I learned about the Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-guh”) when I traveled to Copenhagen in 2018 and reconnected with Karen, a friend I’d met 15 years earlier when we lived in the same neighborhood in Gaithersburg, and both had infants. About three years after we met, she and her family returned home to Denmark, a country that’s been known for having the happiest people on earth.
During my visit, Karen explained that while the term means different things to different people, common elements include soft blankets, warm beverages, maybe the sound of raindrops on the roof, candlelight, and a sense of safety and being cared for. “It’s hard to define,” she said. “But there’s a book on it.”
I saw what she meant when I picked up The Little Book of Hygge—Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Author Meik Wiking writes, “Hygge has been called everything from ‘the art of creating intimacy,’ ‘coziness of the soul,’ and ‘the absence of annoyance’ to ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,’ ‘cozy togetherness,’ and my personal favorite, ‘cocoa by candlelight.’ ”
Given the stress and challenges so many have faced these last few years, I set out to find mid-Atlantic places that evoke a “coziness of the soul.” Here are three such hideaways, whether “hygge” means snuggling up with the one you love at a bed-and-breakfast overlooking snowy hillsides, savoring solo time and art while you write the next great American novel, or sipping cocoa fireside with friends and family at a chalet tucked in the woods.
Go with a group: Lokal Chalet
The Setting: Tucked away on 30 acres of towering trees in southern New Jersey, 15 minutes from the small town of Hammonton (first lady Jill Biden’s birthplace), Lokal Chalet opened in May as the second of Lokal Hotel’s collection of boutique vacation homes. The first, an A-frame cabin with Maurice River frontage, and a third, Lokal Triangle House, also opened recently in New Jersey.
Lokal Chalet, which sleeps eight, has no TV, allowing guests an opportunity to disconnect (though the internet is available). Instead, communal serenity includes a game of pingpong, billiards, darts or cornhole in the home’s “Game Garage,” a soak in the cedar hot tub, and sips of cocoa fireside at one of two firepits with unobstructed views of the stars.
Husband and wife co-owners Chad and Courtney Ludeman created the kind of place that makes you want to stay off your screens and savor time in nature, with one another or with your dog if you have one.
Cozy Elements: While the three-bedroom, two-bath home was once a rundown cabin, its redesign and furnishings are Scandinavian modern, including forest colors of green and dark grays. Most of the space was created with the use of reclaimed and local materials. Blankets hang from living room pegs. Indoor plants as well as Courtney’s “plant hammock,” a regular hammock decoratively hung to hold a large philodendron, bring the spirit of the outdoors inside.
Unlike at many rental homes, there’s no need to bring your own linens. The bedrooms have comfortable mattresses, pillows and linens from well-regarded brands such as Casper and Parachute, plus soft robes.
Tasty Treats: The kitchen is stocked with spices and oil, and all the tools to prepare a meal, including a 30-inch induction range. Warm-beverage aficionados will love the complimentary Rival Bros Coffee and loose-leaf tea by Premium Steap along with the associated tools to brew the perfect cup, from a burr grinder to a Chemex and an easy-pour kettle.
Outdoors, smoke meats or sear a perfect steak on the Big Green Egg grill; charcoal and utensils are provided along with a book of recipes. Stock up on your favorite food and beverages on your way to Lokal Chalet. The nearest market and liquor store are a 10- to 15-minute drive away.
Unique Perk: Early guests have appreciated the multisensory experience, including the Sonos surround sound system. One Google commenter shared, “My favorite thing to do was blast music in the indoors and outdoor speaker system and not worry about bothering any neighbors because there aren’t any.”
Details: Rates start at $300, two-night minimum required. Extra cleaning fee of $100 for up to two dogs. 1600 Weekstown Road, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, 609-536-9157, staylokal.com.
Romantic Getaway: Stone Gables Bed & Breakfast
The Setting: Located in farm and vineyard country 6 miles from Leesburg, Virginia’s historic district, this stone-gabled barn turned four-bedroom bed-and-breakfast exudes peace. You can’t escape nature here—it surrounds you inside and out with its thick stone walls (they’re soothing to run your fingers over), hand-hewn wood beams, dining room pillars created from tree trunks, indoor plants and lovable Labrador mix Eddy. Taking their cue from the stones’ color palette—and adding just the right amount of decor and local art—owners Leslie and Wayne Tharp have created a haven filled with personality and warmth.
Grab a blanket and watch TV from one of the living room’s overstuffed sofas. Or read and play music on an old record player in the second-floor library, where built-in bookshelves are filled with mystery, romance and literary novels, a few Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Leslie’s encased collection of original Winnie the Pooh books.
Across the hall, overlooking the nicely designed front patio, you can challenge your partner to a round of Yahtzee, Battleship, Othello and more in the intimate game room. Not that you want to keep close track of time, but the room’s clock depicts it in dominoes.
Cozy Elements: Each guest room has its own character. The Stone Gables Suite, which is the largest, includes a cozy seating area with an antique couch and vanity, a luxurious bathroom with a flagstone floor, a walk-in tiled shower and a clawfoot tub complete with (battery-operated) candles. The Leesburg has a whirlpool tub big enough for two and a beautiful blue-tiled shower. The Hunt features stone walls, wooden beams and artwork of a fox. The Loft, accessible via a spiral staircase, has a fun collection of local art, from photos of the area’s farm animals (including an adorable picture of a cow’s snout) to this former hay loft’s wood doors that open to reveal a peekaboo view of the second-floor landing through wrought-iron branches. All have comfortable pillowtop or memory-foam mattresses and a TV.
Tasty Treats: You’ll find a coffee station with Starbucks syrups, mugs from places around the globe, homemade cookies, and s’mores kits for the firepit. A separate buffet table holds an electric kettle and a wide assortment of teas. A red retro fridge is stocked with water, soda and Klondike bars (it’s also the place to store your own food if you prefer to eat in). A full sweet and savory breakfast—which might include housemade Pop-Tarts or granola and a customizable omelet option—is served in the dining room or on the screened-in porch.
Unique Perk: In the property’s tiny tree house, you can sit among plentiful pillows scattered around a colorful rug, perhaps with your coffee or a bottle of local wine. The oversize picture window features the real nature channel outdoors, including—if you’re lucky—falling snow.
Details: Rates from $215 per night, snacks and breakfast included. 19077 Loudoun Orchard Road, Leesburg, Virginia, 703-343-1333, stonegables-bb.com.
Creative Escape for One: Galvanized America Inn & Art Gallery
The Setting: Pennsylvania’s Bucks County is home to covered bridges, wine and ale trails, historic main streets, independent bookstores galore, and an artist-owned 1754 farmhouse-chic inn. Set on 6½ acres that feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere (wonderful for minimizing distractions), Galvanized America Inn is only a 10- to 20-minute drive to several inspirational options, although inspiration begins at the inn.
Owners Sherri and Ed Bennett’s rustic farmhouse property is filled with Ed’s art depictions of American symbols as well as a stunning bighorn sheep, all created from razor blades that he shapes with a Dremel and colors, when needed, with a combination of transparent automotive paint and chemical oxidation. The inn also features his watercolors and handmade furniture, including an old shutter repurposed as a brochure rack, a kitchen island made from old scaffolding planks, and a lamp crafted from a chicken feeder. Ed and Sherri are in the process of turning the property’s big red barn into an art gallery for works by Ed and other local artists.
Outside the farmhouse, warm up by the firepit or relax on a porch rocker and look out at twinkling lights and the deer that dart from field to forest.
Cozy Elements: Guest rooms Independence and Freedom offer a queen bed and private bath with shower. Suite Liberty and Suite Victory each have their own sitting room and large bath with clawfoot tub. Victory’s top-floor location is especially lovely for its skylights, whether you’re gazing up at the stars or listening to rain drip-drop on glass.
While there are no TVs in the rooms, you can sink into one of the living room’s leather sofas and watch a show on your favorite streaming channel or grab a book from the built-in shelves.
Tasty Treats: Ed and Sherri welcome guests with a glass of local wine and a homemade appetizer. Breakfast is served in the dining room or on the patio on warm days, and the menu changes regularly. My visit included a delicious French toast with pear compote and caramelized bacon.
Unique Perks: Inspiring spots for writers—or fans of the written word—are a short drive from Galvanized America. Browse The Doylestown Bookshop’s extensive wall of staff picks. Bring your laptop and work from Native Cafe next door, then wander over to the Michener Art Museum, named for Pulit
zer Prize-winning author, art collector and Doylestown native James Michener. The museum’s collection includes paintings, photographs and sculptures, with works by internationally known artists and Pennsylvania impressionists.
In nearby Perkasie, don’t miss the Pearl S. Buck House, the former home of the prolific author who was the first woman to receive both a Pulitzer Prize and The Nobel Prize in Literature. Take a docent-led tour of the National Historic Landmark to see Buck’s family photos and personal libraries; the typewriter she used to write The Good Earth; and the living room where she discussed ways to help orphaned children with celebrities from her era, including her friend James Michener.
The Doylestown Bookshop’s bookmark sums up both the inn’s and the region’s vibe for literary lovers with this Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quote: “The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books.”
Details:Rates start at $169 and include breakfast, bottled waters and a welcome snack. 6470 Durham Road, Pipersville, Pennsylvania, 215-766-7617, galvanizedamerica.com.
Christine Koubek Flynn is a regular contributor to Bethesda Magazine. She reports on what is new and notable in mid-Atlantic travel in the magazine’s Get Away column and teaches writing workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda and other literary organizations.
This story appears in the November/December 2022 issue of Bethesda Magazine.