My personal Hygge revolves around the fireplace. My parents were the generation who grew up with real fires in every room and for them the daily ritual of cleaning the grate couldn't be gone too soon. They wanted everything modern and they moved from a terrace house in London to a modern semi in Hertfordshire in the 1960's, they embraced every new technology, central heating being one of them. Perhaps they wouldn't have minded cleaning the grate so much had they been burning these briquettes, the fine ash just falls through the basket and leaves hardly a speck behind, I was quite amazed.
From my very first flat I wanted old original features, draughty sash windows, open fires with a mantle and wooden floors and for me a fireplace is a selling point to any house, and if the house didn't have one then I'm sure I would plan a way to fit an old surround to a hearth, or a wood burning stove.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not sure I could survive without the back-up of central heating in the depths of winter, but I would really die to have a fireplace in every room.
When I moved to this house in the country I had to compromise on a few things, and the age of the house was one. Despite looking Victorian on the outside it was actually built in the 1980's. Luckily though there was one fireplace in the lounge, and as I have discovered, it gets a bit colder here (on a hill), so the extra heat is most definitely required in winter.
I changed the fire surround for an old cast-iron Victorian one which I found on e-bay. The chimney breast is quite narrow and so this type of mantle and basket fit the proportions perfectly, although the fire basket is quite small so it can be tricky when burning tree logs as they often come too large.
My only problem with real wood logs is the storage and I also find that they are pretty damp when you buy them, so over the last few years I've been using eco-logs more and more. Not only are they easier to store, but also drier. I find they catch light quicker and the heat gets up faster, which on a chilly morning is quite a bonus. But there is quite a difference between the different brands of eco-logs and briquettes as I've recently discovered. Mostly in the length of burning time.
Within no time my boy Ziggy was at the scene helping me to test these birch wood logs by Lekto, and if you hop over to their website here https://www.lektowoodfuels.co.uk/why-briquettes.html you can find out more about how they are good for you and the environment. Not only are they a bi-product from the wood industry (using pure sawdust and bark with no added chemicals), but they are more efficient as a heat source and even the ash they produce is useful. These logs are very dense, heavy and solid all the way through, so unlike those that are hollow, these last for ages, two logs lasted me over two hours and if you tap them they come apart into smaller sections.
The Lekto fire lighters are also brilliant, I've never had a fire going so quickly, they caught alight fast and burnt without the horrible odour of those white cubes. The logs caught from them straight away and within minutes the fire was roaring without the faff of kindling and chopping.
Storing these is also a hellava lot easier than logs and cleaner than coal, I'm a complete convert. The wooden fire lighters are made from shavings, and they burn for 10 to 12 minutes, giving out enough flame not to need kindling or paper. They are totally free from chemicals and perfect for storing indoors as they give off no harmful fumes.
I didn't realise that you can add the ash from these to fertilise the garden, it can also act as a slug repellent if scattered around the base of plants, it's good for growing vegetables and you can use it to melt the ice on the path. So this year I'm going to save my ash and put it to good use elsewhere.
Hygge is about creating a warm atmosphere for you and friends, and I can't think of a better way to do this than sit around a real fire and watch flames instead of television.
Next week I will be looking at some cool ways to bring background music to your scene and news of getting hygge in Romania in an eco lodge.
In the meantime I've curated a shop featuring Hygge basics to make it even easier for you to get your cosy setting, see below, hope you enjoy what I've put together.