Comprehensive design at its best can be quite a sensual experience – calling attention to sight, sound and touch. Even our sense of smell and taste is heightened when the spaces that envelope us are considered. Our five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) are how we perceive and interact with the external world. When these senses are considered in conjunction with design, a beautiful thing happens: we become innately connected to our environment in ways specific and special to us – the end user. Simultaneously experiencing multiple senses at once is quite powerful and is instrumental in further connecting us to our surroundings.
sound: Imagine the inconsistent sounds of the sharp “pings” of rain drops falling on a metal roof, or the muffled “crunch” your feet make as they rhythmically move across a walkway of loose pebbles. The careful thought of natural and man made materials in our everyday environment have the ability to act as an additional, yet intangible material within an existing design palette. Have you ever noticed the sound in a library as you stand between two aisles of books? What about the precious sounds of little feet running across a wood floor? You needn’t be an acoustician to shift your thinking to accommodate the sounds that naturally enhance our lives.
sight: Design, by its nature, is understood visually. For most of us, our vision allows us to perceive the three dimensional world and make judgements about it based on this knowledge. Sight allows us to mediate the differences of foreground, middleground and background. As designers, we are able to make compositional judgements and intuitively know a design move is “right”, by our sight (sometimes by feel). The sensual quality of sight allows us to appreciate the darkened and soaked tree bark after a rain, or the shadows created on a building where light is not. It It was Louis Kahn that stated, “All material in nature, the mountains and the streams, are made of Light which has been spent, and this crumpled mass called materials casts a shadow and the shadow belongs to Light“.
touch: Touch is the most immediate and personal way we are introduced to our surroundings. The materials we choose to design and decorate with are often chosen because of how they feel in our hands and on our bodies, but also because of their experiential associations. For example, we choose a quality carpet or rug not only because it looks beautiful and feels good under foot, but maybe it holds a special memory for us. Maybe we have a positive association with the material feel of “wool” or “silk”. The tactile quality of a material encourages us to touch it, to interact with it. In turn, if a material is interesting to touch, it is almost always visually intriguing as well.
Filling our homes with a variety of sights, sounds and textures that are functional and beautiful naturally moves us towards creating a home that is sensual, and most important, memorable.