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Over the past decade, many people have become acquainted with the Danish idea of hygge (hoo-guh), which embraces all things cozy and comfortable. The broader Scandinavian sense of friluftsliv (free-loofts-liv), which translates to “open air living,” is almost equally as popular — and was an antidote for the early parts of the COVID-19 pandemic, when staying at home was all many could safely do. The push for outdoor entertaining and living isn’t over yet though: The Dutch concept of uitwaaien is likely to get even more people going outside yet again for the mental and physical benefits the great outdoors can offer.
Uitwaaien is defined as “walking in the wind” and refers specifically to the Dutch concept of refreshing oneself outdoors. “The Dutch have an art of compacting many words into one very simple word, and uitwaaien is a perfect example of this,” explains designer Vanessa Leyland of Vanessa Leyland Interiors, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands. “As a country that’s very flat and partially below sea level, the Netherlands can be very windy, especially in winter time. So going for ‘uitwaaien’ is a perfect way to utilize the Dutch elements, although it can really be done almost anywhere but ideally with wind and in nature.”
As Leyland notes, the uitwaaien process can be extremely restorative, whether practiced alone or with family or friends. “It’s a very simple yet visceral activity of walking and breathing in the wind and can feel very nourishing for the soul,” she says. “It’s a way to increase well-being, wash away stress and worries, act as the pause creating the space and balance between work and personal/family time, or simply to just to clear the head and body after a heavy meal.”
Designer Lenne von Sambeek of Amsterdam’s Len Interior Design also weighed in on the concept. “For me, as a Dutchie, uitwaaien means to go outside, soak in nature, and clear my mind,” she explains. “When we want a little break, we would go for a walk and say ‘even uitwaaien,’ which means something like ‘get some fresh air.’” What’s nice about uitwaaien is that it can be intense as you want it; it could be as simple as a walk around the block during your lunch break or as involved as a three-hour hike up a mountain or a solo meditation in the woods. The point is you can make uitwaaien work for you and your lifestyle, even in the winter in colder climates, so long as you bundle up and know your limits.
Just as many now associate the term hygge with cozy, welcoming spaces, the concept of uitwaaien, interestingly enough, can be applied to interior design, too. Leyland notes that her clients have been increasingly seeking ways to bridge the gap between the indoors and out. “I have a lot of clients wanting to bring their outdoor experiences and emotions into their home, so when they don’t have enough time to leave the house they can still feel nourished from nature and evoke the feelings uitwaaien gives,” she says. To that end, her clients have begun requesting more and more earthy touches in their homes, particularly in the form of blue and green hues and natural textures. She adds, “I am putting more plants into the homes than ever before.”
Von Sambeek agrees. “I believe your home should be a place where you can get a break from your busy life to clear your mind,” she notes. “A literal translation [of uitwaaien] to interior design could be incorporating natural tones and elements, soft and comfortable materials, plants, and indoor-outdoor living — overall, an easygoing vibe.”