My Hygge House

Hygge House

May 8, 2016
Hygge House in Topanga Canyon, California

I have a pretty strong belief that the right home chooses you. There’s a little magic, a little unexpected, and a lot of impossible involved. It’s been true of all the homes I’ve truly loved and never more true then this one in California.

In the summer of 2015 I moved back to Santa Monica, California into a (very small) temporary condo. I’d begin a long and daily search for my dream home. As someone who spent most of her life in the countryside or small towns, I was exhausted by the intense city living I’d been doing since moving to America years ago. I wanted somewhere quiet, with views outside my window that weren’t of my next door neighbour, I wanted space to putter, to garden and to host friends. I wanted simple things like a place to park my car without having to circle blocks looking for parking.

After living in so many homes, I knew exactly what I liked and didn’t and finding something in a market that doesn’t have inventory but does have crazy prices was proving to be really difficult and frankly depressing.

I was ready to give up when, one morning, I searched outside of my normal area and comfort zone: Topanga Canyon. It was only 10 miles to Santa Monica or Malibu, 4 miles to the beach and seemingly miles away from civilization. I saw a listing that had a photo of a home I knew instantly was meant for me, on an acre with so much nature including a chicken coop and a Provence-style garden. Neighbours but you couldn’t see them and noise? Only birds. It had lots of windows, lots of light, lots of white and lots of space.

There was an open house two days later so I made sure to be there as soon as it opened but another couple had got there first. I was worried because I could hear them being aggressive about the home – what they’d do to it, what they wanted changed, moving plans. I walked through the front door and as I stood in the kitchen I heard them talk to the realtor that they wanted it. They’d take it. They’d go home and make the arrangements. It would be a done deal.

And I remember thinking, “oh no you won’t. This is my home.”

I waited in the kitchen until that couple left and then walked out to talk with the realtor who was brokering the lease. I said, “I’ve heard the conversation you had with the other couple. Should I even bother?”

I’ll never forget, but she gave me this grin, squeezed my hand and I swear with a twinkle in her eye said, “Yes. I think you should.” It was this strange but cheeky feeling like she was letting me in on a secret – she wanted me to have it. I hadn’t spoken to her before and that’s all we said but that was enough.

When I applied I wrote a huge letter for the owners. Telling them how I’d grown up in the country, how I’d lived in and owned historic homes and knew how to look after them, how I loved to garden and craved peace. How I wanted to live somewhere for a long time and would sign a long lease. And how I felt like it was home. And I was so ready to feel at home, since the past 9 months 75% of my things had been in storage and the past several years I’d felt in flux and not settled.

And then, the next day, the owners accepted my offer and two weeks later I moved in.

When I met with the owners and the realtor, I mentioned how I knew it was my home from the start and the realtor said “I believe the home chooses the person. And this home chose you.”

And it did. It really did.

Furniture that I’ve had for a long time that’s always kind of not fit the next house completely fits into specific areas of my home – almost like what I had was made for this place. I no longer hear neighbours yelling but coyotes howling. I don’t wake up to dogs barking but birds singing. I’ve got my white walls upstairs but now I have dark, cosy wood and flooring downstairs. I have views, quiet, and peace. It’s total calm here and a place that just feels happy. I think that comes through in photos which is why I have friends coming almost every other weekend for the next six months and I couldn’t be happier. I have the sparest of spare rooms that feels like a treehouse and I can’t wait to share it with friends, and now, with you.

The Canyon House details:

The house was originally hand built in 1925 as a hunting lodge. The stone on the first floor is native to the area and is pretty common up in the canyon. It’s in a high-risk fire area so having a stone foundation helped owners to show ownership of land if a fire happened. The first floor has a lot of original details like an original Wedgewood stove, farmhouse sink and wood oven stove in the living room. The first floor is also the ‘cosy’ floor and new for me in terms of style. It feels to me like a home in Provence with all the wood/stone, slate floors in the living room and cork floors in the kitchen. The first floor windows also look level at the backyard because the house is built into a hill.

Hygge House Living Room

The second floor feels like a treehouse, surrounded by bougainvillea and lots of windows. There’s a large guest room/office with original built ins and the master bedroom is about the size of my previous Santa Monica flat. White walls + lots of sun = one happy girl.

The landing that connects the first and second floor is actually pretty large with big doors that go out to the backyard. The backyard has a built-in stone seat and a cat-run! The front yard is huge with the most amazing canyon views, a trail that goes down to a large chicken coop and continuing down that trail goes to studio/office.

Hygge House Chicken Coop in Topanga Canyon

There’s no cell reception here which the Laura Ingalls in me is very happy about.

I’ve never committed to anything as long as I’ve committed to this place is the first home that actually feels like a hygge house.  There is a natural charm to the home because of how/why it was built, the fact that it’s only had two owners so it hasn’t really been changed and that there’s space without feeling big. Plus there’s something about this area that feels a world away from everything.The home feels both simple and luxurious, cosy and open, and calm yet energizing. Hygge!

I’m not a city person so being in here and having nature around me helps to balance out the wonderful-crazy that is my work and give me (and friends) a place to rest.Being here is what finally allowed to cross something off my bucket list – love my home, my work and my city all at the same time.

Hygge House in Topanga Canyon, California

  • Reply
    KristyNo Gravatar
    May 12, 2016 at 1:51 AM

    Can’t wait to follow the journey in your lovely new home. We’ve got some big spaces in our home in the UK and I tend to find that big Persian/Indian style rugs on the floor make things look cosy almost immediately. If you’re stuck for funds initially, Ikea has absurdly large faux Persians in rich colours for £50 – they’ll do you for a few years until you find the perfect one. This is the one we have in our entrance hall (wanted something cheap and durable that would tolerate outside shoes and Labrador paws) and they come in a larger size again

    • alex the girl | hygge houseNo Gravatar
      May 18, 2016 at 11:54 PM

      Thanks, Kristy! Finding rugs that are dog-friendly is hard so knowing you’ve got lab-approved rugs is a huge rec 🙂

  • Reply
    CashmereLibrarianNo Gravatar
    June 1, 2016 at 4:32 PM

    Wow, that is just beautiful. So happy for you!

  • Reply
    Penny LNo Gravatar
    June 21, 2016 at 2:52 AM

    Totally hygge Alex. What a beautiful place. I can’t wait to see more of it on your blog and Instagram feed. I hope you’ll be really happy living there. With love Penny L in Dorset UK xx

  • Reply
    Abbey Lile-TaylorNo Gravatar
    June 21, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    Oh my goodness…this house is beyond heavenly. As someone who has been following you on your many journeys for years now (a decade?), I am so happy you have finally found your space. Congrats to you! And I can’t wait to read/see as you make the home even more “you.”

    • alex the girl | hygge houseNo Gravatar
      June 25, 2016 at 10:38 PM

      Wow, Abbey! I feel like you should get a brownie badge for that!! Thank you for following all these years. 🙂

  • Reply
    Making a Fairy Garden
    July 24, 2016 at 8:12 PM

    […] I moved into my home this past spring, wild grass had just been planted. Because it’s not a normal green lawn grass, it comes up in […]

  • Reply
    susan / fleurishingNo Gravatar
    August 9, 2016 at 11:48 AM

    This looks so incredible Alex, and I love the story behind it. Clearly this home chose you! Congratulations.

  • Reply
    MatthewNo Gravatar
    September 11, 2016 at 2:57 PM

    Hi Alex, it was nice finding your blog. What shade/ color of white did you end up going for in your canyon house for the walls, wood ceilings? It looks nice!

  • Reply
    JaneNo Gravatar
    September 27, 2016 at 4:34 PM

    Fantastic Alex great home, I’m just back from Hygge Denmark but will soon be leaving for Cali can’t wait 😀

  • Reply
    CaraNo Gravatar
    May 5, 2017 at 7:28 PM

    I’m so happy to have come across your blog after learning about the Hygge lifestyle! I felt exactly the same feeling you did when we first stepped into our home in Santa Susana Knolls (border of Chatsworth and Simi Valley by the Santa Susana Mountains), a year ago. We rented in Woodland Hills for 6 years and always hiked around Topanga. It’s beautiful there! But now that my family and I have found our own home, hearing coyotes, waking up to the sun in my face, the birds and the beautiful mountain views just makes me feel in touch with nature and I just love life a whole lot more. Thank you for sharing! Ü

  • Reply
    SunnyNo Gravatar
    June 5, 2017 at 9:02 PM

    Hi Alex, as a one-time-girl now elder who grew up in Pacific Palisades, I have loved Topanga. My artist-mother loved to park along the Canyon road and we’d hike down to the creek, playing with the spilling pools of water, floating sycamore leaves and prickly seed-balls down the stream. The sound of the water was magical. The light through the trees with their patchy trunks was golden. And once in the late ’50s a young aunt took me into the Canyon to meet these potters who also made the best cinnamon rolls I ever ate, before or since. She’s 92 now and doesn’t remember that wonderful day in my young life. Enjoy your hygge life! I’m happy to have found your blog. Best, Sunny

  • Reply
    Kathleen BrennanNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2017 at 7:59 PM

    Perfect home and inspiration for me as I now have an oversized suburban home (and all the maintenance) and desperately miss my 600 sq ft student apt at MIT! seeking Hygge but know I will not find it in a suburban ‘planned’ development… hope my next home is hygge. Thanks for the introduction!

  • Reply
    TiffanyNo Gravatar
    September 10, 2017 at 5:08 PM

    What a beautiful home! I’m so glad that it chose you & thank you for sharing your Hygge house with us! <3 I found you because I'm hoping to have a Hygge dinner-party this autumn for friends, so I'm looking for ideas and a better understanding of Hygge.

  • Reply
    AnnaNo Gravatar
    September 13, 2017 at 1:20 PM

    Oh my gosh I love everything!!! Congrats to you!! I am most loving that couch and fabric bench in the living room – looks so cozy and inviting – hygge perfection.

  • Reply
    Sarah WoodruffNo Gravatar
    September 16, 2017 at 3:40 PM

    what kind of wallpaper is that? or what’s it called?

  • Reply
    Caitlin KellyNo Gravatar
    February 11, 2018 at 9:18 AM

    Heaven! Everything sounds (and looks) so lovely.

    Best of all? That doggie of yours with the bent ear! Thanks for sharing this.

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