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Get Your “Gezellig” On

Cozy up your home with some Dutch gezellig this winter.

By Jennifer Rhode


One of my favorite takeaways from living as an expat in Amsterdam for six years is the idea of “gezellig” (pronounced heh-zell-leg)—the Dutch word for coziness. In addition to a physical home space, gezellig also encompasses social concepts, like friendly and inviting. Amsterdammers might enjoy a yummy gezellig meal together, for example, or experience a gezellig evening with friends.

It typically rains 217 days a year in the Netherlands, so residents there spend a lot of time indoors, making the Dutch especially adept at creating warm and welcoming interiors. We enjoy much sunnier weather in Boulder County, but winter storms periodically force us indoors, so here are ways to make your home more gezellig this winter.


Photo by Heather Knierim, HBKPhotography.com/Design by Jennifer Rhode Design

When temperatures drop, we layer ourselves in coats, sweaters, woolly socks, scarves, hats and gloves for added warmth. To increase your home’s gezellig, you can layer it in comfort, too. Consider placing faux sheepskin rugs and pillows in the hearth area or on a sofa. Or put them in a reading nook or a bedroom. Stepping onto a soft sheepskin rug in bare feet feels so gezellig on a cold day!



Photos courtesy Anywhere Fireplace


Gathering around the fire is a quintessential winter activity, but not everyone has a fireplace. Not to worry! Portable fireplaces from Anywhere Fireplace create instant gezellig without the fuss of a traditional fireplace. The Anywhere Fireplace is available in tabletop, freestanding and wall-mounted versions. The best part is, they’re affordably priced, burn nontoxic odorless fuel, and can be safely used in indoor and outdoor spaces.



Photo by Heather Knierim, HBKPhotography.com

Gingerbread House Recipe

Jennifer Rhode’s favorite “gezellig” winter tradition is making gingerbread houses with her children. “Baking gingerbread makes the house smell amazing, and there’s nothing more fun than decorating with frosting and candy,” she says. “Every year we imagine what it would be like to live in such a delicious, cozy home that looks like Hansel and Gretel might come visit.”



(Makes one house; adapted from a recipe by the Food Network)


½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature 

½ cup brown sugar 

¼ cup molasses 

1 tablespoon cinnamon 

1 tablespoon ground ginger 

teaspoons ground cloves 

1 teaspoon baking soda 

2 cups all-purpose flour 

2 tablespoons water


1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar

1 teaspoon cream of tartar 

3 egg whites

Candy Decorations

Gumdrops, Life Savers, licorice, Dots, Mike and Ike candy, and peppermint candy canes work really well. Candies with coatings, like M&M’s and Skittles, usually leak into the frosting and don’t look as pretty.



1. Cut the following three patterns from paper to make the template pieces for the gingerbread house. You will use each piece twice (a front wall and a back wall, two side walls and two roofs).

Front and Back of the House

Draw a square that is 5½ inches by 5½ inches. Use a ruler to find the center of the bottom edge and draw a centerline upward. Then use a ruler to draw lines slanting up from the square’s top left corner and top right corner to meet at the centerline and form the tip of the roofline. Draw a door that is 2 inches wide by 3½ inches tall. To make it centered, it should be 13/4 inches from either side. Use a sharp-tipped knife to cut out a heart-shaped window above the door. Cut the rest of the template out.

Sides of the House

Draw and cut a rectangle that is 3¾ inches wide by 5½ inches tall.


Draw and cut a rectangle that is 4½ inches by 4 inches.


2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda until the mixture is smooth (a stand mixer is very handy for this).


3. Mix in the flour and water to make stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm. (I often make the dough a day or two ahead, wrap it in foil and store it in the freezer until I’m ready to bake it.) Preheat oven to 375˚ F.


4. Roll out the gingerbread dough to a little thicker than ¼ inch. Place templates on top of dough and cut them out with a sharp-edged knife. Cut out the two front and back pieces, two side pieces, and two roof pieces. (Only cut out the door and heart window for the front side of the house.)


5. Bake the pieces at 375˚ F for about 10 minutes, or until evenly browned. Leave house pieces on the baking sheet for an additional 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Do not assemble the house until the house pieces are completely cool to the touch.


6. Mix all three frosting ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Continue mixing until the frosting forms stiff peaks.

Use icing to “glue” the gingerbread house’s sides, front and back together, directly onto a plate. Make sure the side pieces are vertical, with their longer edges attached to the front and back pieces. Be generous with the icing on the inside of the house. I usually place a large scoop into each corner and up the inside seams to bolster the construction. Let the frosting harden completely.

8. Decorate the doorframe with candy and add a candy cane beside the door before setting the roof in place. Frost the top edges of the house and the underside of the roof. Again, be generous with the amount of frosting on the underside of the roof so that it will attach firmly to the house. Let the frosting harden completely.


9. Frost the top of the roof and decorate with candies.



Photos by Heather Knierim, HBKPhotography.com/Design by Jennifer Rhode Design

In wintertime, the family sofa is a go-to comfort zone. So why not dress it up with engaging, textured rugs and throws that increase the cozy factor for family members and pets? Bright colors engender bright, happy feelings so don’t be afraid to go with bold, saturated hues.




Photo by Heather Knierim, HBKPhotography.com/Design by Jennifer Rhode Design

When it’s chilly outside and stuffy noses abound, hot mint tea is a natural menthol remedy that helps clear congestion. Try making it Dutch style by placing several fresh mint stems in a tall glass and adding boiling water. This simple preparation makes a fragrant, concentrated tea within minutes. Add a bit of honey and lemon, and to make it truly Dutch, serve the tea with a small cookie on the side.


Visit interior designer Jennifer Rhode online at jenniferrhode.com.

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