You know that feeling when you walk into the kitchen and fresh baked cookies are coming out of the oven. You probably haven’t even seen them yet but as soon as you entered you could feel the warmth from the oven and the smell of them danced in and out of your nose. It takes you back to your childhood or simply creates a warm and cozy feeling inside of you almost immediately. That’s the power of including all 5 senses in design.
We often think of design as simply the visuals. How do things look when I walk into a room? But design is about the full experience. The question actually is, how do I feel when I walk into a room? And when all 5 senses are used in design, often, you feel pretty amazing.
Sight is the obvious sense that’s used in design. It’s how the room looks. Are the colors pleasing? Does the room feel balanced? Is it clean? These basics take care of our sight, which admittedly is probably the most important part of design.
From what we seen in a room we have an immediate reaction. Does it feel right? This could be the way the room is laid out (feng shui) or how the colors make us feel. You know in your gut when you see a room if it’s right or not. The goal is to create a room that visually stimulates us with color, texture, and pattern, and makes us feel at ease.
Like I suggested at the beginning, the scent of a room has the power to transport us somewhere else even if that’s just to a place of being at peace. While having the smell of fresh baked cookies is wonderful, it’s not always sustainable so including potpourri, fresh flowers, or even a mixture of your favorite essential oils in a spray that you can add to a room when it feels a little stale will help change the scent (and the energy) of a room. In the Spring, I also love to open all the windows and burn sage or Palo Santo to air out the house and get energy moving again.
Unless you’re Willy Wonka, you probably shouldn’t be licking your walls are tasting your pillows. But taste can still be added to rooms in small ways. I always remember going to my grandmother’s home running to her dining room bar cart and finding the jar of candy on it. It was a style of candy I only ate at her home along with the barrel shaped juices she would buy us. When I taste that candy today or see the juices I go straight back to 8-years-old at my grandparents house. So while the taste of the design isn’t a thing, adding small moments like this can build a taste memory that takes you back to the spaces you knew and loved.
Think about the furniture in your home. The couch you lay on, the bed you sleep in, your favorite reading chair. I bet almost all of these you would describe as soft. But soft can mean so many things. The fabric itself might be sturdy and rough like a tweed, or it could actually be soft like a velvet. The amount of cushion though could be why you call it soft or perhaps you like something with more support and need a good hard chair.
Having a variety of textures in a room not only makes it pleasing to look at so our eyes can drift from one surface to another but it also entices us to engage with the room by touching. Your fabrics will almost always be on the softer side since they make constant contact with your skin. But you can add rough textures with baskets or plants (like a cactus). You might balance out the soft with something hard like hard wood floors or granite counters. The hard edges of a table balance out the fur throw you have over the couch creating two contracting textures that both bring you in and make you want to feel around the room.
Like sight, touch is one of the main senses we use in design, offering up and large mix of options to make a room feel just right.
Sound, or lack there of, is another element to consider in your design. A great example of this is my husband’s studio. He’s a drummer so while he likes sounds, I would like to not hear sounds coming from his room. Part of the design of that room is to find ways to absorb sound so that the rest of the house isn’t disturbed. There are ways to do this that allow us to keep the room looking beautiful and keeping the other senses in mind, but sound by far because the most important sense in this space, both in creating a space that sounds good and also doesn’t let sound escape the room.
On the other hand, the living room is where we have our record player set up and like to tune out to music since there is no TV in that room. We invested in a high quality Sonos sound system to ensure that the music sounded it’s best and that the sound could travel through to the kitchen or even outside when we open the windows and have guests over for dinner.
Whether you’re trying to increase sound for an experience of listening to music or watching a movie, or remove sound to embrace some peace and quiet, sound becomes and element of design based on your needs for a room. Sound also becomes a highly important component when we talk about kids in the spaces–using white noise to help keep them asleep, or finding ways to absorb noise where they can be found playing (aka screaming).
The 5 Senses In Design
While sight, touch and possibly even sound are thought of most often when it comes to design. Smell and taste can provide that extra element of awe when you are hosting or enjoying a space of your own. By turning a room into an entire experience with all 5 senses at hand, you create something magical–An intentional space.
As you continue to build the design of your own home, think about how you can use each sense in a room. What do you want the finished feeling to be? Walk into a space of your home and name what you feel for each sense. What do you see, feel, hear, smell, taste? You might realize that having a room close to a bathroom is creating an unwanted smell and therefore a new design decision needs to be made to fix that. Or maybe having the living room window right next to the grill outside is making you taste smoke long after the grill is turned off. Noticing small aspects like this will help you build an intentional space that you and your guests will love. The divine is always in the details.