Meet the Childhood Besties Behind Hygge & West, the Most Swoonworthy Wallpaper Brand Ever
Meet the Childhood Besties Behind Hygge & West, the Most Swoonworthy Wallpaper Brand Ever
If you’ve swooned over a perfectly patterned wallpaper adorning the wall of your favorite Internet design crush, chances are they got that pretty piece of paper from none other than Hygge & West. Founded just over 10 years ago, this interior design house has gained a cult following amongst design-y folks with a gorgeous mix of trend-forward patterns and modern takes on more traditional visual motifs. Through countless collabs, they’ve also expertly created a community, and a feeling that their brand is alive and always changing — much like the founders themselves.
Anjelika Temple here, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Brit + Co and avid fan of patterned everything. In today’s installment of Creative Crushin’, I’m here to share the story of Hygge & West founders Aimee Lagos and Christiana Coop, New Mexico natives who first met in preschool, bonded in second grade, parted ways and became lawyers in young adulthood, and then reconnected to quit their day jobs and take a chance on their design dreams.
Brit + Co: First the basics. Tell me more about where each of you grew up, what you studied in college and beyond, family life, where you’re based now, etc.
Christiana Coop: I was born and raised in Los Alamos, New Mexico. For college, I went to Colorado State University and studied Natural Resources Management. Post college, I spent a couple of years waiting tables and doing other odd jobs in Aspen, Colorado before heading to law school at Berkeley. As a lawyer, I worked in Chicago for a couple of years and when my firm opened an office in San Francisco, I begged them to send me back. Ten years ago, I gave up the legal profession to pursue something in a field I was passionate about, interior design. We started Hygge & West and it’s been non-stop wallpaper ever since! Wanting more space to work, entertain, and have dogs, I moved to a farmhouse north of the city and have really been loving the change of pace and scene.
Aimee Lagos: I also grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico and then went to college on the other side of the country at Duke University where I majored in Public Policy Studies. I went to NYU School of Law directly after graduating where I met my husband, who was playing professional soccer at the time. When he was traded to Chicago, I moved there and worked as a lawyer at a big white shoe firm which I quickly realized was not a good fit. When my husband was once again traded, this time to San Jose, CA, I quit being a lawyer and we started our family — both of our sons were born (17 months apart!) during our time in Northern CA. When my husband retired from playing, we settled in Minneapolis and have been here for 12 years now. I went back to work when the boys started school and started a new career in marketing. About four years ago, I quit my “day job” to work full time on Hygge & West. I’ve never been happier.
B+C: How did you two meet?
BOTH: We found some photographic evidence that we first met in preschool, but we both remember becoming friends when Aimee moved to Christiana’s elementary school district in second grade. We had a mutual love of ballet, drawing, playing smurfs, and spending all summer at the pool, and we quickly became close friends.
B+C: Before you took the plunge and decided to start a business together, tell me more about each of your career paths.
CC: I went to law school thinking I was going to do environmental law as an extension of my undergraduate studies, but was quickly derailed upon realizing I didn’t enjoy the regulation-heavy practice and/or anything about the actual practice of law for that matter. So the corporate path seemed like the quickest way to pay off my debts 'til I could figure out something else to do. I’d realized I truly loved interior design when I started planning out my first apartment after I graduated law school, but it, unfortunately, took five years to change career paths, which happened when Aimee and I randomly decided to contact a Danish design company, Ferm Living, about being their US distributor. We did that for about a year and then wanting to do something more creative (and not involving customs clearance issues), we started Hygge & West!
AL: How much time do you have? My career path is a bit meandering... As I mentioned, I worked at a big firm in Chicago in corporate litigation and almost immediately was very unhappy. Not sure what I wanted to do next, I took a couple of years off when we decided to start our family. When my sons were two and a couple months old, I invented a baby product and started my first round as an entrepreneur. That experience led me on a new career path in marketing, and I worked for a small branding agency, then for a major big box retailer. I planned seasonal campaigns from broadcast to digital and really loved my work, but the hours and the travel were hard on our family. Also, we had launched Hygge & West by this time, so I was working 10-hour days, coming home to make dinner and do homework with the kids, then working another four-hour shift on H&W after the kids went to bed. Needless to say, when I finally was able to work full time only on H&W it was a huge relief and I’ve never looked back!
B+C: What was the turning point like when you decided to start Hygge & West?
BOTH: We were testing out Ferm Living’s custom mural company and found a bird and cloud pattern designed by Julia Rothman that we wanted to try. Christiana hung this in her kitchen and we both loved it and thought it should be more accessible than through a custom mural option. That was the beginning of thinking about starting our own wallpaper company. We eventually had a lovely meeting with Julia in New York and collaborated with her on a collection of five patterns for our Hygge & West debut in 2008.
B+C: What inspired Hygge & West? Gimme that origin story.
BOTH: We learned a lot about Danish design during our work with Ferm Living, and when we were naming our company, we happened to stumble upon the Danish word “hygge” (which roughly translates to cozy and captures the idea of enjoying and appreciating life’s small joys and creating a comforting environment). We both fell in love with it. We were also both going through some personal changes and found it to be a helpful guide. “Will this decision bring more hygge into my life?” If not, then pass. If yes, then go for it.
B+C: What drives you to create, curate, and share your unique point of view with the world?
BOTH: On the practical side, we’re both very driven to make Hygge & West a success, and as an online brand, we’ve found that our use of social media allows us to build a deeper connection with our community. Instagram has given our brand a voice and personality while Pinterest serves as an incredibly valuable research and planning tool for our customers. Wallpaper is a highly researched, planned purchase. Pinterest, for example, allows people to easily find our product and then create boards to get a sense for how the wallpaper will work within their design scheme. It can be difficult to imagine a finished space, so being able to collect images of all of the elements in one place helps our customers envision the end product and gives them the confidence to proceed with their plans. We’ve seen increases in traffic, sales, and new customer acquisition since we’ve been leveraging Pinterest.
The combination of Instagram and Pinterest has been really powerful and integral to the success of our company. And then in addition to the business benefits of curating and sharing our point of view, we’re motivated and fulfilled by making something beautiful that brings joy to others. Few things are more satisfying than seeing photos of how people are using our products or hearing from customers about how much they love their wallpaper. It never stops being rewarding to know that our patterns are making people’s homes happier.
B+C: I’m totally obsessed with all the prints and patterns on your site. How do you find artists and designers to collab with?
BOTH: So many different ways. We’ve had designers approach us and immediately fall in love with their designs. We’ve reached out to artists we’ve admired to see if they wanted to create custom patterns for us. We’ve stumbled upon an illustrator’s Instagram account and just known we needed to work with them. Our collaborations all seem to happen organically depending on what new niche of pattern we’re wanting to produce or what we just have a really good feeling about.
B+C: Speaking of art, what does each of your creative practices look like? In the midst of being founders and running a company, how do you make time for personal creative work?
CC: My professional life definitely cuts heavily into my personal life, mostly in that I am constantly thinking about what I can wallpaper. I love learning about interior design and looking for inspiration — I’m constantly either leafing through design books or scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest. Is that work or fun? I can’t tell the difference :)
AL: I’m the opposite of Christiana in that I find that my favorite creative pursuits are non-interior-design-related. So much of my time and energy during the workday is spent in the interior design space that I need a break from it to recharge. I’m an avid amateur chef. Cooking is a great creative practice for busy people as it’s an opportunity to multitask — it both addresses a chore and allows me to express myself creatively. Plus, it’s a great way to show your loved ones that you care about them.
Favorite Quote: Sad to say, but all of my favorite quotes are from Top Gun.
Trivia About You: I can do the splits.
Go-To Karaoke Song: "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers
Favorite Design Trend: Due to my recent move, I’m drawn to anything that’s “Modern, French, Rustic, Farmhouse”
Late Night Snack: Sour gummy bears
Currently Teading: Sweetbitter
Favorite Quote: "The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club."
Trivia About You: I had the highest level of US government security clearance when I was in college. It was for my summer job at a facility at Los Alamos National Lab that housed plutonium.
Go-To Karaoke Song: "Living On A Prayer" by Bon Jovi
Favorite Design Trend: Not following design trends
Late Night Snack: Tequila
Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore
B+C: How do you strike the balance between business partnership and friendship?
BOTH: From the very beginning, we’ve always prioritized our friendship first. Our feeling is that if something were to come up in the business that we couldn’t resolve, we’d have to step away from it to maintain our friendship. That said, we’ve worked together on Hygge & West for 10 years now, and there’s never been any real wallpaper drama. We generally agree on business and aesthetic decisions, but both know that if one of us isn’t feeling something, we’ll just pass on it. So, for example, one of us dislikes the color orange, which is probably why you don’t see a lot of it :)
B+C: I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but here it is anyway. What do you love about working together? What are the toughest parts?
BOTH: We both just love the day-to-day laughs we share. We both process a lot of emotions through a very similar sense of humor. Email, Slack, text... if we’re not laughing over one communication channel, we’re doing it over another. And we really love being able to travel for business to so many wonderful places, meet interesting new people together, and discover new restaurants and neighborhoods. It’s not exactly a paid vacation with your best friend but it sort of is :) The toughest parts are the same work challenges a lot of people experience — finding work-life balance and developing opportunities to grow creatively and professionally. The great thing about working with your best friend is that you have someone who completely supports you and shares the same challenges.
B+C: What advice do you have for friends who are considering going into business together?
BOTH: It’s really important to know each other’s goals, hopes, and dreams about the business. Why are you each doing this? And then also know each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as how you’ll resolve differences of opinion. When we first started, we chatted at length about these kinds of things.
B+C: What’s the best advice you ever received? What about the worst? ;)
CC: My dad used to always tell me when I was leaving for school to “have fun, learn lots, do fair.” For a chunk of my life, my career didn’t enable me to do any of those things, and now I can do them all again. I like to think of that advice as a barometer of whether my life is going in the right direction. I can’t think of any profoundly bad advice although I’m sure I’ve received some, so I’ll just say it was being encouraged to get really short bangs because I’d look like Audrey Hepburn. I did not.
AL: By far the worst advice I’ve ever received was "go to law school because you can do anything with a law degree." Although, I guess I’ve proven that statement to be true, so maybe it wasn’t bad advice after all.
B+C: What’s up next for Hygge & West? What should we be on the lookout for?
BOTH: We have lots of fun things coming up next year. More bedding and shower curtains and loads more wallpaper! We’re exploring new types of partnerships, one of which will have us making decor inspired by some of our favorite childhood movies.
Is it just me, or does this feel like it should turn into a coming-of-age movie about friendship? Talk about #bestiegoals. Check out some of our favorite Hygge & West products below, and be sure to head to their website to get lost in all the picture-perfect patterns.
For more, pop open the 'gram and follow @hyggeandwest. We see some seriously beautiful walls in your future. And for more real-life creative inspo, check out previous editions of Creative Crushin', and stay tuned for upcoming crushes!
Author: Anjelika Temple; Design: Marisa Kumtong (Photos courtesy of Aimee Lagos, Christiana Coop, and Hygge & West)