We start learning about the five senses when we are little kids. We play games in class to help us discover our senses and how they inform us about the world around us. Our five senses are crucial in our understanding of the world around us and exist in order to keep us safe. As our bodies have developed, so have our senses to better serve our needs. If you ever feel like going down a rabbit hole, look into how our senses have evolved over time. It’s wild.
But when you leave pre-school, we kind of stop talking about our five senses. We learn the basics and then we move on to “more important” things like calculus and Shakespeare. But have you ever really thought about your five senses? And how crazy it is that we are taking in so much information at all times? When I was starting research on holistic interior design all of my research pointed me back to understanding our senses.
I’m not going to get into the evolution of our senses today, but I do want to talk in more depth about why it’s so important to consider each of the senses when decorating your home. We are taking in all this information anyway, so what’s the harm in catering to these needs in our design process?
01 | Sight
I’m starting off with sight because this one probably sounds pretty self-explanatory. Obviously, we want our homes to look beautiful. We know what it feels like to walk into a room or an experience that feels like it’s a feast for our eyes. We also know what it feels like to look around a dingy room and feel our skin crawl before we even touch anything.
If we dig a little bit deeper, past the first look and aesthetics of a room, there is so much we can do to make a room pleasing to our eyes. According to *Source*, we can see one million shades of colour! Isn’t that incredible? Our eyes are noticing nuances in light and colour that we aren’t even aware of. Light and colour have proven to affect our moods and our body’s natural rhythms and I love the idea that we can tune into this knowledge and create zones in our house that not only look beautiful, but that also support our brain.
When you’re designing your next room, try to imagine a pathway that will lead your eye around the room. What is the focal point? Where does my eye naturally go next? You want to create a smooth experience that gives your mind ample time to take everything in without being confused. Consider how the natural light changes throughout the day and how the shadows might help guide you from one beautiful vignette to the next.
02 | Smell
This one is kind of fun! Do you know how realtors will bake cookies before a house viewing to make people feel more welcomed? Scent is a huge factor in helping us feel at ease or stressed. Personally, I feel stressed whenever I walk into someone’s house and all I smell is Febreze. We often tie smells with different people and experiences and many of us can identify how something smells from memory. This is pretty powerful!
The obvious answer for pampering our sense of smell is through candles, essential oil diffusers and incense. These are all great options for creating ambiance in your home. I love lighting candles in the evening when I’m settling in with a book, and I usually keep a diffuser near my desk while I’m working. However, we now know that synthetic fragrances and standard candle wax can actually negatively affect our health. So the question is, how do we cater to our sense of smell without impact the quality of the air in our home?
Well, air quality is actually a really important aspect of scent in our homes. Have you ever gone on vacation and come back and your whole house smells stuffy? While candles and diffusers are great for a quick fix, understanding the air circulation in your home is a crucial part of keeping your house feeling fresh. Our kitchens and bathrooms are often equipped to properly ventilate but our bedrooms and living spaces usually aren’t. Consider purchasing a dehumidifier or fans to help circulate the air. Oh, and obviously, open your windows when you can! I know in colder climates (hello Nova Scotia) this is only accessible during the summer months so having fans and de/humidifiers are really important.
03 | Taste
Taste is a little tricky when you’re designing a physical space. With this sense, I think more about where you want to enjoy your meals or drinks. How can your surroundings enhance your mealtime routines? Lighting is really important for this one and is a huge part of restaurant design. You wouldn’t want to eat breakfast in a dim room with lots of drapery and candles, would you? But, for a romantic dinner, low mood lighting would be really fitting.
Do you have a favourite chair by a window where you love to enjoy your morning coffee? Make sure you have a place to set your drink down, or a coaster so the area feels ready and tailored to that routine. This could also apply if you like having a glass of water nearby when you’re having a relaxing bath. Think about your routines and what you need to make them more convenient and hassle-free.
I’d also encourage you to think about your dishes and cutlery. Do you only use one of the fifteen mugs in your kitchen? Take some time to understand why you love that mug so much and maybe look for other mugs that can mirror that experience and get rid of the ones you don’t like using. We used to have black dishes and I hated using them. When we bought a set of white dishes it felt like my food actually tasted better. Be intentional with the kitchen staples you bring into your home.
04 | Touch
Touch is also pretty self-explanatory when you’re considering a physical space. We automatically start thinking about soft furnishings and hardware like doorknobs. Touch is a really important way of creating a relationship and connection with the items in our home. There is a reason why Marie Kondo talks about touching each item when you’re decluttering. Touch affects us every single day, so make sure you like how your things feel on your skin.
This is very important in all areas of your home, but if you want to start with one place, start with your bedroom. Make sure your bed linens suit your needs. If you tend to be hot at night, stick with breathable materials that keep you comfortable and well-rested. Does your floor always feel cold in the morning? Add a fluffy rug or a pair of slippers by your bed to minimize the shock to your system when your toes touch the ice-cold floor.
Your bathroom is also a really important area. Have you ever noticed that people always comment on the fluffy towels in hotels? You can have this experience at home! Invest in cozy towels and robes to make your morning rituals even more pleasurable.
The obvious answer to designing for your sense of hearing is music. Do you like listening to music? I know I do! We have a speaker in our kitchen that I use almost every day to listen to music and podcasts. We also have a good speaker in our TV room to make movie nights even more special. Sound is so important!
Sound pollution is also really crucial to think about. Does your fridge share a wall with your bedroom? Can you hear it buzzing when you’re trying to sleep? Is there a loud clock ticking in your room all night? Doctors often recommend white noise machines for infants and young children because it helps them sleep. If you’re dealing with noises like traffic or roommates that you can’t do anything about, consider investing in a white noise machine. The quiet, repetitive sounds might help to minimize the noise.
I could talk about this all day! There are so many ways that you can cater to each of the five senses. Depending on the purpose of the room or the energy you’re looking to encourage you’re going to make very different decisions. Next time you walk into a room, try to think about what your five senses are noticing at any given minute. How do they all come together to create a pleasing or uncomfortable environment? This is highly personal so think about your lifestyle and your needs when pampering each sense.
Do you have any questions about designing for the five senses? Send me a message! Let’s talk about it.