Reading by Lighting

Making Way for the Senses through Interior Design

A few fall seasons ago I had the opportunity to meet someone for the first time in their own home and as I walked into her house I began to realize that something in my own state-of mind was changing. Outside the seasons had already begun to change; in fact, fall was already well underway. But I hadn’t accepted it. To me it had simply become a waiting time between the mild temperature and the time when it would really get cold, in other words, a period of time in which to dread the cold weather ahead. However, a few minutes in a then-stranger’s house completely changed my perspective. Her house felt cozy and warm, the fragrance that filled her house immediately made me feel like it was fall, the words written on the artwork of her home inspired confidence within me. I remember stepping inside her home and suddenly not just accepting that fall had arrived but also feeling the urge to embrace the fall season and bring it into my own home as well.

Designing our interiors gives us the opportunity to express ourselves through our spaces. We can further express ourselves through design by incorporating design details that can be identified by our five senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell—and adding seasonal touches to express what we enjoy most about each season. Together, these design details will remind us of and prepare us for the enchantment of the season while crafting an experience in our interiors that creates a lasting impression. 


The sounds in an interior can enhance or detract from your experience of it, helping you feel relaxed or uneasy, allow focus or detract from concentration. Think about the sounds you may hear in the outdoors, birds chirping or rain falling, and provide a view to the source of the sounds. Consider adding accessories to the exterior of your home, such as wind chimes and rain chains, or to the interior of your home, such as indoor waterfalls and sound systems, to enhance your experience of the sounds of each season.


Seeing a space is part of experiencing it. Careful planning of the lighting design will broaden the experience of the people who will enjoy our spaces. Lighting plays a big role in the ability to see but we must remember that what we see is just as important as what we don’t see. We need to determine the areas that we want to highlight and the ones in which we want to have softer levels of light. In doing so we draw attention to special areas such as feature walls, artwork and displays. We can also use lighting to help us support our daily routines and tasks. For example, raising light levels when working on tasks requiring lots of concentration and lowering them to help loosen the mood of the room and create a more relaxed and sociable space will allow you to easily customize your space for its function.


This sense has the opportunity to create an instant transformation in the mood of a room, helping you and your guests feel comfortable, relaxed and at home while preparing your senses for the season ahead. Bringing live plants into indoor environments can be challenging due to pollen allergies, but by taking advantage of seasonal scents in candles and scented accessories you can create the experience without the added side effects.


We can think about the sense of touch as being a physical and a perceived sense in an interior. Soft, supple fabrics on seating finishes, cushioned floor finishes, even textured floors add their own character to a room. From a perceived sense, materials like flowing drapery and textured wall finishes will add their own personality to a room. Adding soft, plush throws to a sofa or bed in the winter will help make the room feel cozy and warm. Changing to lighter-weight fabrics and light or bright colors in the summer will help the room feel airy and calm.


While taste may be the hardest sense to incorporate into a room in literal terms, giving careful consideration to how your guests will use your dining space will help you personalize it in a way that will enhance the dining experience. Consider creating an atmosphere by selecting colors that complement the colors of food and the season. Adding unique artwork and accessories can make for conversation starters as your guests enjoy the food and the atmosphere.

Note:  This blog post was written by Wendy Gonzalez and originally published in the American Society of Interior Designers' New Jersey Chapter “Dialogues on Design” Blog on April 29, 2016.

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