Your Guide to Designing From a Sensory Experience
12 August 2019
Interior and furniture design expert Rachel Edmonds has worked in the industry for over 25 years. In her blog, Raspberry Flavoured Windows, she shares hints and tips on all things decor, painting and DIY. As a mum of two autistic boys, every interior decision Rachel makes is not just an aesthetic one - it also considers how sounds, touches, smells and sights may impact her two sons. As a result, she has become a pro in designing from a sensory point of view.
Designing from a sensory experience might be a necessity for people with sensory processing conditions but Rachel argues that this approach helps make any room better suited for its dwellers. Below, she has designed a set of questions for each of our senses that will help you design your space in a way that makes you feel truly at home.
We receive sensory input every day, all the time: from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. This input comes from our seven senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and the lesser known two: balance (vestibular) and body awareness (proprioception). Interestingly, we can be over or under-sensitive to any of these given senses.
When designing a room, we need to consider and balance all of these senses in order to enjoy true comfort that caters for individual tastes.
To design not just from an aesthetic point of view, but a sensory one too, grab a pen and paper, and jot down your answers to the questions around the most important senses: Sight, Smell, Touch and Balance.
Make sure you have a room in mind when carrying out this exercise and always consider its function, as your sensory needs will vary greatly from one to another (eg. the kitchen will need to fulfil different requirements from that of the bedroom).
The idea is to take the elements that you love and incorporate them into your room design. Fill it with all the smells, textures and colours that make you happy.
What sort of colours make you happy? Are they bright? Light or dark? Or do you prefer neutrals? Your wardrobe might help out here. What are your preferences when it comes to lighting? Stark or soft?
Smell is one of our most powerful senses. An aroma can spark long and distant memories (both good and bad) and transport you back in time in an instant. Do you have a strong sense of smell? Can aromas overpower you easily? Do you have smells that you absolutely cannot abide? And which are the ones that you truly love?
This is one of our most important senses when it comes to the home. Are there fabrics that you love the feel of? Are there others that you absolutely can’t stand? A good telltale sign of your texture preference might be found in by looking at the clothes we feel most comfortable in. How about weight? Do you love a heavy duvet? Does the weight comfort you or do you prefer the lightest duvet you can find? What about underfoot? Do you like to always have something on your feet or would you rather go barefoot? Do you like to feel a cool or warm surface underfoot? Do you like hard or soft flooring?
Balance and body awareness
For the purpose of this blog, this is our final sense, and perhaps the most intriguing one. The body awareness system tells us where our bodies are in space and how our different body parts are moving. Are you clumsy or do you simply need lots of space? Do you feel more comfortable when surrounded by lots of objects? Would the lack of objects create a sense of peace for you or make you anxious?
Now you have the building blocks for each room of your home. Your sensory needs will differ from room to room but once you have asked yourself these questions it makes the design process much easier. Taking all the things you love from these lists and incorporating them in the decor decisions will address your sensory needs and transform your home into the ultimate sanctuary, serving your needs, preferences and tastes!
Written by Rachel Edmonds, founder of Raspberry Flavoured Windows - a blog about all things interior and furniture design. Make sure to read her review of Painthouse here.
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