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House Beautiful: Designing for the Senses


I used to be that person that bought magazines at the airport. Not just a couple, more like 12 of them. Working in digital media and coming from a magazine background I thought it was my duty to purchase them, full price, in paper form. As I stopped traveling so much for work I realized that I was behind on the latest issues, often even missing issues completely. So exactly 1 year ago I went on a subscription spree and subscribed to EVERY. SINGLE. MAGAZINE.

Needless to say this became a problem in my marriage (not really), as every month there were MOUNTAINS of magazines all over the house – some read, some unread, burying pieces of furniture. I became that person who hoards the ones that I liked, with the “but there was a recipe in there that looked delicious (that I will never actually make)” attitude every time Brian threatened to recycle them. So after a year of taste testing, learning the market, and forming my opinion about each one I have decided to only renew a few. There were always some that I got excited to get out of the mailbox, and those are the winners.

House Beautiful is one of them.

Let me tell you why: Beyond the fact that House Beautiful is jam packed with tips tricks, and little gems of advice, it has an organic and seamless way of making it’s design concepts accessible to all of us. Everything the magazine features is easy to put into play in your own home and the focus is on the decorating ideas, not on price or designer products, that make your home beautiful. Reading each issue is like being invited into one of those beautiful museum-quality houses you have always coveted, but now you get a guided tour from the sweetest and most informative docent who lets you touch and play with everything in them. Oh, and she will also tell you how they got the look and how you can create a version of it for yourself. The stories are colorful and inviting – they let you dream – while the conversations are down-to-earth and actionable (sorta like that gorgeous guy who makes your knees weak but is so nice and approachable).

For this post we decided to take one of their larger features and use it as an inspiration for some moments at my house. House Beautiful’s November issue discusses design in terms of all the senses. It illustrates that rooms are for living in and not just for looking at, that a well-designed room engages all the senses and it is through all the senses that you want to look at—and experience—a room. We as designers design a room based on how we want the room to feel, and not in the touch kind of way, more in the you walk in and you get a feeling, kind of way. And that ‘feeling’ involves all five senses.

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Let’s chat about SIGHT first. You ‘see’ everything – literally, every piece of furniture, pillow, accessory, so this one seems kind of obvious and could have been interpreted a few different ways. But one of the things that I’ve found in my own home is the importance of balancing focal points and often letting the natural light (if you have it) be the star. The second you walk into our house you are overwhelmed by a sense of light and brightness, which makes it so much easier to decorate.



If natural light is not one of your home’s allies, then color is your next best friend. I love House Beautiful’s ‘Color Crush’ section which gives you not only a new color trend to pay attention to, but a huge roundup of products and items that you can purchase to bring that color into your home to refresh your look. This month is a gorgeous apple green that’s impossible not to gush over.

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TOUCH. You know how on a stormy and rainy day or on a romantic night you want to cuddle up under a warm soft blanket and just enjoy all that it has to offer? That is your sense of touch telling you to pick this specific blanket over that one that Aunt Gertrude made you 10 years ago that feels like sandpaper and smells like the freezer section in the grocery store.

Although instinctively we think that touch is something that is all about those soft knits and sheepskin furs it encompasses much more than that. There are surfaces, and textiles all over my house and in previous clients’ homes that were picked solely because of the way that they feel when you touch them. Slick smooth countertops, velvet curtains, brass fixtures, leather poufs, sisal pillows, linen sheets all evoke a different sensation of touch.

SOUND. When you think of designing a room, your first thought is never “ok, how do we incorporate sound into this whole scenario.” In fact, you probably have never even thought about it before, but it is something that we can design around. I have this handmade set of bells in my home and although they are not constantly making sound because of the way they are displayed they do evoke the most amazing and soothing pitch when they do get brushed.

Sounds are not only about the accessories that you bring into your home or the music you play. The sounds of the natural elements within your home all bring that sense of sound in. A crackling fire at the end of a long day’s work can instantly evoke a sense of calm, or that slight squeak of the hardwood floors let me know that Charlie is just about to turn the corner to come and see me.

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SCENT is one of the first things you notice when you walk into a home. Everyone’s home has a very distinct smell and that is just the way it is. Some smell like fresh laundry, some smell like coffee or baked goods, some smell like terrible potpourri, or some have a more pleasant and inviting smell. There are a handful of ways to bring those “more pleasant and inviting” smells into your home. One of the easiest, and most sense provoking are candles. There are so many affordable and great smelling options out there that there is no excuse anymore for why your house smells like cat litter and musty gym socks. I often find that I will change out what candles we are burning throughout the seasons as, again each smell evokes a different memory or sense. During Christmas we will burn a spicy cinnamon or pine, whereas when spring rolls around I am ready for something more fresh.

Fresh cut flowers are obviously my favorite ways to bring in a pretty smell with some of our fragrant favorites being jasmine, lilac and peonies. Now, be forewarned that there is a fine line to how much we actually want to smell when we walk into your home. Less is more in this case. You never want to get blasted with a smell as soon as you open the door, just a subtle undertone of a scent is much more pleasing and manageable.

As you consciously incorporate certain elements that evoke the senses into your homes, you’ll find that not only will they be more inviting, but that each room will feel a bit more pulled together as our senses get a little bit of play time. That’s why House Beautiful’s feature is such an important reminder to focus on these small details (and this is why Brian never gets to recycle my issues). It is about loving AND living in rooms.

If you want to share in my joy of eagerly collecting every lush issue and reading about all their fabulous ideas for the home you are in luck. My years of loyally preserving every House Beautiful magazine has earned me a special discount, which I’m sharing with you! There’s even a FREE copy to this month’s issue so you can start bringing your senses alive at home – just click HERE to get started. Subscribe, I promise you’ll be happy you did.


In case you don’t know the insider magazine gossip, Sophie Donelson is the new Editor in Chief and she is young, smart, with it and taking the magazine in a direction that feels inspired, forward thinking and still approachable and accessible.

Make sure you keep up-to-date on your reading, too. Not only will upcoming issues feature the top trends for 2016, but you’ll be able see what I have in the works with the mag in upcoming pages of House Beautiful – it has to do with a baby named Elliot and her new nursery.

*All photography of my home by the lovely, Tessa Neustadt.

**Big thanks to our friends at House Beautiful for sponsoring this post. All opinions and writing are my own.

Fin Mark


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I eliminated every single magazine EXCEPT HB. It’s fantastic and keeps getting better and better.


Subscribed 🙂 Thanks for the discount! I’ll admit, I’ve never read HB before, but I’m looking forward to checking it out after this post.

April Lee

The two mags I must have are House Beautiful and Country Living because their pictures are so rich and clear and dreamy. Receiving them in my mailbox makes my whole day.

Love House Beautiful.. I pick it up as a treat as I’m trying to hone down my mag collection too. Somehow I need the real deal, I hate e-mags.. not satisfying at all. My all time favourite magazine though is Canadian House & Home. Has anyone tried it?? I love the range and variety.. it never fails to make me happy 🙂


Yes! By far, House & Home is the very best. A little known secret around here. 🙂


I’ve been a subscriber for years. I also watch their online channel.
Agree completely about e-mags.

Cris S.

Love it too!


What has happened to the beautiful flowers at the top of your the logo? I loved that only sometimes it shows up and sometimes not.
Wha’ happened?


oh, i like it this way. 🙂

Living Etc is THE most important magazine in my world. I can’t get enough – it’s fresh, modern, fun, and always has the perfect blend of old and new combined. If you have never picked up an issue, give it a try. I live in Canada and have a subscription – crazy expensive but worth every penny!


Me too! Love Living Etc. I live in Australia and can sympathise with the crazy expensive sentiment, but it’s such a great magazine.


High five to that! I refer to LivingEtc as my “cigarettes”- its an expensive indulgence and I get really irritated when I try and quit.


I’m with you! Living, Etc is my “treat” magazine, however I just can’t pull the plug and subscribe. So expensive!!


Loved this post:) Great timing too as we consider ways to stir the senses for the coming holidays. Would love a source for those gorgeous handmade bells!


As someone who works for a large printer (who eh hem, prints this magazine) it thrills me to see someone push print. I adore magazines, and love to see others who do as well 🙂


honestly i found House Beautiful to be unobtainable for me. the design style was just not me. I want things i love to touch, snuggle up against, feels like me! and House Beautiful didn’t offer that, not to mention pretty much everything was just ridiculously priced. I’m sure people still subscribe to it even if they can’t afford anything, but i just didn’t care for it.

on the magazine side — i too had a MILLION print subscriptions. My husband was driven insane. Finally i found a solution — Next Issue! all the magazines i want in one place on my ipad. boom! done. No magazines all over the home.


I love how far out it is. Usually I want a filtered version for my own home, but I still love it. Plus i don’t expect magazines to be catalogues…its like reading a fashion mag. I’m never going to splurge more than $50 on a top and good luck finding a “budget” item at that price in a mag!

Susie Q.

I agree w your comments re House Beautiful. I used to like it more, but for some reason I now find it too high-end to inspire me in the slightest. (Though maybe I should check it out, since they have a new editor?) The only magazine I buy nowadays is Atomic Ranch 🙂


Is this a sponsored post? It should be more clear.

Also, did someone help write it? If so, I would like to see the credit for it. The voice doesn’t sound exactly like Emily. Though maybe it is just sleep-deprived new motherhood talking? (Speaking of which, I hope it is going well and can’t wait till you are ready to share more baby pictures!)


Totally agree — seems like maybe sponsored and definitely written (or partially written) by someone other than Emily.

Such a gorgeous spread! You did an amazing job!



Dang! I just renewed my subscription sans discount. 🙁 I love HB. Gorgeous content and I never feel bad about myself after reading it, unlike with other décor mags, lol.


emily – i would love to know the other magazines that you are renewing!

Hi Emily,

I love house beautiful, I have been wanting to get a subscription. Can I ask you where you purchased your white candle? looks lovely.


I’m also a magazine junkie. Milieu and C Home are two of my recent favorites along with the old standbys HB, Veranda, Elle Decor, and Architectural Digest. Always such a treat to find them waiting for me in the mailbox!


Ooh, I’ll definitely subscribe! Can you share the source for those lovely extra large light gray textured pillows (on bench and floor)?


I still keep magazines and clip out the bits I want to save, haha! I’ve got many, many house beautiful clippings stuck on my fridge.

Colleen Clark

Where did you buy those wooden hooks that you’ve hung your bells from? I’ve been looking all over for something like that!

Colleen Clark

Where did you buy those wooden hooks that the bells are hung from? I’m looking for something similar for some bells that my father gave to me awhile back. Source?


Love HB magazine too. Been reading it for years. I was going to crack into the November issue on my flight later this week. Thanks for the preview.


Ooh I love House Beautiful magazine. It’s one of my favorites and always good for inspiration.


I’ll have to give HB another try. In the past it’s been too pretentious for me. The magazine that has consistently made me excited when it’s in my mailbox is good ol’ BHG. Closely followed up by Country Living. I guess I’m just not a fancy girl – and I’m completely cool with that!
Can’t wait to see your baby girl’s nursery!


It’s been ages since I’ve bought HB magazine and this issue looks so good. It’s on my shopping list for this week! Loving the fall fireplace.


HB has long been one of my favorites and it looks like it is headed in a fun, fresh and good direction with Sophie on board. Excited to see my new issue!


New editors always shake things up. Can’t wait to see what HB’s got in store for the future. Scent is my favorite – SO excited for candle season to be back!


Where’s that beautiful candle from??

To design a spaces that engages all the senses is a very smart approach and the end result is bound to amaze everyone! The materials you lay underfoot work on our touch and sight, that’s why they should be soft and intriguing.

Looking forward to the nursery article. Congrats on baby Elliot by the way, so happy for you all!


Use Zinio Reader. I can borrow the digital copy through my library and never have to hoard any magazines. I have a problem throwing them away too.

An intriguing way to think about working through a space. Right now this feels unobtainable for me, but maybe some day I’ll be able to think about styling my home in such depth.:) Can’t wait to see Elliot’s nursery.


Would looooooove a source for that hammered vase on the hearth in Emily’s house (housing the berry branches). Please tell me that’s something I can find. PLEASE! It’s stunning.


House beautiful is one of the few magazines I subscribe to & I love it..these I keep & look at again & again. I only started getting it a year ago after I saw it in a waiting room & loved what I saw in it..I don’t know why I never took notice before (‘tho I do collect very vintage house magazines). What I love about HB & I pray it doesn’t change or I’ll cry & unsubscribe, is that it’s not afraid of color, it’s not afraid of pattern, the designers & homeowners don’t follow trends but what pleases them. Sure they have a lot more money & so the higher quality stuff but they also usually have the mix of different things from many cultures from their travels..things with meaning, story, history, attachment..and books. And yea for apple green..the color of my newly reupholstered vintage loveseat.

emily jane

I’ve been wondering when you were going to show up in House Beautiful! Can’t wait to see the new nursery… Even more exciting -Congratulations to both you & Brian (and Charlie with-his-curious-fingers ; ) on the arrival of your newest family member! Elliot is looooovely… (I know it isn’t, but you make it look so effortless -and all the while, you continue to amaze & inspire. Oh! And your book is just. the. BEST. It might be the only gift I give for Christmas/Hanukkah this year -seriously!)
Warm wishes to you all, emily jane


Sound, really? That one seems like a stretch to me. I live on a busy Philly street, so I know exterior sounds have an impact, but I am skeptical about interior “intentional” sounds like wall-mounted bells. I am more conscious of street noise and the sound of my dryer in the basement being heard from the living room.

Other than that, I enjoyed this sponsored post. It I weren’t already a loyal HB subscriber, I’d be signing up. Like others have said, I’d love a follow up post with a list of other must-read magazines.


Could you please tell me about the U.S.A.F. print shown within the post. thank you!


Emily did a post (quite a while ago) about that print. She bought it (maybe at a flea market?) when she was younger. I think the post was about framing it–when she reframed it for this space.


I also love HB but it’s the Small Space issue that I really look forward to. There was one a few years ago that just nailed small spaces, from cover to cover, they showcased the absolute best and most varied and every single home broke all the small space rules and was just amazing. I still flip through often.

I too, am so curious about the source that candle, or is it an essential oil burner?

I loved this post!

Jamie Rowe

I LOVE House Beautiful! It is my must have magazine along with Country Living. I know those seem like total opposites but they both inspire me. Glam and down to earth, kinda like me.

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