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Interior designing that celebrates the five senses

imageThese days, designing your home means not only designing for the sense of sight but also for the sense of touch, hearing, smell and even taste. Whereas traditionally, designing interior was always focused on what is visually pleasing, today, people’s desire for a holistic approach in creating a haven they can call home is changing all that. Listed below are surefire ways to enliven your home sensuously and celebrate your five senses.


The Sense Of Touch
The sense of touch is our primal need to relate to our surroundings in a fundamental and direct way. The surest way to create a tactile interior is through texture, the surface quality of things.


There are two basic rules to consider when designing with textures. First, always consider the element of color. The relationship between texture and color is inseparable. The same color can have different effects when applied to two different textures. Keep colors subtle and simple for already interesting textures (e.g. in a fabric) so that texture can be fully appreciated without distraction. But if you are a fan of vibrant colors, remember that color should not overpower the textures. The less obvious the color, the greater impact the texture will have. Second, lighting is very vital. Good lighting highlights an interior’s texture to the fullest. Poor lighting flattens textures and makes a room seem insipid and boring.


Some of the textures you can employ in your design are hard and soft, matte and glossy, rough and smooth, heavy and light, clear and opaque, dimpled, creased, frosted, riven, knobbly, sheer, mottled, frayed, ribbed, crackled, etc., the list goes on and on. Your only limit when creating a textural home that is sensuous and pleasurable is your imagination. A good reference for designing a textural interior is the book of Katherine Sorrell, Textures and Colors for Interiors: An Inspirational Guide to Decorating Your Home. Some of the looks you can achieve through the use of textures include:


• Rustic charm. This look exudes unpretentious and unsophisticated but pleasing atmosphere. Achieve this look by using materials that have rough, unfinished and patinated textures. Examples are unglazed ceramic tiles for the floor, rough plaster for the walls, rustic looking furniture, natural fiber for area rug such as sisal, abaca etc. Remember to add soft textures (e.g. through throw pillows) to counteract the roughness of these materials.


• Modern chic. Smooth and shiny surfaces epitomize modern design. The use of chrome, leather, and polished wood for the furniture and even for the floor makes for a modern look that exudes polished sophistication.


The Sense Of Smell
Suffusing the interior with wonderful scent is often neglected. Ironically, the sense of smell is an important element to consider to make an interior memorable and delightful. Incorporating aroma into the design lends a certain mood to a room, lifts the spirit, revitalizes energy and calms frayed nerves.


The basic of home fragrances include the following elements:


• Scented candles. The all-time chart toppers when it comes to environmental fragrances because they alter the scent and mood of a room. Just bear in mind to select candles with soothing but not too overpowering scent.


• Incense. Although associated with spirituality and meditation, incense can also be used to spice up the room’s scent and mood. Select incense that is not pungent and heavy so as to overwhelm the nose. Many of today’s scents like lavender and green tea are light and relaxing.


• Fragrance oils. Typically used with an aroma diffuser, fragrance oil’s scent is activated by the heat of a candle. A few drops of this oil in water are enough to permeate a room with a scent of your choice. The scent of fragrance oil is usually synthetic without any healing properties unlike that of essential oil.


• Essential oils. These are pure, concentrated plant, herb, or flower extracts obtained specifically for their fragrance and therapeutic value. These oils are typically used for aromatherapy and believed to cure certain illnesses. Also used with an aroma diffuser, a few drops are enough to give off a wonderful scent and heal certain ailments at the same time.


• Potpourri. Traditionally a mix of dried plants, flowers, and essential oils, potpourri works well as a subtle room fragrance. Once exposed to air, potpourri lasts from a few weeks to months (high humidity and exposure to sunlight shorten its lifespan). When it loses fragrance, just add a few drops of essential oil.


• Fresh flowers. According to Nancy Reagan, "A room without flowers seem cold and uninviting." Nothing beats fresh flowers when it comes to bringing life and a wonderful scent to your interior. Centerpiece flower arrangement placed in the living room’s coffee table not only gives off a wonderful scent but also adds warmth, softness and beauty to a room.


The Sense Of Hearing
Our sense of hearing has the ability to make us instantly feel at ease or uncomfortable. A noisy place can make us feel confused while a place enveloped with soft music can make us feel invited and relaxed. However, music is not the only thing we can employ to create a sensuous interior; your imagination is the only limit to your auditory pleasure.


• Water element. Zen fountain was all the rage last year but I think it’s here to stay. The sound of trickling water is very calming and relaxing. A water fountain at the entrance of a house is a welcoming sight to any visitor entering your home.


• Wind chimes. Every time I hear chimes dancing along with the wind, images of breezy childhood afternoons I had as a child growing up in Cavite come to mind. The sound of chimes is very relaxing and is a constant reminder of nature’s awesome power of subtlety.


• Soft music. Soft music humming in the background especially in the bedroom or home office, helps us relax and keeps us focused on the task at hand.


• Acoustics. This is a rather technical aspect of designing, but it is very essential to incorporate this element at the start of the design process if you want peace and quiet in every part of your interior. You would not want your housemate to become privy to all conversations and intimate moments you have inside your room, would you?


The Sense Of Sight
There are myriad ways to pep up your room visually. Listed below are some elements that can help make your interior visually stimulating and interesting.


• Color influences mood, creates atmosphere and lifts the spirit. A successful interior always includes color that creates a strong and satisfying impression. Changing your room’s color through paint is the cheapest way to enliven your interior.


• Light. Good lighting highlights shape, color, and texture of every single object or space in a house while bad lighting ruins the overall ambience. A work of art, whether painting or sculpture, properly illuminated, will surely highlight its beauty to the fullest.


• Shape. Geometric shape lends a room simple sophistication while sinuous shape imbues playfulness and informality. When you select furniture pieces in similar shapes you create a design rhythm that has a strong visual impact. On the other hand, juxtaposing different shapes and forms creates interesting visual tension and prevents your room from looking boring.


• Balance. Visually, we find unbalanced relationships disquieting, while balanced relationships look normal and comfortable. If you want to achieve the look of formality, use symmetry in furniture arrangement or table vignette. In contrast, asymmetrical arrangement suggests casualness and openness to change.


• Contrast. Contrast heightens a thing’s value through comparison. A combination of light colored fabric for the upholstery and rich dark wood for the furniture imbues a room with a sophisticated and elegant atmosphere; a polished pedestal top is a perfect foil for a rustic looking sculpture; juxtaposing curve lines and straight lines in furniture lends interesting visual tension to an interior. Contrast relieves monotony and avoids the "too-much-of-the-same" look.


The Sense Of Taste
This is an elusive element to incorporate in your design. How else can you experience a thing’s taste without tasting it? But don’t be too literal to achieve this aspect of design. The aroma of warm bread baking in your oven is an indication of a gastronomic enjoyment waiting to satisfy your family’s or visitor’s palate. Your kitchen can be a haven of wonderful aromas you can tease your family’s nostrils with and eventually let them partake in savoring what’s cooking in your kitchen.

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(The author was one of the participants in the recent "ISLA (Interior Spaces Local Application)," an exhibit by the Advanced Class 2003 of the Philippine School of Interior Design at the PB Com Towers, Ayala Ave., Makati City.)

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