, then use masking tape to delineate where on the wall to hang them. - The Telegraph