As we go through life, we discover everything in our world through one or many of our five senses, so it only makes sense that we would want to design our spaces with those sensory stimuli in mind. In my opinion, one of the easiest ways to create a well-balanced space is to make sure that there are elements in my designs that embody or satisfy each of the five senses — touch, sight, smell, sound and taste.
Having studied design in college, one of the first influencers I had for this concept was Ilse Crawford (If you haven’t checked out her episode on Netflix’s new series Abstract, I highly recommend it!). Ilse was one of the first designers to document how to design spaces with emotional value as a priority. Creating designs that make you feel.
Similar to her design philosophy, I try to design every space I work on (in my personal life, and for my clients) with the goal of making it feel intentional and tailored to a certain lifestyle or habit. For example, If the ultimate goal is to design a space conducive to sleeping, then you'd aim to use soft textures, calming scents, and a muted color palette.
To better demonstrate how I design for the senses, I styled this little nook in my living room into a welcoming, zen journaling spot where I can take a break to relax and refocus my energy from day-to-day. Check out what I included in the space and why:
Arguably the most important of our senses when it comes to interior design is our visual stimuli. How you see the space is how you will ultimately feeling in the space. So, it was important to me to choose a color palette with soothing, warm colors. Textures are also equally important visually as they are for stimulating our tactile receptors. By coordinating a variety of natural elements like stone, wood, wool, plants and wicker the space holds your attention while also satisfying our innate tendency to connect with spaces that mimic nature. For me, this is always translated well through plants, like this adorable DIY Beaded Triangle Planter, or the wooden geometric shelf that I styled with various natural elements including: a brass whale sculpture (similar to this), a milk glass vase, wooden planter, raw amethyst, and a custom typewritten poem I picked up at the Mini Vintage Market a couple weeks ago.
Since this space was all about bringing a sense of zen to my home, I knew I wanted to make sure to include a comfortable space for me to write in my Many Moons journal. The ritual of journaling has been a tremendous tool in my personal development recently, so creating a dreamy space for me to relax and reflect was one of my design priorities with this project. I used a combination of soft layered rugs and a pillow to make this little corner nook feel inviting to the touch.
Whether it’s your favorite candle, essential oil diffuser, or a bouquet of fresh flowers — smell is a great way to optimize any design and is a great way to control how you feel when you’re using the space. For example, in your workspace you would likely want to choose scents that promote productivity and focus like peppermint, vetiver or eucalyptus. However, if you were designing your bedroom you might opt for calming scents like lavender or jasmine. In my particular case, I wanted my nook to be a place I could use to re-focus my energy. So, I incorporated my palo santo stick and sage for smudging. One of my other favorite products to use is this Breathe Deeply face + body mist by Happy Spritz. The blend of peppermint and eucalyptus heightens the senses, and fun fact: a portion of all their proceeds benefit animal rescue, which makes it a brand I can stand 100% behind!
Depending on the person and the functionality of the room, this could range from installing a surround sound system to hiding a portable speaker on a shelf. Whatever sounds inspire and encourage you most, find a way to include them in your design. For me this looks like earbuds and Sylvan Esso on Spotify but, if a lot of noise is distracting to your routine, you could also consider getting a white noise machine or simple water feature to heighten your senses without being overwhelmed.
This one is a little more subjective, because it’s not a sense we’re used to using very much in regards to design. However, one of the key elements for creating a well-balanced space is to cater to our creature comforts. When I want to relax, one of the first things I think of is making tea. So, this adorable “Mug Life” cup gets a lot of use in my home. I also used a short cork top glass jar to store little knick knacks, but it would also be a cute way to store mints or sweet treats on a coffee table or nightstand.
So whether you’re designing for your living room or bedroom, try to pick and choose items intentionally based on how you want your senses to use the space and the overall feelings you want to evoke. I’d love to know how you’ve incorporated the 5 senses into your personal design — feel free to let me know in the comments below!