How to Bring Your Home to Life with 5 Senses Design™

Imagine enjoying your day, not just getting through it. That’s the basis of my 5 Senses Design™ — savoring each moment in your home. When you gaze at a view that inspires you or breathe in a certain smell, doing the dishes becomes less of a chore and more an act of self-care. Here’s how to bring your home to life with 5 Senses Design™:

1. Savor the Sight.

Vision is the easiest sense to accomplish in home design. That’s because we live in an ocular centric society. As an architect, I like to use Japanese principles to frame what you want to see and obscure what you don’t. For example, a poplar tree line can obscure the neighbor’s house; you’d pick up the view beyond and it would seem that you have a grand space. This is referred to as a “borrowed View” in Japanese design. Multiple rooms may have the same sort of view, like that tree line, which carries a common theme. I recommend to my clients: Be more selective in your material selection. For example, cluttered shelves cause your eye to dart, which is exciting but not necessarily calming. So declutter and decide what’s really important to you. That’s the first step toward savoring sights — see less, savor more. Then you’ll notice materials in the design, such as the juxtaposition of stone or wood on a white single pane of drywall. As with all senses, I implement art theory … vistas through architecture, of the architecture and within the architecture. To frame Views, of important spaces or from important spaces, to serve as a guide of a focal point.

2. Savor the Sound.

What you hear is the second easiest to grasp. So if we incorporate that poplar tree line, we can welcome the outdoors in … easy-to-open windows allow for a gentle breeze to pass through, as the leaves rustle in the wind. You may also want to hear the birds perched on the branches. I ask my clients: When you wake up in the morning, what do you want to hear? Kids want to hear mom walking down the hallway; Mom may want to hear their voices around a breakfast table. Then we get grounded, enabling us to consider how the floor material sounds. Some don’t want to hear footfalls, but in some cases it’s important to hear. It’s often nice to announce an area with a different material — you can make that announcement through sound, the way you hear feet across wood rather than the carpet or concrete. This is especially important in universal design. I think of my dad, who was blind. I felt comforted, hearing him move through different parts of the house. Alternatively, a soothing sound of a water feature is another way to bring your home to life with 5 Senses Design™. I ask my clients: Which materials do you feel connected to? How does this impact your life?

3. Savor the Smell.

Just as sight can offer sound, it can also offer smell. One of my clients enjoys the smell of the beach. That’s just one example of an obvious, noticeable fragrance. Others are mountain air or freshly cut wood. The poplar tree line lends to sight and sound, as well as the sense of smell. My approach is all about connecting the materials from the outside in, with poplar wood paneling on the walls or the ceiling. Aromatic cedar works well on laundry shelves because it reduces moisture and soaks up those ‘less than friendly’ smells. Aromatherapy has the power to conceal scents you don’t like, and enhance the scents you do enjoy. When you wake up in the morning, what do you want to smell?

4. Savor the Touch.

The sense of touch is important for furniture selection, even faucets and light switches. People who are kinesthetic walk by a stone wall, and want to touch it. You can touch tree bark in the yard and savor the feeling of a wooden countertop (not laminate!) in your kitchen. It’s satisfying to connect your indoor and outdoor experiences. With clients who gravitate toward materials in this way, we discuss how they interact with each item in the home. For example, where do you want to plug in devices? Would you rather not bend down to plug in? Touch is all encompassing. Being mindful of body posture and how you move through the space can change your daily life.

5. Savor the Taste.

Taste is the most challenging sense to incorporate in architecture. (You don’t really lick a building.) So we can think of a space being consonant with taste. How do we design a dining room with the meals in mind? Look at restaurants. You can go to a fast food chain, sit on cheap materials, and have the expected fast food taste. Yet, if you put that food in a 5 star restaurant environment … the cheeseburgers would be wonderful, because the space has been meaningfully designed around the meal. Some fixtures are reminiscent of certain foods, like a marble lamp that looks a bit like a block of gouda. Then the cheese plate becomes more appealing. When clients select stone for their dining room and kitchen, I ask: How can we make this look delicious?

Bring it all together

One way to unite all these sensory experiences is in an interior garden. Elements of both my 5 Senses Design™ and the concepts of biophilic design come into play. If you like to grow your own food, perhaps you already have herbs in the kitchen window. Imagine taking it a step further: a greenhouse adjacent to the kitchen, like a butler’s pantry where you can go in and pluck the peas you need for soup … watch the vines spread, listen to the peas pop out of their pods, take in the aroma of fresh herbs, really feel the ingredients between your fingers, and taste the freshness. Instead of cabinets on that wall, you could have a garden. I recommend this to clients who already like to cook, eat and share culinary experiences. Bringing the outdoors in makes it so much more exciting; a ritual that will amaze your family and guests.

When my clients talk about their kitchen, I want to know how they cook and who cooks. How often do you entertain? Is it like a cooking show, with multiple people involved? Even if you don’t like to cook, having a pantry garden could change how you perceive dinnertime.

My 5 Senses Design™ is a powerful tool to improve my clients’ health and overall enjoyment of life. We think, together, about their activities, and add ritual and convenience through design.

When you live in a boring bland box, that’s when you loathe to make a fire or take a shower or cook. We can feel like these things are chores, not self care. ‘Just gotta get through the day,’ I’ve heard. Why are you doing that? Why don’t you enjoy your day? If every room in your home was designed around interaction and beauty, moving from one space to the other no longer becomes a chore. People would no longer hate their kitchens. With 5 Senses Design™, going through your day isn’t a chore anymore; it’s beautiful.

To connect with your senses

Recall your fondest memory … it probably involves an activity at least two senses can identify with. My approach recreates that feeling in the home. Through my initial design consultation, clients can take my 5 Senses Design™ questionnaire. I find people will gravitate toward certain senses — first vision, the confirming sense, then 1 or 2 more. Many of us use our eyes to locate what we want to interact with, then we move to that area and touch it, smell it, listen to it, or even taste it. What will you do next?

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