More than ever, we want the place we live in to be a retreat from the outside world. ‘Today, it’s not just about how your home looks – it’s how it makes you feel,’ says style director and consultant Diana Civil. ‘A multi-sensory environment that gives you a genuine sense of wellbeing is so important.’
Here are some key ways to design a sensory home:
Choose soothing tones for room colours
Colour has an extraordinary effect on our mood. When it comes to home interiors, warm, cocooning shades with natural undertones are coming to the fore in 2021 – perhaps as a reaction to a time of such uncertainty. (The Dulux Colour of the Year, for instance, is Brave Ground, a soft, earthy light brown.)
However, yellow – known for its uplifting ‘happy’ connections – is also one to watch now, from sophisticated saffrons to soft buttery hues.
Top tip: If you prefer to keep your walls neutral, introduce pops of colour with accessories, soft furnishings and artwork – even an inexpensive bunch of flowers will give familiar schemes a much-needed lift. These can be changed easily to suit trends or seasons.
Incorporate different textures into your decor
The secret ingredient to any successful interior decorating scheme is the use of texture to add depth. As a test, study an all-white room on Pinterest or Instagram, then note how many tones and finishes have been subtly included – anything from satin-smooth surfaces that reflect the light to natural materials and a variety of different textiles.
Without these subtle layers, a room can seem flat and unfinished. It’s a great way to enhance the feel of your home, adding ambience and cosiness to what might seem plain on the surface.
Top tip: Whether it’s a cable-knit cushion, a super-soft throw, a piece of chunky pottery or a rustic basket, the textural quality must be inviting – you should want to touch it.
Give your home familiar scents
Smell is the most powerful of all our senses, and locks into our memory bank unlike any other – so giving your home ‘signature’ scents can help engender good feelings. The choices are infinite – use everything from scented candles to reed diffusers, inexpensive wax melts or luxury electric diffusers. Try an uplifting, welcoming scent by the front door, or a spa-like aroma in the bathroom.
Don’t forget old-fashioned aromas – a bar of good soap tucked in a linen cupboard; orange peel or pine cones tossed on to a crackling fire; not to mention the scent of fresh herbs and flowers, or a simple, refreshing blast of fresh air!
Top tip: Use fragrance to connect you to the task in hand. An invigorating zesty scent when you’re working can help you concentrate, for instance. And lighting a gentle lavender- or amber-scented candle at the end of every day can become part of a winding-down ritual.
Use lighting to set the mood
Effective lighting is an essential part of a successful interior design room scheme. That’s not simply because a lamp, say, can make a great visual contribution to a room’s aesthetics, but because of the way lighting sets the mood.
Obviously, it’s important to have good, clear light for tasks and working, but you can achieve an instant mood change with dimmer controls – or, these days, by using an app – and by installing warm white bulbs, rather than cool ones.
Layer your lighting with floor and table lamps, as well as wall or pendant options, and consider integrating it into – or under – cabinetry or shelving to offer a subtle glow. The powerful way lights can influence mood and perception also explains why certain scenes in your favourite films are lit in a specific way.
Top tip: Don’t forget the importance of natural light. If you can, leave windows unobstructed during the day, or fit sheer blinds, window film or shutters. A windowless room will benefit from an LED panel with daylight bulbs which mimic natural light, or if feasible, why not consider installing skylights?
Consider the impact of sound
Sound has a huge impact on our sense of wellbeing, so try to surround yourself with noises you like – and filter out what jangles your nerves. That isn’t always easy, particularly if it’s outside and beyond your control (although effective window glazing or sound insulation can make an enormous difference, and despite the initial cost will have other benefits, too). In your home, aim to choose new household appliances that are quieter – especially important in open-plan living spaces (check out Quiet Mark for recommendations). You can also deliberately time their use so they won’t intrude on relaxing downtime.
Top tip: Invest in a good pair of headphones so you can cut out obtrusive sounds sometimes. Apart from music and podcasts, listen to soothing natural sounds like rainfall, forest or ocean sounds – ask Alexa! These are thought to be every bit as relaxing as a massage. If you have a garden, encourage birds to visit with feeders, and hang tinkling wind chimes just outside a window or on the patio for a gentle meditative sound.
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