Interior Design: Focusing On The 5 Senses

August 29, 2013 General, Interior Design 0 Comments

Focusing On The SensesUsually Interior Design is all about sight – how things look when everything comes together. But some designers and researchers are arguing that focusing on sight limits designs. Instead, you should be focusing on the other four senses as well.

Sensory design is not necessarily a new concept. According to Catherine Warren Leone of the International Interior Design Association, sensory design has been most effective in high-end spas and resorts. But it is becoming more popular as hospitals, airports, retail stores and corporations embrace it – and attempt to use it to convey their branding.

Warren Leone also says that “branding isn’t the only area that sensory design can profoundly impact. Design that speaks to the senses can evoke comfort and relaxation, causing end users – customers or otherwise – to want to spend more time in the space.” Learn how you can use sensory design to appeal to your clients. Focus on these techniques for the five senses:

1. Sight

This is probably the easiest sense to appeal to in Interior Design.

Designer Monica L. Roca suggests you focus on:

  • Color: Consider how wallpaper, paint, carpeting and furniture fabrics can work together to influence mood.
  • Lighting: Use it to highlight shapes, colors and textures.
  • Shapes: Ask yourself, “Should I use geometric shapes or sinuous shapes?” Consider how these two forms can impact the style and overall impression of the room.

These elements can work together and contrast one another, making the room more visually complex. Strive to reach a balance.

Remember not to overcrowd a space. In an interview for her article, Dan Hill of Sensory Logic told Warren Leone that “people don’t like to feel trapped or hemmed in.” When there is too much clutter, the space can be intimidating. Some people may even fear it.

2. Sound

Many clients will want you to construct a space that reduces noise – to promote quieter, more focused environments. You can focus on constructing rooms using acoustic techniques. These can stop voices from carrying throughout the home and reduce white noise in office environments.

But you can also use certain décor elements to promote tranquility using sound. Consider:

  • Indoor water fountains: The sound of trickling water can be very calming and relaxing, argues Roca.
  • Wind chimes: Place these outside of windows near kitchens or bedrooms to add soft background noise that is both relaxing and subtle.
  • Soft music: Music in the workplace – whether in a corporate space or in a home office – can help workers focus and promote productivity.

3. Smell

Bringing certain smells into a designed space can immediately impact your mood. Designer Valerie Trent cites research that connects smell and memory. “People can often recall aromas from childhood or a distinctive odor they’ve only smelled once. Whatever your particular nose prefers, smells do enhance comfort and happiness.”

Incorporating smell into a design is especially comforting when you’re working in a client’s home. If you are focusing on a bedroom, living room or kitchen, you can bring in specific scents by incorporating these elements into your design:

  • Scented candles
  • Incense
  • Fragrance oils
  • Essential oils
  • Potpourri
  • Fresh flowers

Even if you are designing for a corporate setting, you should consider including specific scents into your design. Customers can come to associate a particular scent with a company – which might remind them of the company and improve customer loyalty.

4. Taste

Unlike sight, taste is probably the hardest sense to appeal to in Interior Design.

Warren Leone also interviewed the owner of Bennett Design Group Belinda Bennett who argues, “Color affects the appetite, in essence, the taste of food.” Bennett designs for many restaurants and advises young designers to consider incorporating the colors of food into their designs for similar spaces.

She recommends:

  • Blue color schemes for seafood restaurants
  • Pink color schemes for dessert establishments
  • Lighting that will positively impact the appearance of food

You can also promote taste through the use of smell. Using elements that depend on fragrant spices such as cinnamon or vanilla can remind your customers of the the tastes and foods they associate with those smells.

5. Touch

Textiles are very important to designers. But don’t just consider how they look and whether they match your design. Think too about how they feel – soft carpet, smooth leather, raised embroidery. These choices can evoke different feelings in your clients and can affect the overall impact of a room. You can turn space into a room families will actually spend time in just by making the right fabric choices for couches and chairs.

Warren Leone says, “People are drawn to natural materials because they possess an innate richness and warm up an environment through texture.” Consider which materials are best for which parts of a house or workplace.

Think about how the elements for each sense work together throughout a space to differentiate between each room and to bring the rooms together under a unifying theme. Learn more about interior design and sensory design at Harrington.


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