Cozy Up to Cwtch, the Comfort-Inspired Welsh Design Trend
The origin of cwtch, or cwtsh, a lifestyle trend similar to lagom and hygge, dates back to the year 1400 in southern Wales, though its etymology extends well beyond that. Dialect historians have traced the term back to the English and Scottish word “couch,” which means to lie down or crouch. It’s also said to have connections to the medieval French word “coucher,” and the Latin phrase “collocāre.” Although cwtch principles have existed since the late 19th century, the trend has caught on among designers in the last 20 years.
What is Cwtch?
Cwtch is a Welsh word that describes a feeling of comfort and security. It’s used to describe how an interaction (such as an embrace), a person, or an object makes someone feel. Cwtch has a variety of English translations, the most common of which is “hug” or “cuddle,” as the Welsh use it to describe an act of love, comfort, and coziness. Cwtch also translates to “cubbyhole” or “cupboard,” as the feeling of cwtch means to be surrounded by something or someone for safety. As this relates to interiors, designers utilize the style as a way to make a space feel soothing and serene through the use of textures and soft color palettes.
How Does Cwtch Differ from Hygge?
Cwtch and hygge share similar principles and characteristics, but what separates the two is how they are implemented. While cwtch describes an act such as hugging or cuddling, its Danish cousin hygge refers to “an attitude towards life that emphasizes finding joy in everyday moments,” explains Eastwood Homes. In terms of design, however, these terms invoke the same feelings of comfort, warmth and coziness. While hygge invites you to look at the objects you already have in your home for comfort, cwtch expands the idea and encourages people to find that comfort within themselves and the people around them as well as through personal effects and home decor.
How to Pronounce Cwtch
Pronounced “kutch,” the word is often described as rhyming with “butch” to help native English speakers better understand its pronunciation. The word appeared in English-speaking areas in the late 19th century, and was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary of English in 2005. In one of the earliest recorded uses of the term, actress Elizabeth Taylor once famously said about then-husband Richard Burton, “I just want to go and cwtch him.” Additionally, many English-Welsh families have reportedly passed this word and its meaning down from generation to generation.
Tips for Practicing Cwtch at Home
Cwtch design invites an element of comfort and familiarity into your home. More than just updating decor, cwtch is about using your surroundings to help achieve an enlightened and relaxed state of mind. While each person’s vision of relaxation varies, there are several tactics that designers can leverage to achieve a warm, inviting atmosphere (hint: think mood lighting, plush textiles, and personal touches).
Designers and collectors alike embrace cwtch by incorporating trends from several cultures to create a version that best suits their style. Traditional and historical pieces, in particular, are particularly relevant as decorators look to the past for inspiration. Plush furniture, antique decorative objects, and deep-seated couches are just some of the items commonly seen in the homes of cwtch-embracing tastemakers.
1. Personalize your space.
The idea of a emotional or spiritual connection to material objects is known as instrumental materialism. Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University, explains that an “object is simply a bridge to another person or to another feeling […] It seems an inescapable fact of modern life that we learn, define, and remind ourselves of who we are by our possessions.” To make sure your home evokes the feeling of cwtch, it’s important to be surrounded by images of people and places that are familiar and comforting.
When decorating a family home, personalization is the key to cwtch. Family heirlooms, portraits, and other objects steeped with sentimental value create a positive cwtch environment that fosters personal development and growth.
2. Create cozy nooks with curtains and dividers.
A cwtch between two people is often visualized as a long, warm embrace, and there are ways to invoke that same sense of comfort through home decor. A few well-placed curtains can deliver that same experience, especially by creating a nook and closing off a small part of the home to create a more intimate space to relax.
Break up a large room into smaller, cozy spaces with soft, muted textiles draped from the ceiling. Consider walling off your dining table, couch, or any other small space that is used often to create a more relaxing environment. Beyond common spaces, designers frequently add curtains around beds to create a deeper, more restful sleep.
3. Opt for pieces with history.
Tapping into the psychology of nostalgia, cwtch invites you to look to the past for comfort, perhaps through a quilt that has been passed down through generations. As staples of Folk art, handmade quilts were originally thought of as bedding, but that changed as two art collectors, Jonathan Holstein and Gale van der Hoof, began studying their history. Their collection was even the focal point of one of the first exhibitions of antique quilts at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971.
If family heirlooms aren’t readily available, look to antique objects from galleries and auctions. Vintage cameras, antique phonographs and telephones, and other now-obsolete relics of technology act as fascinating decorative objects to complete a vignette on a shelf or tabletop.
4. Rethink your small spaces.
One of the English translations of the word cwtch is a “cubby” or “cupboard.” But with this trend, there isn’t any room for feeling claustrophobic or too closed in. Instead, cwtch invites a look to smaller spaces to transform them into a intimate haven. Designers implement cwtch in small spaces in a variety of ways, such as plush blankets and pillows to bring tranquility and familiarity.
5. Showcase your passions and hobbies.
Make your home reflect what matters most to you, focusing on activities that inspire and excite. Interests like cooking, yoga, knitting, and reading can easily become the focal point of any home. Set up a craft table or a yoga corner, or spend more time turning your kitchen into a space that conjures memorable meals.
6. Warm up your home.
It’s hard to think about feeling sheltered without being surrounded by warmth, so it’s important that your home reflects that. Get the fireplace going or invest in mood lighting and heaters to create a cocoon of warmth in every room. If your space doesn’t have a built-in fireplace, consider small groupings of candles in varying heights to create a soft glow.
7. Don’t be afraid to mix and match.
This Welsh term is often used to describe indoor spaces during the winter months, as an assortment of fabrics are used together to provide warmth. No matter the weather, use this idea as inspiration to mix and match decorative pillows, throw blankets, curtains and other textiles placed around each room. You can even expand this principle to clothing by mixing wool socks with silk pajamas and warm jackets.
8. Follow your personal style.
While many design trends adhere to specific guidelines — such as lagom’s light, muted colors — cwtch is open to interpretation. Since ease and relaxation can mean something different to each individual, what’s used to evoke cwtch can vary widely.
Throw caution to the wind when decorating for a cwtch makeover, pulling together favorite colors, decor style, and lighting to make your home an inviting space to return to each day.
The best examples of cwtch combine personalization with functionality to create an intimate space that is unique to the person it is decorated for. Cwtch is also a great opportunity to use home decor that you’ve always appreciated but never gotten into, such as a sewing table or an object from a culture that has always fascinated you. As long as you are working towards a more harmonious and soothing environment, you will begin to experience this Welsh trend throughout your home.
Additional sources: Independent | Wales Online | Elle Decor