Sunny skies, warm weather, and days that seem to go on forever—spring and summer pull us into the great outdoors. But as the days grow shorter, autumn and winter draw us back into our homes—to visit and to enjoy quiet moments as dusk falls, leaves turn, and winter arrives. Our homes are the centrepieces of the colder seasons, and a few simple design ideas, from lighting to furniture configurations, can help us show them at their very best.

Set a Warm Glow

Good lighting makes a huge difference to any space, and it’s especially important to consider during the darker half of the year. Natural candles such as beeswax or soy add instant coziness to any space, as does a roaring fire. Whether you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace, be sure to get it thoroughly cleaned and serviced before the cold weather set in so you can make the most of it all season long.

When it comes to electric lighting, select bulbs that match the brilliance of daylight for a positive boost. If you tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, specifically-designed SAD lights can enliven your space—intentional lighting helps our bodies better register the shift from night to day.

Clear the Air

A breath of fresh air keeps cabin fever at bay, but in the cooler months can play havoc with your heating. For a manufactured blast of the outdoors, the answer might be in your kitchen. Avoid chemical-based artificial scents from candles and air fresheners, as they can trigger respiratory problems, and instead whisk up a batch of hot apple cider or mulled wine—the aroma will be almost as delicious as the end result. Store unlit candles in the linen closet to infuse bedding and towels with a signature scent; cinnamon sticks, dried apples, and lavender in jars make excellent rustic accents, and work as natural fresheners when simmered.

Create a Place to Gather

A strong community—whether that’s family, friends, or neighbours—is essential to passing the shorter days in a good frame of mind. Make everyone feel welcome in your home by creating an inviting place to gather. This can be as simple as rearranging your existing furniture in rooms where people tend to congregate, such as the living room, and adding soft elements to dining chairs and benches.

Instead of taking a TV-centric approach, pay tribute to a simpler time by orienting your furniture around a fireplace or picture window. A selection of throw pillows, plush blankets, and coffee table books will invite guests to linger and make themselves at home.

Celebrate the Outdoors

Part of the stress of shorter days is the feeling of being trapped indoors. Instead of resigning yourself to six months of captivity, look for ways to bring elements of the outdoors into your home. Keep the curtains and blinds open to enjoy your view in all weather; string the trees in your yard with twinkling lights for a cheerful view even after darkness falls. A few evergreen boughs in a vase, a basket of pinecones, and a few dramatic bare branches strung with lights add a festive feel indoors and make a season-appropriate stand-in for cut flowers. Potted plants and indoor trees are seeing an upswing in popularity, meaning that year-round greenery is both achievable and on trend.

Stay Cozy and Dry

A solid roof and clear gutters keep your home dry from the outside. But as the season of dripping raincoats and then snowy boots approaches, you’ll need to keep your home dry from the inside, too. The ideal solution is a tiled mudroom, and plenty of space to hang damp garments to dry. If you don’t have a designated transition space in your home, weatherproof your entryway with a boot tray, and leave an absorbent doormat and boot scraper outside to encourage guests to brush up before entering. Whimsical umbrella stands, woven baskets for storage, and convenient bench seating can make all the difference when it comes to coming inside.

Simplify Your Décor

It’s no secret that people tend to spend more time indoors during the colder months. If your home is packed full of furniture and knick-knacks, having more people in it can make things feel a bit claustrophobic: an autumnal declutter can make settling in for the cold season less of a chore. Adopting a more minimalist, Scandinavian style of décor makes those special pieces you keep stand out even more, and your home will feel more airy and spacious as a result. Prioritize lighting, soft textures, and sparse groupings of books and accent pieces to make your home winter-ready. And as a bonus, this approach will make spring cleaning a breeze.

As the days grow shorter in much of the Northern Hemisphere and the warm days of summer fade away to a distant memory, it’s time to prepare your home for the darker months. With a few practical touch-ups and some well-considered décor, your space will be the perfect place to spend a snug season hibernating, catching up with friends and family, or simply enjoying a peaceful read by the fire.

Looking for your own cozy place to call home? Get inspired with hygge dwellings from Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s Hearth & Home Lifestyle Collection. This article was originally published in 2018 and updated October 28, 2022.

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